Being more ‘bamboo’: developing resilience for the changing workplace

‘The bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists.’

The Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme is edging to an end and the UK unemployment rate has reached its highest level in two years. Personal resilience has become a more sought-after employee trait than ever. So, as a recruitment agency which has built its brand on the fast-growing Sitka spruce, this tree-themed Japanese proverb seemed like a fitting one.

Culturally and personally, we’re not people who dwell on negativity (put it down to our own resilience), but the world of work is an uncertain one for many at the moment. We feel and know that young people in particular have been hard hit by the Covid-19 outbreak.

Furlough’s replacement, the new Jobs Support Scheme, offers a glimmer of hope. But its requirement that employers must pay at least 33% of wages for work carried out and another 22% on top, in reality makes it likely that many more skilled employees will be made redundant in the coming months.

Why resilience matters

Resilience to cope with these challenging circumstances, or indeed any change or failure, is especially important if you’re aspiring to a leadership role. The benefits of being flexible and standing strong in the face of difficult circumstances make job seeking candidates extremely appealing to employers. So, it’s an important and very worthwhile skill to have.

But, as we at Sitka know only too well, it’s relevant whatever stage of your career you are at. Four years ago, this month, we set up a business in what was and still is a highly competitive market. Two women, in their 40s, both with families to balance.

Resilience is as vital for us as it is for the candidates we support in looking for a new role. And it’s crucial for managers and leaders to motivate and manage the performance of their employees too. In general, it’s true to say that resilient leaders make for resilient businesses.

While resilience may not be as innate to humans as it is to bamboo, the good news is that it can be developed. Writing on Deloitte Insights, Punit Renjen makes the point that resilience is not a destination but a way of being, a mindset shift. In other words, it’s something that should be continually nurtured throughout your career.

With the right approach, we’ve seen that anyone can learn to bend in the face of adversity, to bounce back from failure – whether real or perceived – and stay grounded, even in the face of a global pandemic.

Personal steps to build resilience

Firstly, there are several personal steps that can help to build personal resilience. These include:

  • embracing change – it can be scary, but change is the only constant we have. Forbes Coaches Council provides some great tips on helping to do this.
  • learning new skills – expanding your repertoire of skills is always a good investment of time. Whether it’s webinar-based learning or more formal distance learning courses, there are plenty of options around right now.
  • finding ways to manage stress – getting outside into nature, organising your time more effectively, taking some ‘down time’ to listen to music, meditate or finding ways that help you as an individual relax, can be incredibly beneficial. There is so much free guidance available on the internet for this.
  • re-evaluating your expectations – perhaps you’ll need to make a sideways move or give yourself a couple more years to reach the next rung of the ladder.
  • (perhaps most importantly), knowing when to ask for support – mentoring schemes can be hugely valuable in this respect.

How resilience can be built

If your work goals seem like pipedreams right now, you might be heartened by Gareth’s story. In one of our leader Q&As, Gareth Way told us about the first time his career plan went off-script. After ambitioning to become a PE teacher, he was rejected from a PGCE interview and forced to re-evaluate his career options. Today he’s Chief HR Officer at Creditsafe and says the disappointment he felt at that interview helped him develop resilience.

“A role in HR presented me with an opportunity to help people develop the careers they wanted.”

Good role models can also help you to develop personal resilience, whether they come in the form of relatives, colleagues, or mentors. Hannah Heath was made Finance Director of JoJo Maman Bébé before the age of 30 and says: “I had to fight for my role; there was a perception I was too young. But I had already proven I was capable of the job and managed to convince the board I was ready.”

Hannah was fortunate enough to have good role models at home, school and in her early roles with PwC and HBOS, but guidance from impartial mentors, or recruiters like ourselves who offer coaching alongside the recruitment process, can also help to build resilience.

At the end of the day, we can all benefit from improving our resilience and reassuring ourselves that the set-backs Covid-19 has created and will continue to present, are not the be all and end all, but an opportunity to demonstrate adaptability and strength.

If we can develop the resilience to navigate and come out of this challenging time, it’s not only you, our future workforce, who will be resilient. It’s our businesses and economy too.

Please contact us to find out how we can support you in your job search