At some point in our lives, we are all likely to face a traumatic event or major disappointment. The ability to recover from such an experience by drawing upon our personal resilience is an important skill in the workplace and life generally.

Initially, when we encounter a traumatic situation, such as redundancy or other career setback, we are likely to experience various negative feelings such as sadness, anger,  loss of self-confidence, or worry. We may struggle to see a positive future.

What is meant by personal resilience?

When we talk about someone being resilient, we generally mean their ability to ‘bounce back’ or recover from a difficult situation.

Following initial upset and disappointment, some people seem able to bounce back more quickly than others.

Previous experience of successfully dealing with difficult circumstances can help. Even if past problems were not so large, reminding ourselves of how we dealt with them, and therefore just how resilient we are, can help us to feel more able to manage the present situation.

Finding a way forward

While resilience in the sense of ‘bouncing back’ does suggest returning to how things were before, this may not be realistic. But a major life event can be an opportunity to grow and evolve. It can prompt us to reassess our priorities and values. It is an opportunity to view the situation from all angles and perspectives and perhaps see some opportunities.

The key to recovery is to find a way of coping with the traumatic situation. This involves a number of steps. First, we need to work out what a good outcome looks like for us. Next, we need to find a road that will take us there. This road may initially seem impossibly difficult. But by breaking up the journey into achievable chunks, each with a smaller goal, the overall outcome does start to feel achievable. Eventually, when we have achieved our outcome, we may feel happier and more fulfilled than before.

How might coaching help us to build our personal resilience?

Working with a coach may help us to deal with the challenge we face. This may include helping us to ease the journey to our desired outcome. Taking the first small steps can be difficult but a coach can help with this too. As we begin our journey to our desired outcome, a coach can provide encouragement and help us to begin to view things a little more positively. By staying with us throughout our journey to our desired outcome, a coach can help us to enhance our personal resilience and be more prepared for the next challenging situation. Topics that might be covered include building our self-confidence, managing our emotions and developing a new narrative for ourselves.

Where appropriate, a coach may also guide us towards other professional support. This might include, for example,  counselling or financial advice.

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During a 35 year career in higher education, Jenny Ames led a productive research group, worked with people from a wide range of subject areas and collaborated with organisations from various sectors. She held the title of Professor at 6 universities, graduated ~25 PhD students and mentored ~25 contract researchers. Jenny was also a senior manager for 8 years. As Associate Dean and Assistant Pro Vice Chancellor, Jenny led on Research Impact at University level. In 2017 was she was made Founding Research Impact Lead for University Alliance.
Since 2017, Jenny has been Director of Jenny Ames Consulting Ltd. Working with universities in the area of Research Impact is an important part of her business. Jenny’s coaching practice focuses on university researchers and people in career transition. People in career transition may be wondering what to do next or they may have recently moved sector, organisation or job role. Jenny holds a Postgraduate Certificate in Coaching and Mentoring Practice from Oxford Brookes University. She is also a Member of the Association for Coaching (MAC). Jenny is a role model for the Aurora Leadership Development Programme for women run by Advance HE. She was also a facilitator on ‘Entrepreneurial Leaders’, a programme for senior university leaders run by the National Centre for Entrepreneurship in Education (NCEE).


Author Jenny Ames

Working with Universities, Businesses and their Stakeholders to benefit Society.

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