Teaching Resilience for an Entrepreneurial Workforce by Guest Blogger Amy Schulz

Amy Schulz

Amy Schulz – Ambassador of Opportunity for the New World of Work

A note from Jackie: A few weeks ago I had the great pleasure of chatting with Amy Schulz of the New World of Work. Amy believes that entrepreneurial education is the core of future workforce development, and she is truly on the cutting edge of this new movement. In this wonderful piece she explores why resilience is so essential.

In the heart of San Francisco’s Financial District on a spring day in April 2013, our New World of Work team gathered a group of entrepreneurs, employers and HR professionals and asked them what skills college students would need to be successful in an entrepreneurial workforce. While we were expecting answers, such as how to interpret financial statements and marketing data, we were pleasantly surprised that the results did not revolve around technical skills much at all, but around the 21st Century version of soft skills for a rapidly changing workplace.

Through a series of these skills panels, we identified the Top Ten 21st Century Soft Skills, which can be found on the New World of Work website.

The theme of resiliency was strong throughout the series of three skills panels, and our team listened to our advisers in the trenches by developing lessons and experiential learning opportunities for today’s college students. In today’s work environment, workers must be ready to accept failure either with individual projects or even losing a job. Because failure is inevitable in the modern workforce, how individuals recover from professional disasters will determine their future success.

As educators, we were charged with a unique challenge. How do we teach the mindset of resiliency to a generation of students who are the children of helicopter parents, participated in youth athletics where everyone was a winner and have graduated through a traditional K12 system that shuns risking failure, including teaching to the test and measuring student performance on linear metrics? Resilience is, in essence, how one rises after experiencing disappointment, and this trait is critical in the gig economy to be able to pivot to the next project and to learn from mistakes.

While this generation of students has been shaped by unthinkable disasters throughout their childhood and formative years (9-11, Hurricane Katrina, The Great Recession), have they been granted the opportunities to exercise resilience in their own lives? If parents have reacted by pulling their children closer in times of extreme calamity, have they deprived them of life’s most valuable lessons?

I’m not blaming the parents by any means, especially during this tumultuous time in history. This honest background of our students helped to frame the lessons and to meet them where they are today. We have employed experiential learning internships for students to practice workplace behaviors, including how to recover from disappointment. We have developed lessons, including videos to engage our 21st Century learners. By reflecting on behavior and disappointment in a controlled environment, they will be more equipped handle a “real” work situation later.

Here is a video to demonstrate and open a discussion on the importance of resilience:

While students are engaged with humor through the video, there are realistic themes that many people can relate to. I don’t know how many times have heard from a student, “I sent an email and never heard anything back so I guess they are not interested.” This is just a small but relevant example of how to employ resiliency in the workplace. Of course for veteran workers, their response would be to follow up with a phone call or another email. That is not necessarily a natural response for a college student. With some classroom discussion and subsequent coaching, students learn about follow up and even the mechanics of professional phone etiquette. With a generation that grew up on texting, picking up the phone for a real conversation may not be a first instinct, and they might not even be practiced in this seemingly simple task.

At the New World of Work, we merge the world our students are entering with the skills they will need to navigate this world. By meeting them where they are right now with their skills and strengths, learners can make the incremental steps of personal development to prepare for an entrepreneurial workforce.

How can seasoned entrepreneurs and leaders assist this generation of workers? There are a variety of ways to contribute to the future of our workforce and economy, including mentoring, serving on a college advisory board to share skills and workforce needs or hosting a student intern. If a veteran professional takes on the opportunity of working directly with students, they would be wise to employ patience and empathy (another 21st Century Soft Skill) to meet them where they are and help guide their progress. A simple lesson in making phone call can go a long way.

For more information about the New World of Work or 21st Century Soft Skills, please visit www.newworldofwork.org or contact Amy Schulz at aschulz@frc.edu.