Building resilience to sustain your career

Author: Meera Haridas

What is resilience?

According to the American Psychological Association, “Resilience is the process and outcome of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioral flexibility and adjustment to external and internal demands.”

To adapt, being flexible and adjusting to external and internal demands requires a coping mechanism. And it comes with knowledge. Such knowledge gives one the confidence to face situations.

As more women join the workforce, there are newer challenges that have emerged. Even when workplaces advocate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), there are many situations where it’s more policy than action.

Work from Home (WFH) went from being fashionable to being the norm during pandemic times. Organizations understood and accepted newer ways to engage employees from home offering flexibility to the individual and organizations. However, as this practice evolved, the nuances of being on 24*7 duty at home hit women harder than men with challenges in integrating work and life as understood by our societal norms.

When more young women pass out of college to join the workforce, they are shown the rosy picture of the great careers ahead of them. While companies honour merit and lure young talent with fancy designations and attractive packages, neither the college nor the employer prepares them for the real-world competencies of being RESILIENT.

There is no sensitization program to tell young women there is a price for running this race for equality and diversity. It’s a journey of inequality and asymmetry that requires sustained resilience to continue, let alone win.

According to the Resilience Reset study conducted by the Female Quotient (FQ), in collaboration with Cisco, comprising 3000 working women across ten countries, found that 61% of working women say they feel resilient in their personal life, and 65% feel resilient in their professional life. It also showed a strong correlation between personal and professional resilience.

I believe the following reality check can come in handy when young ambitious women embark upon their careers.

Build your area of specialization Whether you are in Operations, HR, Marketing or Finance, there are changes in regulations, products, practices, and innovations happening continuously. Build your knowledge and area of specialization that can help you become the go-to person. This needs to be consciously cultivated by investing in building your knowledge.

Become a lifelong learner: Reading, engaging with other experienced persons, and continuously updating oneself with the latest developments in one’s field is the way forward. Hence the mantra is Read! Engage! Share!

Me first – Making space in your head for “me time” is not being selfish as many cultures have ingrained in women.

One study participant said: “Resiliency is more than just the ability to bounce back quickly. It’s the ability to recover healthily…coming back more healthily with a better perspective.” Studies indicated that personally resilient women also show professional resilience. This may or may not come from family support. Therefore, studies have clearly shown that women who feel resilient personally show higher self-care trends.

Resilience is an attitude: Finally, resilience needs to be cultivated to become an attitude. There will be situations which can be challenging both personally and professionally. Any working mom will corroborate the challenges of balancing priorities with a young child at home, and they are required to travel out to work. But falling prey to emotions like guilt or loss reduces rationale and challenges coping abilities. It’s important to understand and accept that you are not the only soul experiencing these life challenges. The ability to bounce back and recover quickly with a “nothing can get worse, and this too shall pass” attitude to life is the crux of resetting resilience.

Find your Mentor: Any woman who has been a part of two or more decades in the workforce will confirm that the road is tough, the journey is long with many ups and downs, yet they can look back with satisfaction and a sense of self-worth. If they did not feel self-worth, they could not have run the race. But the journey cannot be undertaken alone. Don’t feel shy to find yourself a mentor. A mentor can give you a perspective even when you fall, to brush yourself and jump even higher.

Fall, get up, brush yourself and jump even higher.

When women build resilience to run this career race, it’s not their lone journey, this is a journey of a village, a town and even the nation.

When women want to run the race, it’s their resilience that will make the difference!!