The importance of personal resilience for work

In such a competitive market, personal resilience isn’t just a ‘nice to have’, it’s an essential soft skill that can determine whether people achieve both their own career goals and those of their organisation.

In short, personal resilience can be defined as: ‘The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties’. Difficulties are inevitable, from your first job application to the pinnacle of your career. Those who can recover, even thrive, in the wake of difficulties usually share a number of qualities, including emotional awareness and control, self-belief, the ability to adapt and stay optimistic, and, what we’d say is probably most important, perseverance.

From our experience, organisations often rank these qualities over and above academic qualifications – thus job seekers who demonstrate resilience will usually have a strong competitive advantage.

It’s ok to fail

As well as helping you prepare for the next one, failure at interview sometimes presents an opportunity to make a change to your career path. In one of our recent Q&As with leaders in Wales, Gareth Way told us about the first time his life went ‘off-script’ when he was rejected from a PGCE interview. Having had a long-standing ambition to become a PE teacher, Gareth had to re-evaluate what he wanted to do – he’s now Chief HR Officer for Creditsafe and says: “A role in HR presented me with an opportunity to help people develop the careers they wanted.” This is a great example of how being resilient can sometimes lead to welcome success.

Personal resilience and success

But it doesn’t just help if you’re looking for a job, resilience is also vital if you’re seeking to progress with your current employer. Hannah Heath was made Finance Director of JoJo Maman Bébé by the age of 30 and says: “I had to fight for my role here; 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 credits her teachers, family and early employers PwC and HBOS for their encouragement, which no doubt had a great impact on building her personal resilience. But not everyone is fortunate to have external support from an early age. The good news is that resilience can be developed, and we support many aspiring managers and leaders to build theirs.


Personal resilience can also be incredibly valuable when you’re unexpectedly facing unemployment. Rob Baker, who works for the University of South Wales, says: “In 2000 my post was made redundant. I wanted to stay in HR, so I got a job with what was then the University of Glamorgan as a temporary HR Officer. It was a scary and very insecure time, but things went well. I’m now their Director of HR.”

One of the reasons personal resilience is such a vital ingredient for reaching the top, comes down to the nature of the business world; change and challenge are constant in the modern market, and organisations depend on resilient leaders to make their businesses resilient in light of it.

Resilience has a big impact on those around you, so by being optimistic, having confidence and staying calm, you’re more likely to motivate and better manage the performance of employees. Leaders who can do this, in spite of difficulties and set-backs, are more likely to lead their organisations to success.

As Winston Churchill said,

‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.’

And that, really, is the hallmark of personal resilience.

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