The positive emotions of hope and optimism can help your career development, whether you are choosing a new career or trying to make peace with your current occupation. Research in positive psychology shows hope and optimism can help you be more “resilient” in the workplace. That means you’re better at overcoming adversity, adapting to and thriving in our rollercoaster economy.
Being resilient in the face of change is crucial considering the amount of career changes we undergo. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average U.S. worker will hold more than 10 jobs in their lifetime (and that was in 2006! Imagine what they’re forecasting now). Job change is stressful, even if you consider it a positive change, like being promoted, taking a “time-out” to have a child, or taking a new job you eagerly want.
How does hope and resilience work together? Resiliency requires people be ready and able to respond to opportunity. And the more hopeful we are, the more likely we are to notice and act on opportunities.
So what can you do to strengthen your resilience, so that you notice and are ready to act on opportunity? Here are seven ways, based on research:
- Assess your optimism and improve it. You can take an optimism test for free at Dr. Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness website at the University of Pennsylvania. Then follow his ABCDE method of improving optimism. Before you say all this is hocus pocus, keep in mind that decades of research shows cognitive psychology (simplistically, how you think determines outcomes) self-help approaches like this do work.
- Upgrade your support system at work. Do you need to socialize with more positive, supportive coworkers? Do you spend time with doers or complainers? Is your supervisor a blamer or problem-solver? If you can’t change supervisors, can you counteract the negativity with a new, motivating mentor elsewhere (or a new job with a better boss)?
- Upgrade your support system outside of work. (ask similar questions to those above about friends and family).
- Make sure you're working in an ethical and trustworthy culture. Does your employer use an inclusive decision-making process? Do they have a bottom line beyond financial outcomes? (like certain standards of ethics) If not, change to a place that does is likely needed.
- Ask: Does your employer invest in you? Is its organization team oriented? Is there any training available to you AND that you’re able to make time to take advantage of? And for that matter, are you investing in yourself? Are you learning new skills? What steps have you taken recently to use and grow your motivated skills both off and on the clock?
- If you are self-employed or want to run a small business, will the work environment you create for yourself and others strengthen resiliency? (see tips above)
- Follow the recommended strategies in our “Free Agent Outlook on Work” article.
Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you have safe travels to be with friends and family.
Froman, L. (2010). Positive Psychology in the Workplace. Journal of Adult Development, 60, 62-63, 59-69.
Youssef, C.M., & Luthans, F. (2007). Positive organizational behavior in the workplace: The impact of hope, optimism, and resilience. Journal of Management, 33, 774-800.