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Developing career resilience
Developing career resilience

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3 Understanding the idea of ‘control’

This course has emphasised the idea that career resilience is not only about managing and recovering from the difficulties thrown up by changing economic and working environments, such as those you explored in Week 4. It is also about taking things in hand so that, over time, your working life reflects things that matter to you, your goals, needs and values.

You may feel in a place where ‘control’ over your working life and its direction feels distant. You may have other people fully dependent on you, and little space to exercise personal choices. Nonetheless, over time, understanding this concept and carving out a space to act upon it can make a difference.

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Figure 4

‘Locus of control’ relates to an individual’s belief that their actions can control events affecting them. Individuals with a strong internal locus of control believe events in their lives derive mainly from their own choices and actions. These people are also more resilient. People with a strong external locus of control tend to believe that their life events are controlled by external factors that they cannot influence – ‘fate’, in other words.

Activity 5 How much control do you feel you have?

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

What is your life most influenced by? If you imagine a spectrum where one end is ‘my own choices and actions’ and the other end is ‘external factors I can’t control’, where would you place yourself?


You might feel that you have more control in some areas than others. For example, you feel an internal locus of control over your personal and family life, but that the locus of control over your work life is external. It might even be more nuanced than that: for example, you might feel you have control over your employability skills, but little control over whether your department closes.

If you feel that the locus of control over your working life is largely internal, then you are already demonstrating your career resilience. If you don’t feel this way, your learning throughout this course should have already shown you how to approach any imbalance – developing your career resilience.

Some aspects of your career might be entirely beyond your control, such as your employer going bankrupt, but what you can control is how you prepare for and respond to that.

If your locus of control isn’t as internal as you’d like it to be, Scott (2020) suggests the following:

Phase out phrases like, ‘I have no choice’, and, ‘I can’t…’ You can replace them with, ‘I choose not to,’ or, ‘I don’t like my choices, but I will…’ Realizing and acknowledging that you always have a choice (even if the choices aren’t ideal) can help you to change your situation, or accept it more easily if it really is the best of all available options.

Her other advice includes:

  • Review your options – make a list of all possible courses of action and keep adding to it. Brainstorm with a friend if this helps. This will remind you that there are choices available.
  • Choose what’s best for you – evaluate each option on your list and decide on the best course of action. This can open your eyes to the number of choices you have, and over time, seeing new possibilities should become a habit.
  • Watch your language and self-talk – you’ve already heard about positive self-talk several times during this course and here’s another example of when it can help.

In the last section this week, you’ll change perspective slightly and look at another aspect of linking skills with career resilience – making yourself more employable.