Young People Often Lack "Psychological Resilience" At Work; Here's How to Get It


Think back to the first time you ever had a job. How was it different than being in school? Odds are, it was not as structured, and there were certain expectations of you from your employer (just as it is at any type of job). Did this make you feel uncomfortable, being in that type of scenario? That would not be out of the ordinary.

Ryan Ferguson, Carl Menger Fellow at the Foundation for Economic Education, writes that learning work is a difficult process. In school, we are given a very structured environment where expectations are set for us, our responsibilities are fairly limited, and our need to independently prioritize is not as important as it is in the workplace.

In school, priorities are defined for us. You have projects, papers, and exams that you will complete. You can prioritize in a limited way, but you have very little control over your direction or responsibilities. The teacher is responsible for making sure the workload is manageable. You are responsible for getting all your work done and don’t get to decide what you work on in the first place.

When one first transitions into the workforce, the parameters are very different in many cases. Priorities are not laid out in the same way, and the worker has a new level of responsibility. Becoming accustomed to that takes time, as it is a new environment that one may have never experienced before.

When young people start work, it is usually in jobs that similarly require very little thinking. Whether that is at a fast food restaurant or doing some sort of manual labor, you learn how to show up and be dependable (which are very valuable things to learn), but they still don’t develop the skills you need to thrive in a work environment where you could always do a little more.

In order to function properly in this new environment, and eventually progress into better positions in the workforce, one must develop what Ferguson describes as psychological resilience. With this mental skill, one can prioritize their work in their mind, to recognize limitations, and quickly rebound from failures.

Making this adjustment is a difficult process, but there are things that one can do to develop that resilience.

  1. Identify that your school experience has not prepared you.

  2. Accept that is going to be uncomfortable.

  3. Get to work and stick with it.

Does any of this sound familiar? Do you remember having to develop those kinds of mental skills? Share your thoughts with us!