“It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward.” – prophetic words spoken by the iconic movie character Rocky Balboa to his protégé Adonis “Donnie” Creed in the movie Creed. This simple phrase says a great deal and can be related to one’s working life. Setbacks are plenty and how we react to them and get back up to find opportunities often differentiates the successful people from those that never fulfil their potential. This leads to the question; how do people become resilient? Can I be taught at a young age?

This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to watch my youngest son make his debut in the First XI for his school football side. This was a really good achievement for him as he is only in year 11, not blessed with elite footballing skills but he works hard and has deserved his opportunity. To say that he was excited was an understatement. School sport has a unique ability to “hype up” first team selection and my son had certainly bought into the hype. In hindsight, it was almost inevitable that there would be a letdown of sorts and this came in the worst form. There was a contest at the 17-minute mark, a clash of bodies and within a split second my son was standing above his opponent who was doing a fantastic Christiano Ronaldo imitation and rolling around the pitch in a manner that would do Morgan Freeman proud. The referee reached for a yellow card before the assistant referee waved his flag enthusiastically. They conferred for what seemed like an eternity and alas, the yellow card was overturned, and he issued a red card.

My heart sunk for my son. His debut, which he had been so pumped for, was over after 17 minutes. To his credit, he took his punishment professionally and walked off without any theatrics (had this happened to his father 30 years ago it may have been a different story) and walked off to the bench. The crowd hollered enthusiastically. It was an “away game” so our supporters were outnumbered and the calls of “on your bike” and “get off” were loud and followed by much cheering. He made his way to the bench, picked up his drink bottle and started what was a ridiculously long walk to the change rooms. Whilst walking off, the opposition scored from the ensuing penalty, and he had their players run to the sideline and thank him for gifting them a goal. The icing on the cake for the humiliation was the long walk up the stairs where he was also subjected to various sledges. It was humiliating for him.

He went to the change room and sat quietly for a minute. His head was bowed, and he was distraught. I felt for him and walked in. He shook his head and said to me that he let his side down. My heart sank and I could see how low he was. There was nothing I could say to make him feel better, so I patted him on the back and walked out. Five minutes later he walked out in his school blazer and tie and sat on the hill to watch his team. They fought hard but the fatigue associated with playing one man short for so long took its toll and they conceded two goals in the last five minutes to lose three to nil.

As we drove home that afternoon, I told my son that I was very proud of how he reacted. He accepted the decision (even though he didn’t agree with it) and moved on. He supported his team and later watched the First XV rugby side. He didn’t hide or sulk. I said to him that this was a valuable life lesson and he had demonstrated a great deal of resilience that would stand him in good stead for later.

Your employment journey or employee life to put in in a more accurate term is full of so many pot holes and challenges. These include but are certainly not limited to:

Applying for and being rejected for jobs.

I still have the rejection letters I received when I first graduated university and was looking for a job. This was an era when unemployment was well north of 10% and I unsuccessfully applied for 226 jobs and received 49 letters (yes letters) of rejection. It gutted me at the time and I began to feel as though there was no hope but all of these years later it still serves as motivation. I wrote to each of those companies who took the time to reject me via letter and thanked them for the opportunity and asked if they had any feedback for me. Five companies responded and I actually ended up receiving two job offers from this list!

Being overlooked for promotion.

This one is tough but, once again, happens to most of us in our careers. There are two paths you can take; be bitter and sulk or accept the decision, ask for feedback and prove them wrong. It can be really difficult to see that path two is the best path, particularly when you are in the heat of the moment and possibly embarrassed and jealous that you were overlooked. However, if you handle this professionally, your employer is far more likely to consider you for promotion in the future.

Retrenchment or redundancy.

Thankfully, I have never had to deal with this (yet) but I have retrenched many people and I can see the pain it causes. A loss of employment is a loss of status, and it leads to so much uncertainty and fear. Mass job losses which was seen recently in the GFC and Covid epidemic can cause many mental health issues as people suddenly feel worthless. I spoke to a father recently who was made redundant, and he didn’t see it coming. He had been with his employer for six years and had no idea where to go and what to do. His immediate response was desperation – he had school fees, mortgages and he had no real savings. It was hard for me to compose him and getting him to “move forward” as Rocky advised, but the strategy was based on what positive actions he could take. He could not change the redundancy but what can he do? We worked on his CV and evaluated his options. He banked his redundancy and changed his career trajectory and looked for a role that actually interested him. We are all wise in hindsight, but he realised that he was stale and in need of a change and he approached his job search with a new sense of enthusiasm. Lo and behold, he secured a new role in a different industry, and, thanks to his redundancy, he had some savings. He just needed to find a way forward.

I sincerely believe that resilience is a key skill or behaviour for all employees going forward. We all get knocks and setbacks during our careers. Some are fair but many are not. They hurt and sometimes it is hard to get ourselves out of a rut and being a victim. I hope that my son takes his set back on the chin and learns from it. I hope that he takes his week suspension and it helps build his steel and determination to go forward………or at the very least, I hope he uses the extra time to do some homework! I think that there are many opportunities to train and exhibit resilience and if we allow ourselves to learn from them, they will stand us in good stead during our employee life cycle.

Managing Director

Brad is the Owner and Director of Optimum Consulting Group. Founding the company in 2003 he has seen it grow to over 30 staff across Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Brad is responsible for all operational and strategic functions for the group and he still actively recruits executive assignments for a select group of clients.

As Optimum has expanded its service offerings, Brad has become involved in the business development and delivery of human resources consulting, psychological assessments and payroll services. In 2014 he joined the Board of Kinetic Innovative Staffing as a Non-Executive Director to provide strategic advice and direction to the management team. Prior to establishing Optimum, Brad was the Queensland General Manager of an international publicly listed recruitment business where he worked for seven years.

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