How Developing Resilience and Grit Can Help Advance Your Career

When I moved back to the Bay Area in 2010, I thought I’d find a new job within a few months. After all, I’d found work quickly before. But boy, was I wrong!

Relying on the tried and true methods no longer worked. I applied to dozens of companies and only heard back from a few. It was a tough economy, sure, and mid-management level jobs take longer to get than entry-level jobs. Still, the silence was crushing.

Eventually, I made it to a final round of interviews with three different organizations, but each time I was only the runner-up. A fresh round of disappointment followed.

After three months and no job offers, I refocused my efforts and reached out to more people in my network for advice and introductions before restarting my search. I got clearer on what I wanted to do and why. Finally, after seven months, I landed a position I was truly excited about, at a company where I was able to grow personally and professionally. It was then that I discovered my life purpose was to support individuals to do the same, as a career coach.

We all face moments of disappointment in our careers, but some of us handle them better than others. Why? In a word, resilience. Strong, successful people bounce back after setbacks and even grow in the process.

Related: Why a Personal Mission Statement is Key to Career Bliss

Here at SoFi, our career strategy team is committed to helping your career flourish. So over the next few several weeks we’ll explore three areas that are key to your happiness and career success: resilience, relationships, and reputation.

Early in your career, you probably did some soul-searching around what gets you fired up. Now that you’ve done that and you’re ready to move up (if you’re not quite there yet, check out this article), it’s important to understand the softer skills needed to achieve the next level in your career. These skills are largely different from the professional and technical skills that likely got you the job you love in the first place, but combined, they’re the secret sauce that will help you thrive.

Let’s jump into building resilience.

Resilience and Grit In Your Career

I love the proverb “fall down seven times, get up eight,” because it really hammers home the value of resilience paired with persistence—a combination that will help you excel personally and professionally in whatever you do.

In her book Mindset, Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck shows that the people who are able to grow and learn from setbacks understand that tough breaks and obstacles bring growth. She explains that in one study of MBA students taking a negotiation class, researchers compared students with a fixed mindset (those who believe, for instance, that “good negotiators are born that way”) to students with a growth mindset (those who believe that experience can help them improve their negotiation skills). Not surprisingly, those with a growth mindset did better on the negotiation task.

How to Develop Resilience

If you feel you’re not naturally resilient, take heart. Adaptability and grit can be developed over time. Here are five tips to get you started.

1. Conduct a self-assessment. To understand your current degree of resilience, take an online quiz. Dweck’s Mindset test will help you determine your level of growth mindset and flexibility. Angela Duckworth, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, has developed a Grit Scale test to gauge your passion and perseverance.

2. Find a partner. As you work to develop new habits or skills, outside accountability can help. Tell friends about your goals and enlist their help in reframing negative self-talk to encourage more of a growth mindset. Your partner can also encourage you to stick with your goals, since the ability to follow through is an important part of resilience.

3. Tackle new challenges. Stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying new things can give you a fresh perspective, even if the challenge you choose has nothing to do with your career. Try writing or eating with your non-dominant hand. Take up a new sport. Read books in a different genre than usual. All of these seemingly unrelated things can help change your mindset to embrace flexibility in a healthy way—at work and in life.

Recommended: Change Careers to Pursue Your Passion: A Conversation with Johanna Maska, Obama’s Former Director of Press Advance, on Doing What You Love

4. Celebrate efforts, not just results. High achievers tend to focus on efforts (which are controllable), rather than focusing purely on outcomes (which are uncontrollable). Eventually, efforts you make will pay off, so don’t get discouraged if success doesn’t happen right away. Instead, give yourself credit for your attempts, and keep short-term setbacks in perspective.

5. Be willing to let go. Bouncing back stronger may require you to give up some of the strengths and skills you needed earlier in your career in order to develop others necessary for growth and change. We can’t guess at the beginning of our career all the skills that we’ll need. We should, however, be prepared to shift the path along the way and how to get there.

Our career strategy team can give you the fundamentals you need to find success and happiness. As part of that goal, in the weeks ahead we’ll continue discussing the two other key components to career happiness and success: relationships and reputation.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. How resilient are you? How has resilience helped you personally and professionally? When did you need it most and how did you find the resilience to bounce back?

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One thought on “How Developing Resilience and Grit Can Help Advance Your Career

  1. for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.

    Proverbs 24:16

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