What does Career Resiliency Mean to You?

By Sunitha Narayanan

My coaching conversations with clients recently have centered on career happiness or the lack of it in our lives. I hear my clients attribute these underlying, ongoing and sometimes debilitating feelings of unease to the economy, an ineffective boss, toxic colleagues or boredom. Certainly, any of these reasons could be true and can add to career unhappiness. What bothers me is when clients express feeling “trapped” in their situations. In the years of listening to my client’s remarkable stories and being privileged to walk this journey with them, here is what I have learned:


Resiliency – we all have an inbuilt bounce back factor; it is hard to remember that when situations are less than perfect. When the focus is on imbalance, it is easy to get lost in the dizziness and disorientation. How can we restore this equilibrium? A small shift in perception might help.

  • Play with a slinky – Feel the toy slip and slide through your fingers and just enjoy the movement. Allow yourself to think back on a difficult time and remember how you personally created a way out. Keep that affirmation prominent in your life. My favorite comment after a client did this: “the best part happens when the slinky is falling down.” And, the one from my engineer client, “when a slinky rests, it has potential energy…when you mess with it; you add kinetic energy to it.” A simple toy with big outcomes. A little play helps bring positivity back in a difficult life decision.

  • Create a small shift in perception – Certainly, it is easy not to do anything different about the imbalance because disrupting a known routine, a familiar job and recognized dysfunctional personalities can be overwhelming. What if “out there” is no better than “miserable here?” Surely that could happen. However, using a process to proactively address that fear might be better than corrosive regrets in life. What if you asked yourself whether “it” is a temporary discomfort or is it a gnawing pain? Another inquiry question that gathers momentum is when clients are asked if interviewing for their current job today, why would they say yes and why would they say no? Identifying what they would like to do more or/less of in their current job allows people to pinpoint small and large issues and decide on ownership. Ownership – resiliency - potential career happiness.

Data Dump – information comes at us and to us at warp speed. For every piece of data that supports an opinion, there is a piece of research that negates it. So, what might help?

  • Start with the basics – Ask what three life factors might influence your career decision today? What are you willing to give up? What one thing today might immediately move you towards where you want to go? What must be true for an opportunity to present itself? Is this process easy, no; doable, yes; your willingness, completely in your hands. Ownership – resiliency- potential happiness.

  • Networking Pathways – Henry Ford said, “Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success.” How can you get ready? The Universe does cooperate with a made-up mind. And, the world is still full of kind, generous people who want to help you. Prepare to dazzle them with your questions, enthusiasm and remarkability. Make a list of people you want to talk to and go create conversations that engage and make people curious about what you have to offer. The idea is to create small pockets of ongoing conversations focusing on the “give” rather than “take” and soon opportunities will present themselves. A critical question: Where must you be visible to be “found” and how will you establish credibility? What you do matters to somebody –first, identify clearly what you do well and the, find the person(s) to whom it matters.


Accountability – a willingness to take responsibility in word and action matters. How will this discipline show in behavior? Organizing thoughts is one thing; organizing thoughts into action takes the accountability to a deeper, richer and productive level. Personality quirks can hinder or help set a path to accountability.

  • Unique Success Drivers: Stephen Covey suggests that each individual has self-awareness, independent will, conscience and creative imagination. My belief is that how we choose to use and display these traits can influence and determine career resiliency and happiness. So, if you are a beloved product, how would you like to be described? What is your unique selling proposition? If your skills were not available to a potential employer/project/team, how would the outcome be less than? Take time to answer, “Why Buy?”

  • Merchandising: Only you can determine how to package what you are selling. To pick from the vast array of options available, focus on your brand and use that as a unifying theme to create a distinctive presence. Use powerful stories as your foundation –stories of success create a visual image for the listener/reader. Identify your branding community and mirror the cultural language within that community. Complete a position analysis – 1. Identify deliverables. 2. Rate your interest and skill level. 3. Add your brilliant story of success. 4. List your learning curve. Once you understand your value and can define it clearly, go ahead and confidently share it.


Next time someone says they feel “trapped,” ask them to try a few of these ideas and do add to this list. I know these ideas work for most of my clients and move them from a state of helplessness and fear to one of ownership and optimism. Opportunity is Nowhere. Opportunity is Everywhere. What are you waiting for?



Sunitha NarayananSunitha Narayanan, M.Ed., CMF is a certified career coach with a passion for connecting people and their talents to life and work opportunities. She is a co-active coach, empowering her clients to believe in their dreams, set actionable goals and actively create joy in their work lives. She is with OI Partners Promark Company, a firm that offers executive coaching, leadership development and transition services - www.oipartners/net/promark Learn more about her talents and interests at http://www.linkedin.com/in/sunitha4 She can be reached at snarayanan@oipartners.net Follow Sunitha on Twitter @sunithanarayana


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Mila Asperin   on Wednesday 05/02/2012 at 12:02 AM

Your article is most encouraging both for practitioners as well as people surviving these turbulent times. I would like to highlight step #1: Start with the basics. This is critical for anyone embarking in career exploration, choice, development, as well as survival. Adaptive strategies MUST revolve around basic skillsets, personalitt profiles, and willingness to remain invested in ownership of individual traits and "capital" in the game of life. I am particularly pleased and impressed with the author's approach in service to internationals. THAT is HER particular niche and well earned career capital. I wish her continued success. Kuddos from a colleague in retirement.

Sarah Bell   on Wednesday 05/02/2012 at 10:00 AM

This is a great article - putting control back in one's life and discovering our choices is a great way to deal with the feeling of being trapped. I love the advice you have about networking pathways - it is right on.

Jennifer Bradley   on Thursday 05/31/2012 at 06:07 PM

Thanks for a great article Sunitha. Resiliency is so important in this era of what can feel like "never ending change". I love the slinky metaphor as a reminder of the importance of taking the time to re-balance and re-energize.


Jean Baur   on Monday 06/11/2012 at 04:53 PM

Good advice! It's important to gain perspective whether working or looking for work. I find that many job seekers quickly forget the frustrations they felt with work when in transition.

Sunitha Narayanan   on Monday 06/11/2012 at 06:43 PM

Thanks for all your comments. Jean, you are right, it is easy to forget how corrosive sometimes the lack of fit can be--however, when people stop to reflect and move towards small efforts, they begin to hope and become proactive, don't you think?

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