Sarfraz Ahmed, Careers Advisors, Leicester College

On Friday March 20th 2020, like many other educational establishment, Leicester College closed its doors to the public, staff and students. Most of the staff including the college’s careers team provided a remote service through email and telephone guidance.

The week prior to the college closing was one of the busiest for a team of four college careers advisers, working hard during National Careers Week, in schools across Leicester and Leicestershire, as well providing a service in the college. We managed to see over 2,000 students on average through presenting at school assemblies, as well as being involved in initiatives such as ‘YES You Can’ a project looking to raise aspiration to Black and Minority and Ethnic students in Year 8 in schools in Leicester.

At the heart of the message that we were delivering was the importance of understanding what employers want from young people today, the workshops and presentations are very much in the spirit of the Gatsby Benchmarks (2013), and The Careers Strategy (2017).

The importance of Resilience

One of the key messages was the importance of Resilience – the capacity to never give up, and to ‘bounce’ back from difficulties and obstacles. At the time of presenting information the term resilience was very much used in relation to employability and making career transitions. However in a period of self-isolation that began in the last few weeks, we have all had to deal with situations and scenarios that we never thought would ever occur. The coronavirus pandemic has taken many countless lives across the UK and indeed across the world, and has forced to all re-think the way that we live our lives, including how we continue to work remotely, and continue to survive in a world that consists of a virus that has potential to kill lives, and damage our mental state of mind, needless to say our economy.

There are many different variations of resilience depending on who you talk to. Over the years my interpretation has varied slightly and has been influenced by such writers as Beth Benatti Kennedy who in her book ‘Career Re-Charge – Five Strategies to Boost Resilience and Burn Burnout, (2018), who advocates resilience being a key component of a key component of a five strategy model. Her definition of resilience is eerily appropriate for the world that we are living in. A world fighting a virus that has the potential to kill so many in a short period of time, she defines resilience ‘as the ability to adapt to changing career circumstances even when the circumstances are discouraging or disruptive. In this time of crisis, I believe our resilience is being put to the test as the onset of Covid-19, was to many an unpredictable obstacle. The challenge to all of us is to see how BOTH mentally and physically resilient we are.

In these uncertain times our resilience is put to the test, as potential long-periods of isolation could have effects on our mental state of mind with many of us coping with feelings of anxiety and stress. Ultimately we do not want the coronavirus pandemic to derail us, but to steer us all into a positive outcome where we focus on the future having learnt from the circumstances and situations that have occurred globally in the past few months. It is important that we focus the future to a world that has survived a mass pandemic, a mass crisis and mass devastation.

It is important to have a positive mind-set and be able to plan for the future, to use positive affirmations and to promote positive thinking and self-talk. In this period of isolation it is important that you look after your mental health and your well-being, to be self-aware and try to steer away from negative thoughts and maintain a positive more resilient mind-set. Connect with others like yourself, to share ideas with to talk discuss any concerns that you may have, maximise the use of technology, through Skype, Whatsapp, as well as Social Media.

Start planning for a future beyond Covid-19, whatever it may look like. Consider what part you will play. It is important that you continue to stimulate your mind, body and spirit. After all resilience is not a one-dimensional entity, it is two or three dimensional depending on the way you look at it. It is a belief system one that you must buy into. Through this period of uncertainty and disruption, resilience for me is a state of mind, an entity, a power, a strength that helps you to plough through the hardest of times, and helps you to find a way through obstacles and disappointments. I believe we are being tested on many levels, with our level of resilience being at the top or very close to it. We are all in a period of isolation and uncertainty, a period from which we will emerge stronger, and be ready for the challenges that lie ahead.

Sarfraz Ahmed, Careers Advisors, Leicester College

References: Beth Benatti Kennedy-‘Career Re-Charge – Five Strategies to Boost Resilience and Burn Burnout, (2018) Capucia LC Publishing

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