How the pandemic could make you more resilient
Even after COVID-19 is history, says author Ama Marston, turning lemons into lemonade will still be a skill worth having.
For their book, Type R: Transformative Resilience for Thriving in a Turbulent World, mother-daughter strategy consulting team Ama Marston and Stephanie Marston spent years gathering case studies and research. The book came out in 2018, long before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Yet the concept of building resilience feels even more useful and thought-provoking now than it did two years ago.
In these pages, the authors analyze what makes some of us thrive despite adversity, and they lay out a six-step method for becoming someone who takes a resilient approach to careers and life—the “Type R” of the title.
If ever there were a moment for learning how to spot opportunities in a crisis, this is it. “So many of us are losing loved ones to this virus, and struggling to keep our families fed,” says Ama Marston. “The intention of the book is not to tell anyone to just suck it up and be more resilient.”
Instead, readers can use Type R to develop personal resilience and cope with what she calls “crisis fatigue.” Everyone these days is “overwhelmed by a series of bad-news events, which can be devastating if you don’t find ways to counter it.”
At the same time, though, “hard and uncertain times like these may also make us realize we have inner resources we didn’t know we had,” Marston adds. “We can build on those to make our lives and careers stronger and better, no matter what happens next.”
Monster spoke with Marston about building resilience—how to not only get through the current chaos, but emerge from it stronger than before.
Monster: Do you see anything good that has come out of the pandemic? Is there any upside at all?
Marston: First, it’s really important to recognize crisis fatigue, and acknowledge it. But for most people, the natural next stage is to adapt to a new landscape, sometimes in really creative ways. It’s human nature, and it can lead to some interesting experiences if we try to see ourselves in a different light.
Before COVID-19 hit, many of us were on autopilot. We had our familiar routines, and we knew how to operate, almost like sleepwalking. Now, with work having shifted to home offices and things like childcare so much more complicated, we’re forced to innovate. So what I see is a widespread trend toward setting priorities, and putting aside unnecessary things we used to spend time and energy on, in favor of concentrating on what really matters. That’s not all bad.
Monster: For someone whose whole industry is being wiped out—the hotel business, for instance—having to move into a new field is scary. Can that fear be tamed?
Marston: The fear of failure is real, because failing is so stigmatized in our society. But our research shows that failure is essential to building resilience—not just acceptable, but essential. So many successful people would never have achieved what they did without failing at least once. Walt Disney, for example, got fired from the Kansas City Star for “lacking imagination,” and his first business went bankrupt.
To turn the fear of failure into an aspect of resilience, we have to stop judging ourselves long enough to try something new. We have to give ourselves some wiggle room. And it helps to have a panel of supporters, people who can reinforce your self-worth and who see your strengths and can remind you when you forget.
Monster: In Type R, you describe six components of developing resilience. Is any one of them particularly important right now?
Marston: I would say that a healthy relationship to control is uppermost in people’s minds right now. In this environment, often we either feel helpless, as if we have no control over what’s happening, or we go to the other extreme and try to control everything in our lives. Either reaction just adds to stress.
Of course, no individual can control the coronavirus or the economy. What we can do, though, is identify what we can control, based on information, and focus on that. You can’t make your industry start hiring again, for example, but you can take one or two steps today toward finding a job in a different one.
Monster: One way to build resilience is something you call “inquisitive thinking.” Could you explain?
Marston: The idea is to see difficult circumstances as a chance to learn something new, rather than as a time to shut down. You can start by analyzing the situation and jotting down three possible ways you could learn something from it. Maybe there are technical or interpersonal skills that you can use this time to work on. Sometimes, later on when we look back, we’re surprised by what we learned, as opposed to having thought we couldn’t gain anything from the experience.
Monster: Have our professional relationships changed as a result of the pandemic? If so, what does that mean for the future?
Marston: I think that on the one hand, it’s harder to connect with co-workers and networking contacts when you can’t be with them in person. But at the same time, I’m seeing new communities forming where people are trying harder to reach out for companionship and solidarity, even if virtually. There’s a lot of brainstorming and sharing of ideas. After so many months of dealing with the pandemic, it’s clear to everyone that we really are all in this together, and we need to support each other. In the long run, that could help make us all more resilient.
Fortify your career path
Building resilience is not only good for your personal life, but it’s also extremely valuable for your professional one. The more directions you can steer your career, the more options you’ll find. Could you use some help seeking out new opportunities? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you can upload up to five resumes—each tailored to the types of jobs that interest you. Additionally, you can sign up for job alerts so you can be notified when new positions become available. Those are just two quick and easy ways Monster can strengthen the foundation of your career path.
Anne Fisher has been writing about career and workplace trends and topics since 1994. She is the author of If My Career’s On the Fast Track, Where Do I Get a Road Map?