Building Resiliency to Overcome Career Challenges

Building Resiliency to Overcome Career Challenges

Building Resiliency to Overcome Career Challenges

Resiliency is the ability to withstand – or quickly recover – after a setback. It helps you adjust to changes and cope with adversity, stress and disappointment.  As crucial as resiliency is in your personal life, it’s also an important quality to develop in your professional life, as building resiliency helps you meet the demands of your job, stay on top of major projects and meet deadlines – even when things aren’t going your way.

Building resiliency is like building a muscle

While some people are naturally resilient, most people need to practice at building resiliency. The good news is that it can be learned by anyone. In fact, building resiliency is like building a muscle – the more you practice it, the stronger it becomes.

In a recent conversation, Naveed Irshad, President & CEO of Manulife Canada shared his thoughts on the importance of career resilience, strategies for how to build resilience at work and unique considerations for the pan-Asian community.

The role of resiliency in your career

When you have developed skills in resiliency, you become more capable of taking action to improve or resolve a situation, you recognize when to seek support, and acknowledge that difficult events are a part of life. This big picture thinking, which is a by-product of resiliency, enables you to learn and grow from challenging situations and helps position you for leadership roles. When you face challenges or setbacks in your career, resilience is particularly valuable to help you keep moving forward.

As Naveed explains: “When it comes to career and work, you never know what’s going to come along. Change is constant and you have to be able to navigate that change. You must be nimble, adjust your style and call on all the experiences you have  to make those adjustments.”

How to build resiliency – tips from an executive

“It has been really important to exhibit resilience throughout my career,” says Naveed. So how has he developed this capacity? He shares the following experiences and advice.


Reach beyond what’s comfortable

Naveed is an actuary by training and a natural introvert. So, speaking in front of large group is well outside what he finds comfortable. Even so, he has recognized the importance of learning how to apply resiliency in the workplace and how reaching beyond his comfort zone could help him achieve it. “I took a role to run Manulife’s operation in Singapore a few years back,” he explains. “While I had held leadership roles in the technical space previously, it was my first role of being a general manager. I had to get in front of thousands of insurance agents and motivate them to sell insurance, which was totally outside my comfort zone. I remember the first time I did it, I was terrible. And I got feedback that I was terrible.”

While the experience was difficult, it was a necessary step in his career. “I’ve always tried to take roles outside my comfort zone. I have always tried to have a growth mindset to take on new challenges. I won’t always get it right the first time and there will be lessons to be learned, but I know the importance of pushing myself.”

Learn from failures and mistakes

One of the consequences of striving for something that feels slightly out of reach is that sometimes you will fail. Sometimes you will make mistakes, just as Naveed experienced. But that’s okay. As he explains, making mistakes – and learning from them – is integral to building resilience.

For instance, after that first presentation, he went through the video over and over,  learned from his mistakes and adjusted. While speaking in front of groups will never be his favourite thing to do, he’s improved through experience and become more comfortable.

“If you never fail, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. If I’m not making some mistakes, then I’m not pushing as hard as I can,” he says.

Build and lean on your network

While failure is never easy, having a network of people who are available for support is crucial, as they can help you bounce back from setbacks, thus help you strengthen your resilience.


“I think dealing with failure, accepting failure, and talking about failure can sometimes be challenging in the pan-Asian community –there can be a kind of cultural baggage we deal with in terms of being able to talk about it. For me, it has always been important to have a network that is supportive, where you can openly talk about failures and lessons learned.”

Take advantage of available resources

Naveed also encourages individuals to take advantage of resources that can help strengthen their resiliency and provide the confidence to push through cultural barriers.

“Early in my career, I did not see leaders that looked like me or had similar life experiences as I did. In that way, I built more resiliency in myself. Now, there are so many more resources, and we should take advantage of them,” he says. “Ascend Canada is an outstanding organization. There are so many tools and resources that Ascend offers in terms of formal programming, mentorship programs and informal networking. Those are tools I really wish I had earlier in my career, and I encourage others to use them to the fullest.”

Just “do it”

When you become more comfortable with reaching outside your comfort zone, learn from your mistakes and have built a network you can rely on, you will become more confident to keep reaching and strive for positions you feel you can thrive in.


“The way to build resilience is to just put yourself out there,” says Naveed. “Just do it. Resilience comes from pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, making mistakes along the way and learning from them. The best advice I give people is to just get out there and do it.”

Building resiliency takes practice, courage, a positive mindset and a network of supporters. Keep in mind, learning to become resilient isn’t done overnight, and you will never stop developing this muscle – it is a quality and a skill to be nurtured over time by continually pushing yourself, learning from mistakes, and taking advantage of the resources and people who are ready, willing and able to support you throughout your journey.