Developing resilience can help ex-offenders deal with the challenges they face upon leaving prison

resilienceThose in reentry need to develop a strong sense of resilience to help them deal with the challenges they will face in the weeks and months ahead.

Sometimes referred to as the yo-yo effect, resilience is the ability to bounce back when things don’t go quite the way you expected. You may be depressed and discouraged, but with resilience you’ll likely have more capacity to succeed in your job search and personal life.

Consider this situation: You had an interview a few days ago, and the hiring manager just emailed to say they had chosen someone else for the position. You could just mope around and feel sorry for yourself, or you could say to yourself, “The interview I had with that person gave me more experience in answering job-related questions, and I know that will benefit and serve me well. If I call enough people I’ll find a match and be hired.”

Or how about this one: “You spent the afternoon delivering your JIST card or resume to local small businesses from the list you compiled. In every case the hiring manager was either too busy to talk to you or not in. Instead of feeling discouraged, you could say to yourself, “I will come back in a week or so and try to meet with them again. And besides, I still have 45 more small businesses on my list to visit.”

That’s what we call resilience. You look past disappointment and adversity to the next opportunity. And you’ll keep moving toward your goal of finding a job by paying attention to your activities that support your efforts.

Please always remember, the hiring process is typically very subjective and arbitrary and at best an imperfect process, and to not take it personally.

How to develop resilience

Resilience is a life skill that may not come easy for some people, but it can be developed. And here are a few ways to do it:

  • Practice self-affirmation. Look in the mirror every morning, smile at yourself and say, “I will be a good employee. I’m going to find a job. It just may take a bit of time.”
  • If you don’t succeed at something, look at it with a growth mindset as a learning experience by always praising and rewarding your efforts. And ask yourself how you would do it differently – and better – the next time around.
  • Concentrate on those things you have control over, and take action. Call the hiring managers from the list of companies you’ve compiled, and try to get in to see them. This will help build a sense of hopefulness and even confidence and will work much better than answering online job listings and passively waiting for them to contact you.
  • If something disappointing happens – like you didn’t get the job you were hoping for – consider it to be a temporary setback and look forward to better opportunities in the future. Keep working toward your goal.
  • Don’t waste time thinking of yourself as as unlucky, not likable or overlooked and then feeling discouraged. Instead imagine the life you’d like to live as a movie, and you are playing the leading role. You, the star, will be successful and achieve whatever you hope for. Keep looking forward not back.
  • Develop confidence in your ability to overcome adversity by joining a support group  or an organization like Toastmasters where you may make friends with, and get support from, other members.
  • Make an effort to connect with empathetic and understanding people. These could be friends and family members or new people you meet at support group meetings. Or it might be finding other types of social groups that interest you on Meetup. There are many places to find individuals who might be compassionate, trustworthy and supportive.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep, so you can handle whatever situations may arrive the next day.
  • Exercise regularly, whether taking long walks, running, cycling or going to the gym.
  • Practice meditation or yoga (there are many other free classes on YouTube in addition to this one) or participate in a spiritual pursuit to develop ways to deal with stress. These can especially help one to reach a point of greater equanimity, which fosters resilience.
  • Volunteer. You will get a sense of satisfaction from helping others.
  • Be flexible. If something doesn’t work out one way, try another.

Practice most or all of these tips, and your sense of resilience will increase, along with your ability to perform better in your job search and in life.

And those who’ve experienced serious trauma or severe stress may want to learn more about the Community Resilience Model, which has been used to help people embark on a journey to healing.

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