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New Programs and Initiatives: Building Resilience

by Louisa Jewell and Shannon M. Polly


Resilience is the ability to grow and thrive in the face of challenges and bounce back from adversity.
Due to current economic conditions, client workload has dramatically increased for career counselling organizations over the past few years, placing greater demands on career practitioners and their leaders. Career counsellors need to be resilient in dealing with their clients and need to build their clients’ resilience in order to help them succeed. Grounded in positive psychology and the latest research on resilience, new tools are now available to build resilience in leaders and their teams.
Soon leaders will have an opportunity to experience these tools first-hand as a result of a Partnership Project funded by CERIC, the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling. In Spring 2011 Resilient Leadership for Career Development Leaders, a new workshop, will be launched to support career practitioners as they develop their resilience and harness the power of positive psychology.
Positive psychology is the scientific study of well-being and how individuals and communities flourish. Resilient Leadership for Career Development Leaders is based on the hypothesis that as career counsellors focus on improving the psychological resources of their clients and themselves, they perform better, bounce back from adversity quicker and achieve higher-level goals.
Here are some ways you can leverage the findings in positive psychology to help yourself and your clients be more resilient.
Promote Positivity in the Workplace

While we often think that positive emotions are fleeting, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, a leading researcher on positive emotions, discovered that positive emotions actually build psychological, physical and social resources ultimately improving our resilience and happiness over time. Working with Marcial Losada, Fredrickson (2005) determined that work teams that interact with each other at a positivity ratio of 5:1 (five positive interactions for every single negative interaction) report higher levels of well-being and perform better.

Increase Meaning for People at Work

According to the latest research conducted by (Jewell, 2009), people who felt their work was meaningful reported higher levels of job satisfaction. Dr. Chris Peterson (2004) conducted studies of adults with respect to good character at work, love and play and asked respondents to think of their most fulfilling job. What people most valued was a job that was congruent with their own strengths of character. Thus when we find ourselves in authentic alignment we are free to operate at our best and morale is high.
Help Build Positive Relationships

According to Drs. Jane Dutton and Emily Heaphy (2003), when people have high quality connections at work, they share information and knowledge more freely which accelerates learning and development for higher team productivity, ultimately strengthening organizational performance. If there is one thing we have learned from studying positive psychology, it is that relationships matter.
Fostering Resilience

Frequently people think that to be resilient they must handle everything on their own. But by the very act of working with a career counsellor, your client is using a resilience strategy of asking for help. In addition, a common myth about resilience is that you either have it or you don’t. But current research shows that by cultivating all of the aforementioned factors – positive emotions, meaning and relationships – one can actively build resilience. Because, as we know, resilience is not a destination, it’s a process.

Crystal Dolliver and Joanne Stuart of Northern Lights Canada will deliver the workshop for the CERIC Partnership Project, Resilient Leadership for Career Development Leaders. For more information, please email Crystal at Watch and for registration details.



Dutton, J.E. and Heaphy, E.D. (2003). The Power of High-Quality Connections, in Positive Organizational Scholarship, eds. Kim Cameron, Jane Dutton, and Robert Quinn. San Francisco, CA: Berrett- Koehler.
Fredrickson, B. L., & Losada, M. F. (2005). Positive affect and the complex dynamics of human flourishing. American Psychologist, 60, 678-686.
Jewell, L. (2009). (Canadian National Survey at Unpublished raw data.
Peterson, C., & Seligman, M.E.P. (2004). Character Strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: Oxford University Press; Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

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