Personal resilience

Personal resilience, drive and energy are required in order to have a successful career. Graduates must be self-starters, able to take responsibility for their own learning and development. In addition to skills such as communication and team work a set of value driven attributes has been recognised as being increasingly important. These qualities are often referred to as personal reliance and also include:

  • Willingness to learn
  • Commitment
  • Self motivation
  • Passion
  • Enthusiasm
  • Humility
  • Flexibility
  • Reliability

Understand it

There has been much debate as to whether it is possible to ‘learn’ these attributes or whether they are characteristics of an individual’s personality. Understanding what employers are looking for will help you to identify your strengths and any areas for development. In the workplace qualities such as personal resilience are about:

  • Displaying a can-do attitude and going the extra mile when asked to carry out tasks
  • Being determined to get things done
  • Bouncing back from setbacks and persevering during challenging times
  • Thriving on change and adapting positively to changing circumstances
  • Reflecting on your performance and taking responsibility for your own development 
  • Understanding your position in the structure of an organisation and behaving appropriately
  • Keeping calm in the face of difficulties
  • Responding positively to failure and learning from your mistakes 

Develop it

The following examples can be developed as part of your degree, part-time work, sandwich placements, voluntary work, hobbies, clubs and societies:

  • Active participation in something you are passionate about such as a hobby, community project or charity
  • Working shifts or working with short notice
  • Working in a pressurised environment perhaps in a target driven environment
  • Getting involved in additional, optional activities in your part-time job
  • An active student life (clubs and societies, student rep, voluntary projects) will demonstrate a lively and energetic outlook on life, a sociable personality and a positive attitude

Demonstrate it

Employers are always hungry for hard evidence. A lot of selection and interview practice is competency based. Basically that means that employers score the evidence they find from your application form, interview and other selection procedures to come up with a final assessment of your suitability for the post.

You will need to be reflective in the way that you describe the examples you have developed. The STAR approach where you explain the situation, task, action and result will help you to articulate your evidence in a convincing way. Identify examples of your self reliance skills in the Identifying Skills work sheet.

Examples of competency based questions used by graduate recruiters relating to self reliance:

  • Give an example of a time when you have learnt quickly in an unfamiliar environment (Cancer Research UK)
  • Describe aspects of your experience and achievements to date, which demonstrate that you have the personal qualities we are looking for in a government economist. You will need to take responsibility for producing results with the determination to see things through to a high standard. Give an example of a recent achievement that illustrates your abilities in this area (Civil Service Fast Stream)
  • Tell us about a time when you saw the opportunity to really make a difference for the future of an activity, team or organisation. What did you do, what obstacles did you have to overcome, and what happened as a result? (Unilever)
  • Humility, respect and empathy skills are very relevant for the role you will have in schools working with the various stakeholders from parents to governors etc. Please give an example of when you have worked with people who are very different from yourself. We are particularly interested in any charity/teaching/voluntary work you have undertake (TeachFirst)

The following sources of information will help you to develop your confidence in this area:   

Page last updated: Wednesday 24 July 2013