How to up your resilience game

You will have heard or read about resilience, the ability to bounce back after a setback. It’s a very popular concept at the moment. When it comes to applying for jobs or courses, it’s a good skill to be able to say you have. So what can you do to increase your resilience levels? Stacey Dooley has some great advice.

I like to think I’m resilient, travelling to many far-flung places around the world for work and being away from my loved ones for weeks at a time.

But then I hear the stories from the amazingly strong people I’m meeting for my documentaries and I realise I have it easy. Human beings have an incredible capacity to recover quickly from challenges and difficulties even if we often doubt our own ability to pick ourselves up.

Resilience is such an important quality to have at work because setbacks are a part of life, especially when you’re new to something. But starting out at work can be tough: it’s filled with new experiences, surroundings, new people, and a whole heap of new challenges. What you need to be able to do is spring back and recover quickly if something doesn’t go according to plan or you are struggling to do what’s been asked of you.

Watch The Nine to Five with Stacey Dooley on iPlayer
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Make mistakes

Nobody expects you to turn up at work on day one and know how to do everything. I certainly didn’t in my job, and there’s great pleasure to be gained from honing your skills and getting better and better at something. Most people have to start at the bottom and learn their craft. Skills will develop the more you apply yourself. Making mistakes is part of the learning process, so sticking with something is often the only realistic way to move forward. And if you give up at the first hurdle, sometimes the only person you could be hurting is yourself.

While filming my latest series The Nine to Five, we took five teenagers into five different industries for the ultimate work experience. Trying their hand at a range of different jobs in very contrasting industries, it was important that they learnt why it is worth staying the course, hanging on in there and finding out that you can actually do something well that you didn’t think you would master at first.

I know 16-year-old Elliott found working in a restaurant kitchen too much and he gave up. Skye, also 16, nearly did that when I asked her to work in an airport as a trainee engineer, but she stuck with it and on day two felt immense pride in what she had achieved. Hakeem loved learning how to cook in the kitchen but refused to do any cleaning of the toilets, so I had to do it! It took me two minutes and, to be honest, it was nowhere near as bad as the ones I did at an early job, working in a nightclub in Luton.

My gentle advice to them was: if you don’t do it, someone else has to because it’s work and you can’t cherry-pick the parts of the job you like and not do the rest. Also, they soon realised throwing in the towel meant I wouldn’t pay them at the end of the day, and that meant the other members of their team had to subsidise them. Learning to stick with the things you don’t like is a real life lesson all round.

Mersadi had a couple of wobbles, but learnt to be more resilient: "Once I stuck through with it, and got my end results, and they were better than what I expected, the feeling is amazing."

Learn to enjoy it

It is crucial though, that if you have a setback you don’t take it out on yourself. Take some quiet time, sit down and think things through, maybe talk to a friend just to put things into context. Sometimes things can seem so much bigger than they actually are and if you give yourself space you’ll realise that you do have the resilience to get through it. Most people do have the strength to persevere with things and you’ll be surprised at what you are capable of once you put your mind to it.

The other key thing to remember is that, much like school or sport or your friendships, work is one of the things you will do in your life, but a setback on the workplace doesn’t define you. So start every day with the intention of doing your absolute best, but if something doesn’t work out, remember that you’re still brilliant at a lot of other things and tomorrow will be better.

It can actually become enjoyable to do things you weren’t looking forward to, because you know you can bounce back.

So be resilient, do take that opportunity to be brave, stick at something and try and try again until you get it right. You’ll get such satisfaction, you won’t believe it.

Stacey Dooley hugs two of the programme's contributors.
Resilience: finding it is like giving yourself a long, snuggly hug!
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