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Employers See Value of Personal Resilience

With the world of work as well as the world at large, seeming more and more unstable having the capacity to remain flexible and self-reliant in the midst of such ambiguity and change has never been more important. This is especially true in dealing with your career. It seems that the ability to confront constant change and stay productive comes naturally to some people, but resilience is a strength others must develop. The good news is that with some effort it can be done.

Moreover, since 9/11 more employers recognize the value of personal resilience. Certainly no one expects employees to bounce back immediately from such a catastrophe, but companies are increasingly aware that employees need to have the tools to remain effective in the face of stress and upheaval. Whether employees are dealing with global issues such as terrorist threats or rising unemployment or more personal matters like surviving a downsizing or reporting to a new supervisor, there's the need to adjust to the disruptions, recover from the stress, and maintain high levels of productivity.

A weak economy can certainly test your resilience. A job loss can be enormously stressful, but so can staying in a job you don't want, or with a company where earnings are off and morale is poor. Unfortunately, this situation is probably true for half the workforce.

Put it another way. In boom times it seems like everyone's a hero, or at least good at the job. In times of crunch, however, you have to reach into yourself for less obvious strengths and skills. If you're employed, you have to show up, be productive and contribute to the overall well being of the workplace. If you're unemployed you've still got to show up and be productive, but this time to find the right new job for yourself.

This kind of natural coping seems to come naturally to some individuals, but surely not most. But experience suggests that most people can develop the ability to deal with stress and uncertainty if they recognize that it's within their power and are willing to take steps such as the following:

Learn from those who are naturally resilient. Think of three or four people whom you admire for the way they handled difficult situations in their lives. Note some of their personal characteristics and behaviors. Identify those you think are most essential for handling stressful situations effectively. Spend time with resilient people.

Learn from your own experience. In the midst of crisis, you may forget previous experiences when you've been resilient. Take a minute to recall a specific stressful situation that you have handled effectively. What characteristics, behaviors or actions did you use to get through it? What were some of your characteristics or behaviors that were unhelpful? What did you learn? Do these actions apply to your current situation?

Understand yourself. Why do you think you react the way you do? What is your sense of purpose? By knowing what your motivations are, you can act to build on your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses. What have others told you in the past?

Know the territory. Understand the forces shaping the changes and identify what, if any, role you play in them. Awareness of trends having an impact on your situation will enable you to recognize and acquire the knowledge and skills you need to prosper in tough times. Be objective about events. Ask others for their insights as well.

Connect to resources. Sustain positive personal and professional relationships. Develop a personal support network you can rely on and identify organizational and community resources you can access in times of stress. Don't wait for a crisis to seek support.

Take care of yourself. Maintain an optimistic, receptive and flexible attitude, and a sense of humor. Attend to your health, fitness and peace of mind. Focusing on your overall well being will give you strength to overcome external stress. What have you done for yourself today, this week, this month, this year?

Of course, we're talking about skills that serve for all your life, not just work. Throughout life we all learn strategies that help us through challenging times. Those of us that choose to continue to develop and employ a variety of strategies can become masters at dealing with ambiguity and change, and at the same time be a bigger contributor in the workplace.

Bernadette Kenny is Executive Vice President of global career management services Lee Hecht Harrison.

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