Can you learn Resilience?
Here’s how I pushed through those tough times in life
Resilience isn’t something you’re born with, instead it’s how we bounce back from the challenges we may face.
I am writing this article, sitting on a wooden boardwalk by the rocks over the sea on a small Spanish island.
The North Tramontano wind is blowing strong, the waves are crashing against the rugged coastline and splashing me as they rise over the wooden boards.
The small blue and white fishing boats, moored along the platform are bobbing up and down and from side to side against the swell.
A brave sole windsurfer has just flown past, powered by the wind and crashed into the sea as he struggled with the out-of-control sail against a strong gust.
I can see a lighthouse in the distance, the red and white cylindrical cone, set against a clear blue sky.
A Spanish family is just finishing their long lunch at their summer beach hut, right on the rocks next to the sea. They are enjoying the shade and shelter on their terrace, lots of chatter as they all speak simultaneously, no one really listening!
I have come to the sea to clear my mind and to try to lift my spirits, after my hundredth plus knockback over the last 18 months trying to get a job!
I was made redundant from a global director position within the Travel Industry, just before Covid-19 hit the world. Since then, I have applied for over 200 positions, 95% of which I never received a reply from! I am feeling that my Resilience has been tested, almost to my limit.
I had relevant experience for all the positions I applied for and more! All CVs and cover letters were amended to display the relevant Job Description requirements, using the same words to align my experience to their needs. Sometimes I even dumbed down my experience to match my skills to the job
I set up a spreadsheet listing every question I have been asked or could ever possibly be asked in an interview, with fully edited and re-edited and rehearsed responses. Every company was fully researched, every interviewer stalked on LinkedIn and seemingly every angle covered. Hours and hours of work trying to present my best self.
The 5% that did respond, required me to complete every possible psychometric, personality, logic, maths and reasoning online Test there could possibly be available in the global world. Then there were the PowerPoint presentations which took days to pull together and rehearse until I was content that they were the best they could be!
Not forgetting, of course, the positions I succeeded to final interview for, pre Covid-19. Those roles were subsequently cut due to the impact the pandemic had on the Travel Industry. The pinnacle of my success this year was the intriguing Government position. After a long, extended interview process, online psychometric tests, presentations and video interviews, I was eventually emailed and advised I was successful and passed every stage. Congratulations! Only then to be advised, I was on a waitlist for the next 12 months, should the actual position materialise as a real available job!
I honestly don’t think I could have done more……and still, I did not succeed in getting a job!
I ask myself, what is the blockage? I have actually been a successful Manager for 30+ years of my career?
Am I too experienced, too old, too global, too organised, too confident, too direct, too tall, too blond, too stupid!!! ……. Or is it really just the impact of the pandemic? Who knows?
Of course, there is no point in asking for feedback, as there is the inevitable standard reply which helps no one. Certainly not me!
Do I have a theory?
Well, of course, I do!
I do believe that once you reach a high level of experience and a certain age, these are real barriers in the general recruitment process. I accept that there are exceptions, and should I have chosen to apply for another 100+ jobs, then eventually something would have come through, I think!
Other exceptions are, of course, if you have experience in an industry in high demand, for example, I imagine IT Technology. This is an industry that is always looking for skilled personnel and experience is a real advantage. My experience is in Leadership but mainly in the Travel Industry. And although many companies talk about being open to cross-skilling potential candidates, most have a defined box you need to fit into. This generally means you need experience from that particular industry and if you don’t have it, you are in the reject pile without your relevant skills even being considered
My impression is that most first-line recruiters are young and possibly see anyone over 40 as past their sell buy date! In fact, most large businesses now use technology to filter the thousands of CVs they receive for each role, simply to handle the volume. Furthermore, some technologies reject CVs that are not aligned with the company guidelines and you are rejected without even being aware of the problem being your CV Format, rather than your skills.
In fact, unless you are being interviewed by a very experienced, insightful, and confident person at a senior level within a business, who is not afraid to employ someone who may occasionally question them or the status quo, my guess is there is a very small chance of an older, experienced person being employed in a good job by the average company!
Is that Ageism, Fear, or an understandable and logical conclusion?
Are these companies justified in being more interested in the potentially cheaper, more malleable, and less challenging option?
Is experience valued or seen as a blockage, another challenge the boss could do without?
Although my experience over the last 18 months has been tough, and I have been exposed to more rejection than I would wish on anyone, I have learned so much about how to manage my own Resilience and Mental Well-being.
I have challenged myself and opened my mind to possibilities that I would not have previously imagined and met some wonderful people willing to share their life’s challenges with me.
It always amazes me that when you are forced to change perspective and you allow your mindset to adjust to your new world, how you really do attract people into your life that can help you and add value to your life. Some call it fate; some call it the Law of Attraction!
I met a lovely French lady who persuaded me to start up my yoga teaching again as she was really interested in practicing yoga with me when she saw me doing yoga one day by the sea. This eventually gave me something to focus on each morning other than my problems and also opened up the opportunity for me to help others who really valued my classes.
One of the wonderful ladies who joined my yoga class was a Spanish neighbour, who was a retired European Parliament politician. I enjoyed my conversations with her immensely, as she had been through so much in her life. A challenging career, a couple of divorces, as well as cancer and she was still smiling and full of life. We swopped skills, as I taught her yoga, and she helped me to improve my poor Spanish! Her yoga improved more quickly than my Spanish!
After my morning swim, I started a conversation with a German lady from Barcelona whose husband had just died the year before and for the first time she was alone in their holiday home and facing her grief and needing to find her Resilience however she could. We became friends and she was so insightful and encouraging when I talked about my idea to become a Leadership Coach focusing on Resilience and Wellbeing. She helped open my perspective and supported me when I was being too self-critical about my progress.
I met another lady from New Zealand after she crashed her car into the curb outside my house one morning, damaging her tyre. I invited her in for a tea while she waited for the recovery truck. She became a great encouraging support to me and was there to listen to my moans and take me out for a drink when I received the final blow of rejection before I decided enough was enough and to change direction.
Ultimately, I decided to give up banging my head against that corporate brick wall!
I decided to start my own business, which is terrifying at my age, having worked in the corporate world all my adult life!
I am majorly out of my comfort zone!
However, is that what a Global Pandemic has done to many of us! Taken away what we knew, what we were confident with, what we were certain of and forced us to challenge ourselves to our limits and sometimes past our limits
I have trained and certified as a Professional Leadership and Wellbeing Coach, combining my extensive leadership experience and my passion for Wellbeing.
This experience has really challenged my Resilience, but I have learned so much within the last 18 months and allowed myself to expand my career horizons.
If anyone is going through similar or worse challenges to your personal Resilience, I would humbly suggest the following:
- Allow yourself time to grieve for whatever loss or challenge you have experienced
- Immerse yourself in an environment that normally makes you feel good, for example, in nature
- Take yourself away from the location or the people associated with the problem, if you can
- Surround yourself with supportive, empathetic people who are not telling you to just ‘’pull yourself together’’
- Be as healthy as you can be, eating well, exercising regularly and sleeping enough. Very difficult when you are feeling low, but so necessary
- Be kind to yourself, it will take time to recover from your loss. Get rid of that self-critic when you hear it starting in your head
- Read books and listen to podcasts that will help motivate you or help in your recovery. You will discover you are not alone in your problem. Suffering is a part of the normal human condition
- Divert your mind from your problem by learning a new skill or doing a course, or maybe just volunteer to help someone. Even just looking after someone’s kids or a neighbour’s pet will take you out of your own world and will potentially stop you from thinking of yourself and your problems quickly!
- Read about Mindset and how to control your thoughts through whatever method works for you. Meditation, Yoga, Mindfulness, Breathing techniques or just exercise. Discover what ticks your box!
I believe that Resilience can be learned and like most skills, can with regular practice and awareness help us all to overcome those myriads of challenges in life!
One thing we can be certain of is that there will be more challenges and problems on the horizon, so let’s just prepare ourselves to handle them as best we can!
Wishing you all the best of luck and encouragement in the world in trying to overcome your life or career challenge!