Unleashing personal resilience and wellbeing

Resilience expert, Matt Hughes at Engage Sydney 2024

At Engage Sydney 2024, renowned resilience expert Matt Hughes from Ripen demystified common misconceptions about well-being, where resilience comes from, and what it really takes to maximise well-being.

He spoke about how people in recruitment can handle stress better and feel good about their work and life. Matt and his team are well-known for helping people and teams better understand resilience and well-being. He has empowered thousands of individuals and teams across over 30 countries.

Understanding resilience

Matt explained that handling day-to-day challenges in our professional lives is a form of resilience. He stressed the importance of acknowledging this innate skill, especially in recruitment, where adaptability and perseverance are key.

“Many things that happen to us in life are actually neutral. The events themselves are not positive or negative. It’s our attitude towards them that makes them seem good or bad. “He urged recruiters to see resilience not just as a reaction to difficult situations.

Matt suggests that we should try to have a natural pause before making a judgement about how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ something is, and instead try to see things as simply unfolding differently to how you had hoped or expected, to allow new ways of thinking or approaching the situation. This way, we’re not swayed by every wind that blows but can stay steady and make smarter decisions. For recruiters, this means not getting bogged down by setbacks but seeing them as steps towards better client outcomes.

Building resilience the right way

Matt emphasised the combination of innate abilities and learned skills in building resilience. “What makes us resilient is not just what we’re born with. It’s the things we’ve learned. Most of what makes us resilient in work and life is learning skills, tools, and habits that shape our perspective, behaviours, and outcomes,” he said.

For recruiters, this means leveraging their natural communication skills and empathy while learning new stress management and problem-solving techniques. This holistic approach can lead to more effective client interactions and build better candidate relationships.

Tackling stress and burnout

Matt highlighted the relentless pace and high expectations in the recruitment sector and discussed strategies to manage stress effectively. “Burnout is now so prevalent, the World Health Organisation has it listed as a disease in their international classifications of diseases, the same manual that lists diseases like heart disease,” he advised.

This approach would involve establishing clear boundaries, prioritising tasks effectively, and carving out dedicated time for rest and recovery. Matt’s message was clear: managing stress is not just about reducing workload but about building a sustainable approach to work that includes self-care and setting realistic expectations.

The importance of mindset

Expanding on the mindset theme, Matt explained how a flexible outlook can significantly impact our ability to handle stress and challenges. “If we want to impact our doing, we’ve got to change our thinking, we’ve got to shift our mindset, we’ve got to pay attention to it and shift it,” he noted. He emphasised the importance of giving ourselves permission to be negative at times. This includes allowing ourselves to feel through sadness during times of loss or failure, not avoid it or suppress it.

Keeping a flexible outlook can change how work is approached. This leads to more creative solutions, stronger relationships with clients and candidates, and ultimately more success in matching people with the right roles.

Going beyond balance to counterbalance

Matt challenged the traditional concept of work-life balance, advocating for counterbalance instead. He highlighted, “Balance suggests two sides can be made equal, which is rarely possible with competing priorities.” For recruiters facing daily demands, this perspective shift is crucial.

Matt described counterbalance as a flexible approach, alternating between intense work periods and times of rest. “It’s about dividing your time not for balance but for counterbalance,” he noted, emphasising that this method prevents burnout and maintains peak performance.

In today’s always-on corporate culture, weekends often don’t provide genuine downtime. Matt advised thinking of work and life as a series of active engagements and restful pauses, not a static balance, to ensure sustained productivity and well-being.

The role of self-care in sustaining resilience

Matt also talked a lot about taking care of ourselves. Statistics reveal that 42.9% of individuals between the ages of 16 and 85 years have faced a mental disorder at some point in their lives.

“Health is your wealth,” Matt reminded everyone, underlining that no job success can compensate for not being well. This is relevant for recruiters who are always on the go, trying to fill roles, meet targets, and keep everyone happy.

But to keep doing this well, you need to look after yourself. It’s not just about eating right or sleeping enough; it’s about making time for things that recharge your batteries. Maybe it’s a walk, a hobby, or quiet time alone.

By putting your well-being first, you can bring your best self to work and help others more effectively. Matt’s advice: Check in with yourself throughout each day or week, determine what you need, and prioritise it.


Throughout his session, Matt reminded everyone to think differently about resilience. Resilience is not about bouncing back but moving forward and growing. “The truth is we can’t go back, we are not the same people before and after hardships. Resilience is a learned set of abilities that enable us to get through life’s struggles and actually become a better version of ourselves in the process,” Matt highlighted. By changing how we think about challenges, focusing on our mindset, and finding a better way to manage stress, recruiters can improve their well-being and be better team leaders and supporters.

Get more insights from industry experts today. Check out the Engage Sydney 2024 Content Hub

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