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3 Personal resilience

So far on this course you’ve done some great work towards planning and maximising your work experiences. But obtaining work experience is a competitive process and it is highly likely that you will encounter rejection at some point on your journey.

So how will you cope?

This is where building your resilience comes in. One way to do this is to follow the NAC approach:

N – notice

A – accept

C – choose

Read the following response to a rejection from a job using the NAC approach. The text in bold explains each stage (Howard, cited in Brewer, 2016).

Box 1 How to use the NAC approach to setbacks

  • Notice that you are experiencing thoughts of being fed up, down, angry or whatever it is that you are feeling as a result of the rejection.

    The process of noticing its impact allows you to begin to step outside of it, almost as an observer, and acknowledge what is happening, which in turn releases you from the mind spending endless energy.

  • Accept what has happened. Many of us will think, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ but asking a negative question leads to a negative answer.

    Acceptance is recognising that as human beings we experience emotions, such as disappointment, and it is pointless fighting them.

  • Choose to use the negative energy or stress you are feeling as a result of your setback.

    Having connected with the motivation behind the stress, you can channel that energy in a positive way by asking, ‘What can I do right now?’ and ‘How do I do it?’  

Now watch bestselling author Margie Warrell explain the different ways you could choose to respond to setbacks in the following video.

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Activity 3 Building resilience

Timing: Allow about 30 minutes for this activity

You’re now going to try a story telling activity as described by Doll (2019):

Consider an example in your life where you continue to repeat a story that produces worry or anxiety. Now try writing out a new version with a more positive interpretation. As you do, recognise how you feel in the process.

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In her explanation, Doll says ‘We can adjust our paradigms by re-creating narratives we tell ourselves. We can get stuck in re-playing the same stories, which may not be helpful or productive. By creating a healthier storyline, we foster our sense of control and how we interpret events.’

This activity might not feel very practical, but often our resilience is to do with what we tell ourselves, and re-framing that can be a very helpful activity. The more you can get into the habit of seeing mistakes as learning experiences, the more resilient you will become.

Continuing with Brewer’s example of rejection from a job, you can turn that into a learning experience by asking for some feedback from the employer. They won’t always be able to provide it but being brave enough to ask the question is a positive step.

Other sources of feedback might be careers advisers or coaches at your university or elsewhere, or even friends and colleagues who are more experienced in making job applications. Show them the CV you used or a copy of your application form and ask for their opinion. You could even request a mock or practice interview.

Learning from your rejections and setbacks will not only make you more resilient but will also make you more likely to succeed in the future. Once you are successful and get the work experience you’ve been looking for, the next step is to make sure you use the opportunity to your advantage in your future career.