10 tips to fuel staying power and build your career

Do you easily give up on stuff? Are you feeling tempted to give up on your career goals because you can’t get a job? It could be that you lack resilience.

I know it’s hard to hear, but the only way to get that dream graduate level job, and succeed at it when you do, is to go through tough experiences. Knock-backs, dashed hopes, bad news – they all must be pushed aside. The only way to develop a resilient mind-set is to persevere, even though it’s hard, so in this article, I’d like to share 10 tips to help you fuel staying power. Here we go!

1. Begin with the right mind-set.

The working environment is competitive. Organisations invest thousands to find recruits with the talent to help them succeed. That’s their number one concern, so you must convince them that you’re the sort of person that will keep going even when it gets tough. They want to see evidence of grit, drive and consistency. What better place to start than with a mind-set that shows your determination to pursue the career of your dreams?

2. Think neurons.

One of the most encouraging pieces of advice I can give you comes from neurological research showing that things only feel tough because your brain is trying to connect neurons. It’s what happens in our brains when we form habits. So, it’s natural for stuff you’ve never done before to feel hard because your brain doesn’t have strong enough connections in the area that governs that skill. If you don’t do hard things that stretch you, things you find challenging and, yes, things that are at times monotonous and boring, you’ll never move beyond your current skill level.

3. Practice. Practice.

People who do well in their careers don’t necessarily do so because they’re good at it but because they worked hard at it. In one famous study, SAT scores collected from a group of Ivy League undergraduates showed that the smarter they were, the less they persevered. They didn’t need to try hard, so they didn’t. That’s why people who practice lots often end up doing far better than those who are more talented but don’t put in the work. History has no shortage of examples – Walt Disney, Edison, JK Rowling and many others failed many times before succeeding. Think of all those who gave up too soon! So, don’t allow discouragement to railroad your dreams – work hard. Put the effort in and it will reward you.

4. Set clear values.

In a study on resilience by Gwent police force leader Jeff Farrar, he found that having a clear set of values can help. Humility can help you not to take things too personally. Adaptability can help you to respond appropriately to situations that require quick responses and decisions. And patience can help you to appreciate that some things happen more slowly and gradually than others. Ownership and responsibility for the both, the goal and the steps you need to take to reach it can help you stay on track.

5. Be a learner.

Learning plays a central role in the life of a resilient person. Such people recognise that they need to keep learning if they want to improve. If you find you don’t have the skill to move forward, develop it. Again, this will serve you positively when you’re sitting in an interview answering questions about resilience.

6. Be a problem solver.

Find ways to solve the problems that stand in your way. To do that you need to step back, assess the situation and ask yourself, ‘How can I find a way around this?’ Research what’s out there and get help from others. You will again be developing an important skill that will help you in your career.

7. Focus on what you can change.

It helps to separate the things you can change from those you can’t. Stuff you have no control over will happen. If you focus on what you can’t change, you’ll use up precious time and energy on thoughts and actions that don’t help you to progress. So, focus on the things you can do something about.

8. Remember your successes.

No doubt you will have had challenges in the past. You will have gone through difficult times before. And you got through them, didn’t you? Remind yourself of that and how you did it. Tell yourself that the challenges you’re facing now are no different.

9. Don’t be afraid to get it wrong.

Making mistakes is part of the learning journey and often the fear of getting things wrong stops people from achieving great things. Remember, getting it wrong is the way you will learn how to get it right. Don’t let bad experiences dent your confidence or hamper your career development. Fail forward.

10. Develop self-awareness.

Keep a diary to record and audit triggers to your habits, moods and behaviours – especially the negative ones. Get clear on what motivates you, what makes you feel anxious, when you feel most confident, or what makes you stressed. Note how you behave toward yourself and others, and how these emotions affect your energy levels. Knowing why you feel like giving up is the first step towards moving away from behaviours that don’t serve you.

Now, go get that dream graduate level job!

Six mind-sets that lead to inertia and sabotage your career dreams

The biggest obstacle to achieving your career dreams isn’t in the hands of other people, but in your head.

Newton’s law of inertia is a useful scientific method for explaining why we don’t change the things we want to in our lives. According to this law, we’re being controlled by a rule usually expressed in the following convoluted way: ‘An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.’

So, even free-thinking, independent beings like you and me will keep doing what we’re doing (even though we want something else) until something causes us to change course.

My aim here is to identify what’s feeding your inertia so that you can do something about it. It’s great to act because action fuels more action. However, as actor Denzel Washington once told a cohort of students about to graduate, “Don’t confuse movement with progress.” We must act on the right thing. Once you understand the cause of your inertia it’s much easier to know what action to take.

Here are six mind-sets I frequently come across while coaching graduates to job success – you may find them useful:

  1. Confusion

    Either you don’t know what you want, or you do but have no idea how to get it. So many options but where to begin? This is the cause of your paralysis: there’s too much noise in your head it’s hard to take action. Simplicity is the answer to confusion. Sometimes it is easier to eliminate what you don’t want and work with what’s left.

  2. Fear

    It is the top reason why people don’t act on their dreams. The fear of what might happen if they do out-weighs the fear of what might happen if they don’t and keeps them from acting. What if it doesn’t work out, or if you get there and you can’t hack it? But fear is the work of illusion. It hasn’t happened anywhere other than in your head.

  3. Missed opportunity

    A group of researchers at Leiden University in the Netherlands have found that inertia can set in if you bypass an opportunity to act. The more you do nothing the more likely you are to do nothing. The longer you take to make a decision, the less likely you are to make that decision. According to the researchers, this leads to a whole set of other social problems such as procrastination, decision avoidance, decision deferral and sunk cost effect (see below).

  4. Depression

    Studies on the relationship between depression and inactivity show that one often feeds the other. The more a person engages in doing nothing the more they become stuck in an ‘inactivity trap’ that makes them feel even more depressed. It then becomes difficult to break out of the habit. Researchers aren’t sure which comes first and say either is plausible. If you’ve been depressed for a long time you should seek professional support. Otherwise, you can help yourself by breaking the cycle with action.

    Check out our post about depression after university.

  5. Sunk cost effect

    I sometimes come across people who have been in a career or job they don’t like for so long that they find it hard to move on. They’ve devoted too many years to learning and building up specific experience and feel that to abandon it all will mean losing all they’ve invested. This is known as the ‘sunk cost effect’, where people are more likely to continue to invest in a failing course of action than to change because they reason that they have already invested so much. However, there’s always the possibility of reinvesting your skills and knowledge in pastures new.

  6. Can’t be bothered

    Think about it: it is easier to do nothing and just keep moving in the direction you are going than to interrupt things, especially if you’re comfortable. So, if you’re of the slothful sort you’re going to do exactly that. Watch out, however, as this laziness usually disguises itself an excuse for why you aren’t where you want to be. Just get up and make it happen.

Whatever lies behind your inertia, the more you feed it the more unlikely you are to achieve your career dreams. Whether it’s finding and applying for the job you really want, making yourself more employable, going for that promotion or leaving the job you hate, you’re the only one standing in the way of your progress.

If you want to progress your career you must act on what you know. Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the law of inertia is to know that once you take that first step you will start to build the momentum you need to keep going.

Good luck!