Day 21: Recovering from Setbacks and Keeping on Going

By Feb.06, 2017

Imperial War Museum, Salford Quays

Some of the graduates I have talked to recently have said ‘I didn’t realise it would be this hard to get a job!’ They feel frustrated and find it hard to keep on trying.

If you feel like that, even just sometimes, then today’s post will help you.

When the tough times hit hard some people crumble and yet others seem to grow stronger. But what makes the different between being a ‘hero’ or a ‘victim of circumstance’? And how come some people will be amazingly tough-minded in one area of their life and yet easily beaten in another?

This fundamental question has always interested me. How can we get over the hurdles we encounter throughout life? A key to this question is something called ‘RESILIENCE’. Let’s consider what resilience is and how you can get more of it. Improving your resilience means you can more quickly and easily ‘bounce back’ from disappointments which is good news for your happiness and your health.

Occupational Psychologists Robertson-Cooper have found there are four things which will influence your resilience:-

  • Confidence
  • Social support
  • Purposefulness
  • Adaptability

The good news is that you can strengthen your psychological armour by building up these specific areas.

Some days you may feel like hiding under your duvet and that you daren’t apply for that amazing job. These are the times when you have to dig deep and find your inner courage and ‘grit’. Grit is defined as ‘perseverance and passion towards long-term goals’ (Duckworth & Seligman 2006) and could be as important in achieving success as IQ has long been believed to be.

Get some perspective

Walking around the Quays with its open spaces, open water and bracing winds helps to clear my mind. You will probably recognise the building behind me in the photo as the Imperial War Museum, near the university building in Salford Quays. This place always helps me find some perspective on my own problems when I think of the atrocious suffering people have endured – and still endure – in wartime all over the world. I am in awe of the stories of collective courage and how people all pulled together to get through. As a surviving and thriving species self-preservation is our strong instinct.

Be proud!

Having a degree is a huge first step on the ladder of career success. Ok so maybe you’ll struggle at first to find your place in the world of work – but studies consistently show that higher education is a worthwhile investment of time and money. Not only does it increase your earning power, it also gives you a sense of purpose and achievement, it broadens your horizons as you learn and meet other people different to you. Now you have that degree nobody can take it away from you. Not only is it useful in getting that first job but also for promotion later on in life. I have friends who regretted not going to university once they got into their thirties as they felt it held them back. Be proud of how far you have already come!

Acknowledge the positives

Practising ‘daily gratitude’ has been found to be very powerful in helping strengthen your psychological wellbeing. And when you feel more positive you feel more optimistic. And when you feel more optimistic you are more likely to take the time to make that job application that will be THE ONE!

Step outside of your comfort zone

Go on… be courageous! Nobody said it would be easy… but it could just be worth it! Setbacks are bound to happen if you are stretching yourself.


  • REFLECT – Can you think of a time when something has gone wrong for you? What helped you to get through it? What did you learn from it?
  • Every day, when you first wake up in the morning (or before you go to sleep at night) think of three things – even small things – that you are grateful for in your life. There is even an app to help you do this!
  • How resilient do you think you are? Try this quick, free on-line test from Robertson-Cooper and watch the video. The report will give you specific ideas on how to build your resilience.


Further information

You can complete the career adaptability test online here. Find out how adaptable you are as being adaptable contributes to career resilience. The test is on an accountancy website but it’s open to anyone to do.


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