Five simple tips on how to build a resilient career

Strategies to help you bounce forwards are crucial in the City
Being the “yes” person and trying to go it alone will get you nowhere.
The City is renowned for its tough working environment. So having resilience is vital to avoid burnout and to help you deal with setbacks or rejection. Building layers of defence will help you anticipate future difficulties, and ensure that self-doubt and over-reflection don’t paralyse your work performance. Here are five top tips to build a more resilient career.


Give past “failures” no more attention than they deserve. Deals go wrong for all kinds of reasons. Don’t ignore mistakes, but place energy into what happens tomorrow, not what went wrong yesterday. Learning to “fail forwards” means that you review events only in the light of the things you can change. The key questions are whether you missed something important, and if you can act differently next time. If the answer is “no” to both, live with the result. Working under City pressures means that you can only hope to get things right most of the time. Review, but only once. Write down three things you would do differently next time. Then move on.


Saying “no” to a senior manager can close down your future fast, but saying “yes” begrudgingly, only half completing a task or handing a project back untouched, has equally negative outcomes.
If you are someone who says “yes” quickly, think about the impact on your workload. Which spinning plates will you drop? Don’t set yourself up to fail. It’s perfectly possible to say “no” in a way that will sound like “yes”. Starting with “I can see your problem” or “thank you for thinking of me” can be effective. Say “yes, if,” and be clear about what you’ll need to put aside to get the new task done.


You won’t have the strengths to match every work problem. Stop giving yourself a hard time, and recruit someone who covers your weak points. If you’re good at the technological side of finance, find someone good with people. If you’re a big picture person, find a detail freak. If you’re not good at reading a meeting, find someone who is – ask a colleague to watch and listen while you work the agenda.


You won’t admit it publicly, but have you ever felt that you got your job or achieved success by luck, and one day you’ll be exposed as a fake? Imposter syndrome is common where people are isolated and lack peer feedback steering them towards more effective behaviours. Recruit a mentor who can help you see where you’ve added something to a deal, or saved the day.


How often do you find yourself saying, “why does this always happen to me?” Playing the victim card too often says “look at me,” and keeps you ever-watchful for further slights. Rethink your past so it’s not about persecution but a set of experiences which have shaped you. Examine your feelings rather than letting yourself be constantly driven by them, and be clear that just one person is responsible for your long-term confidence – you.
John Lees is a careers expert and the author of Secrets of Resilient People.

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