How do I build resilience?

Rejection hurts – anyone who has ever got a disappointing grade or been passed over for a job knows the pain that comes with feelings of failure. And this is compounded by the seemingly easy road that others stroll along, as our peers seem to reap academic success after academic success, whilst we watch from the side-lines.


But behind the veneer of “success”, we all face rejection. It just might not be visible.


So a few brave academics have started to make it obvious.


Caitlin Kirby, from Michigan State University, made herself a skirt of rejection letters to wear to her PhD defence. In embracing her unsecured scholarships and rejected papers, Kirby recognised that “failure” is not a taboo word or something to be ashamed of. Instead, Kirby reminds us that ‘a natural part of the process is to get rejected along the way’ and that her proposals improved after each rejection: rejection really can make you better.


Professor Haushofer, who teaches psychology and public affairs at Princeton, has similarly showcased his failures. In writing a “CV of failures”, Haushofer lists jobs, funding, and PhD programmes he didn’t get, estimating that this list is 6 times longer than his standard CV.


Even more strikingly, Haushofer added a “Meta-Failure” to his CV:

“2016 – This darn CV of Failures has received way more attention than my entire body of academic work”


Whilst we might not all want to be as public in embracing our failures, we should recognise that everyone has academic or professional disappointment. As Crystal Debrah, Careers Consultant and Author says,

“In a fast-changing world, it is my view that Resilience is the number one skill needed to succeed in any career. This is why our suite of Resilience resources have been created for you.”


Pink umbrella in the rain
Photo by Erik Witsoe on Unsplash

So how to develop this all-important resilience?

  • Embrace failure as part of your journey and try to recognise that your grades, successes, or failures do not define you
  • Create a support system or friends or family to surround you
  • Work on skills that you know you’re lacking – attend networking nights if you know that’s what you need to work on, or attend an Application Advice appointment if your CV could be better
  • Read our resources on developing resilience
  • Watch our new LinkedIn Learning collection on enhancing resilience
    • As a King’s student, you can access LinkedIn Learning for free, whether or not you have a LinkedIn account. For more detail read here 
  • Attend a Future Advantage workshop on developing resilience