Today, with all the mergers, acquisitions, downsizings and other changes in the workplace, it is more important than ever for employees to take steps to be more self-reliant and career resilient.

Workers should not simply worry about holding on to a specific, narrowly defined job, but they should make sure they have developed the competitive — and portable — skills needed in the marketplace. Career-resilient workers are more employable because they have positive and flexible attitudes, they are adaptable to change, they are willing to take risks, and they engage in continuous learning.

Having career-resilient workers is not just good for the employees, it is also critical for employers if they hope to be successful in tomorrow’s rapidly changing competitive world.

In our upcoming book on Human Resource Management, John Bernardin and I outline some actions individuals and employers can take to build a career-resilient workforce.

What can individuals do?

Employees need to take control of their careers now more than ever, developing new and better personal skills of self-assessment and career planning. Organizations do not have the resources to completely plan individuals’ careers.

Here’s some things you can do:

Set career goals and clearly define what talents, preferences or passions interest you.

Develop your collaboration and teamwork skills because organizations are increasingly relying on project teams to get work done.

Develop multiple networking and peer-learning relationships. This will also help you find new jobs during difficult economic times.

Be a continual learner. You need to be adaptable to changing job requirements.

Periodically solicit feedback to appraise how you are doing relative to your career goals.

Keep your skills relevant, whether through additional schooling or taking on new assignments. You can use sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Meetup and YouTube to learn new things and explore your interests and passions.

Be prepared to undertake a “career makeover.” Many employees and executives that I coach find that they need to periodically reinvent themselves if they are looking to make a career switch or transition. That means being willing to experiment, recognizing you don’t have to perform perfectly the first time.

What can employers do?

Employers should work in partnership with their employees. They need to offer opportunities for professional growth and development and engage their employees in challenging work. Thus, while it is the employee’s responsibility to manage his or her own career, it is the employer’s responsibility to provide employees with the tools and opportunities to enhance their skills.

Some suggestions include the following:

Be honest about challenges facing the firm so employees understand what new skills they might need in the future.

Allow employees opportunities for shadowing workers or cross training in other departments.

Encourage employees to consider lateral moves to enhance their knowledge of the firm.

Create an environment for continual learning by supporting and rewarding employee development and learning, offering, for example, training programs or tuition reimbursement.

Provide opportunities for self-assessment. Have career counselors and career resource centers available.

Have managers trained as coaches and mentors to assist employees.

Encourage employees to create individual development plans that meet their personal career needs and the firm’s strategic goals.

Assist employees with striking balances between their work and non-work lives.

Before going outside for help, try to redeploy existing workers to teach them the new skills needed.

The success of our future workforce depends on how able employees are to adapt to changes in their careers and remake themselves, as well as how willing employers are to support and nurture their efforts.

Joyce E. A. Russell is the director of the Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Program at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. She is a licensed industrial and organizational psychologist and has more than 25 years of experience coaching executives and consulting on leadership and career management. She can be reached at