Janice Workman had a rough start to college. She wasn’t prepared and she didn’t know how to study. After two unsuccessful semesters, she was suspended. Returning home, she didn’t know what to do. She needed to repay her student loans, but she didn’t have a good job. Through a friend, she was able to get hired by a company involved in natural gas production. Janice became a lab technician, testing water samples.
After a year, she returned to school and changed her major to Environmental Engineering. Her grades improved steadily and she graduated three years later. She returned to the company where she previously worked, but as an engineer.
As Janice learned more about the business, she started her own environmental testing company. She was very successful at landing new contracts and eventually her company became the leading environmental testing lab for the entire eastern U.S.
How many Janice stories do you imagine there are? You would be surprised by how prevalent these are. Adversity often breeds a can-do spirit if managed properly. In fact many employers would rather hire people like Janice than they would the high GPA students who rarely ever faced a challenge.
How do you turn adversity into triumph? Here are some strategies:
- Examine the case of the adversity. Is the situation you are facing one that you are inflecting on yourself (e.g. bad grades) or one that is out of your control (e.g. a medical condition)
- Document the adversity as carefully as you can. You need to be totally honest about this. For example if the adversity is financial challenges, you need to be really honest about which of these are under your control and which ones are not.
- Find a mentor who you can talk to about the situation you are facing. You really need experienced help to work through the challenges. What may seem overwhelming to you may be something that a mentor has a lot of insight/support to offer you.
- Keep a diary of what you are doing to overcome the challenge. The process of writing down your efforts can really help:
- It will keep you focused on overcoming the challenge rather than just whining about it.
- It will give you the emotional boost you need to realize you are making progress.
- Keep updating your mentor on your progress. This will keep them involved and supportive.
- Imagine the story you will tell others once the challenge has been overcome. This story will go a long way to defining who you are as a person. The story will also be useful in motivating you when the challenge seems to be overwhelming.
Often adversity is created by someone else. You never want that person to be the cause of not achieving what you set out to do. You just can’t let someone else defeat you.