For the last few months, I have been writing about the importance of building a network and marketing. Regardless of whether you are in public service or the private sector, it is important for your career. Your brand is something to define, nurture and protect, whether your work depends upon securing clients or not.

If you are in the client business, how do you keep going when you hit a roadblock or obstacle? When prospects don’t return calls, clients go away and you’re starting to feel like the Maytag repairman, how do you handle it?

The way you answer this question depends largely on one key aspect of your orientation: How resilient are you? Resilience dictates how well we recover from setbacks and get back in the saddle again. Our lives do tend to pull, stretch and bend us, so the ability to find our way back is a crucial skill.

Although resilience is important in every arena of life, this article focuses on how it benefits networking and marketing efforts and provides some steps for incorporating it in your career.

According to the American Psychological Association in “The Road to Resilience,” resilience is not a product of genetics: “Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. … It involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone. A combination of factors contributes to resilience. Many studies show that the primary factor in resilience is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family. Relationships that create love and trust, provide role models and offer encouragement and reassurance help bolster a person’s resilience.”

Think about your support system. How can it be improved? What steps could you take starting today to find encouragement among your family, friends and colleagues?

Several additional factors are cited by the APA as associated with resilience, including “the capacity to make realistic plans and take steps to carry them out; a positive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities; skills in communication and problem-solving; and the capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses. All of these are factors that people can develop in themselves.”

Look for ways of keeping track of accomplishments, instances when you demonstrate excellence and skill in problem-solving in order to refer back when you need a reminder. There is no stronger voice than your own, because it’s the one you will tend to listen to when you have doubts about your value.

To demonstrate the vast difference resilience can make, let’s turn to the father of positive psychology, Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman, director of the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center. Seligman wrote an article titled “Building Resilience” for the Harvard Business Review. He began with a composite sketch of two MBAs, Walter and Douglas, working on Wall Street, both of whom were laid off from their jobs. Both had a fallow period of self-doubt and worry, but Douglas quickly shed self-blame and began to take meaningful steps toward gainful employment, telling himself that the problem was not him, but the economy. Walter spiraled into paralysis, explaining the situation to himself as a product of his poor performance, and wound up living with his parents.

As Seligman writes, Douglas and Walter “stand at opposite ends of the continuum of reactions to failure. The Douglases of the world bounce back after a brief period of malaise; within a year they’ve grown because of the experience. The Walters go from sadness to depression to a paralyzing fear of the future. Yet failure is a nearly inevitable part of work, and along with dashed romance, it is one of life’s most common traumas. … It is people like Douglas who rise to the top, and whom organizations must recruit and retain in order to succeed.”

How have you responded to failure in the past and what has worked? What can you do to ramp up your inner Douglas? Can you remember a time when a perceived failure actually helped you? How can you look at a current situation and how it might seem a year from now? What would you wish you had done? If you tend to be a Walter, how can you start to emulate some of those Douglas qualities that landed him a new job and prevented him from a downward fall?

Seligman and others have found that optimism is a primary indicator of resilience. Optimism steps in to redirect us from thinking that failure is permanent rather than a temporary setback and is a trait that can be developed.

In sales and marketing, a popular strategy that requires optimism, resilience and persistence is the rule of seven, which says that a prospect must see or hear your message an average of seven times before they become a client or customer. The delivery of these messages is sometimes referred to as “touches.” Once you become aware that you are building up touches instead of expecting to hand over your business card and immediately convert a contact to a client, your resilience will start to improve.

A client recently asked me to help figure out what he should talk about at a dinner he was attending where many prospects would be in attendance, and I suggested it might be a better strategy to think about what he could ask them, rather than what he could tell them. Asking questions, displaying interest and curiosity, not only shows that you care, but also can provide the first nuggets of information that you can follow up on in future touches. Maybe you’ll discover a problem, challenge or passion and can build the relationship by providing a proposed solution or simply forwarding an article of interest.

Keep a file on each prospect and find ways to connect, increasing the number of touches and your inventory of information. Resist the temptation to think they don’t want you or that you’re not right for the work. If that thought comes in, counter it with another completely plausible and more positive thought: The need for my services has not arisen yet, and when it does, I will have created a relationship. Constantly add prospects and continue to catalog your touches. Your documentation will serve as a reminder of the prospects’ interests and topics you have shared and chronicle your own resilience.


Reprinted with permission from the May 28, 2015 edition of “The Legal Intelligencer” © 2015 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. For information, contact 877-257-3382, or visit