Building Resilience During Transition

by | Mar 3, 2020 | Career Transition, Encore

“The only constant is change.” Heraclitus, 500 B.C.

The wisdom of the ages has much to teach us.  If it is true that the only constant is change, what are the implications for you? 

If the only thing we can count on not changing is change itself, then it may be worthwhile to learn strategies for strengthening our ability to be adaptive and flexible, to remain centered and calm in the face of this one constant.  As a Career Transition Coach at Partners International, I know that this capability, resilience, is particularly valuable when you have lost your job due to a layoff or restructuring.

What is resilience?  It’s bouncing back from adversity and getting back to “our center” when thrown off balance.  It’s remaining strong and flexible in the face of uncertainty.

William Bridges has created a well-researched model, the Transition Model, for understanding the nuances of change and transition.  He describes change as an external event that happens to us, like losing our job. Transition is our emotional and psychological response to the change.  This is where we struggle.

A change begins with something ending; something that was stable, known and dependable is no longer there.  It requires that, over time, we let go of “what was” as we move towards “what will be”.

“The Neutral Zone” follows.  We feel like we are hanging in mid-air between the past and the future.  Something has ended, but the future is not yet clear.  It is often a very disorienting period with alternating highs and lows, days of feeling confident followed by days of self-doubt.

Ultimately, we emerge into the “beginning” of our next life phase when we land our next job.

From a transition perspective, we move through the phases of denial (a form of self-protection during which we may feel shock and confusion, particularly if the job loss was unexpected) to resistance (experiencing a range of feelings from anger, fear, sadness, anxiety to relief) to exploration (being curious and beginning to take small steps in our job search) to commitment (generating optimism as we gain momentum).

I’ve identified five strategies for building resilience as you navigate the uncertainty of the job loss transition.

  1. Focus on what you CAN control
  2. Reflect on how you’ve successfully managed change in the past
  3. Manage your mindset and emotions
  4. Create a support structure
  5. Increase self-care practices

Focus on what you CAN control

Losing a job lessens our sense of control over our lives.  Identify and focus on everything you CAN control:  e.g., how you position yourself on your resume and LinkedIn, developing a strong pitch and interviewing skills.  Shift your awareness from “I feel overwhelmed” to “I can control A, B, and C”.  Identifying what you CAN’T control is also useful (e.g., other peoples’ responses to your outreach).  There’s no point in unduly worrying about what you have no power to change.

Reflect on how you have successfully managed change in the past

We’ve all successfully navigated change and adversity.  Reflect on the inner strengths and resources you used during past challenges, the kinds of support you leveraged, and ask yourself:  How can I apply this knowledge to my current situation? 

Manage your mindset and emotions

Pay attention to your mindset and emotions. If you get caught in “negative thinking” and feelings (I can’t do this, looking for a job is too hard, this will never work out…), ask yourself:  does this mindset serve me?  Is it helpful to me moving forward? Tell yourself:  I CAN do this, I have a lot of skills to offer, my next job could be my best job ever, etc.  Choose to focus on the positive vs. our common default to the negative.

Create a support structure

When we’re feeling vulnerable and/or overwhelmed, it is important to identify people that can support us, emotionally and/or with insight and knowledge. Resilient people ask for support.  Identify people who could be helpful to you in some way.  

Increase self-care practices

During a job search, it is critical to focus on “self-care”.  Pay attention to your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs.  Identify useful practices for your body (e.g., exercise, sleep), your mind (e.g., downtime, hobbies), your emotional self (e.g., laughter, friends), and your spiritual self (e.g., meditation, practicing gratitude).  What do you need in these areas that will support you in being your best and most confident self?

In sum, we all have experience successfully navigating change, there are “normal” and expected transition phases, it is important to take personal ownership of your job search, manage your mindset and emotions, ask for support, take extra good care of yourself and engage in consistent “baby steps” (action) to move yourself forward. 

You can be assured that your Career Transition Coach at Partners International will be there for you and with you every step of the way.  You’ve got this!

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