I firmly believe that Stanford Professor Carol Dweck’s research on the growth mindset can positively impact all aspects of our personal and professional lives, which is why I share a 2-page summary of Dweck’s book with all of my clients.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Dweck’s research, here’s the 2-bullet summary:
- Dweck shows that with the growth mindset, you can train your mind to approach challenges with wonder, excitement and resilience.
- In contrast, the fixed mindset carries the detrimental effect of making us react to challenges with fear or avoidance, hence diminishing our potential to grow.
When I was working in Silicon Valley, I heard “growth mindset” used often in meetings about hitting goals or shifting directions.
But to me, job seekers are the audience that can most benefit from Dweck’s findings. Because every phase of today’s job search process requires us to face rejection and a host of other challenges, the growth mindset is almost required for getting the job. And quite simply, it can make it a whole lot more fun.
Here’s a quick snapshot of how fixed vs. growth mindset candidates respond to key parts of the job search process:
Then, keep reading for the five reasons the growth mindset seeker’s response lands them the job -- and how to put those tenets into action yourself.
1. Networking: Growth mindset candidates believe in their potential to be great networkers:
Where fixed mindset candidates focus on the possibility of rejection, growth mindset candidates focus on the upside.
85% of jobs today are landed through networking. Combine that with the fact that most people hate networking, and even fewer people think they’re any good at it. The result is that most job seekers resist or avoid the #1 tactic that will help them accomplish their goal.
The growth mindset candidate recognizes networking as a natural challenge -- it is human to want to belong and fear being seen in a critical way! But with the upside of making yourself a viable candidate instead of a name on paper, growth mindset candidates focus on the fact that, just like developing any other skill, you can become a dynamite networker by:
- Learning: Know networking best practices.
- Starting small: Kick off your search with informational interviews with people you know and trust before feeling comfortable enough to attend an event or request time from someone you don’t know.
- Setting goals: Aim for three informational interviews per week. Each one leads to new learning, connections and leads.
- Having FUN: Turn the process into a game! Test out a set of one-liners and elevator pitches to see how they fly, or challenge your friend to a networking duel. Whatever you choose, take the pressure off of performing and create your own active learning plan.
Yes, it’s time intensive and can be frightening at first. But it’s what it takes to get your foot in the door, and then start walking down the hall to your new office. And it really does get easier every step you take.
2. Interviewing: Growth mindset candidates go the distance on interview prep
Where fixed mindset candidates wing it and cross their fingers, growth mindset candidates know they can win most any position with practiced skills in the interview room.
Because it can be uncomfortable to feel the pressure of “my answers really matter,” often times we prepare for interviews but we don’t go the distance -- so the moment we get into the interview chair we subconsciously close our eyes, hold our breath and hope we come out on the other side of the tunnel unscathed.
It’s pretty darn standard and I see it all the time: the moment the “Tell me about yourself” question comes out of the box, there we are chronologically droning on about our entire work history. But unless you have an Australian accent, this doesn't inspire!
Growth mindset candidates see mastering the interview as a fun challenge that will help them not only succeed in getting jobs they love, but also in becoming better communicators, storytellers, mentors and managers by:
- Recognizing the only question they're ever really asked is “Why should I hire you?”
- Conquering the best response format so they can use it, naturally, every time.
- Building a small bank of the 4-5 stories they will tell with focus and flare in response to most any question.
- Rehearsing until they feel a pitter patter of pride in their chest when they practice their responses to the most common questions.
Often times growth mindset candidates also beat their chests like Tarzan when departing from their final practice. Because they know they're even stronger after the interview, whether or not the offer comes through.
3. Missing Credentials: Growth mindset candidates fill missing credential gaps standing between them and their goals
Where fixed mindset candidates see roadblocks, growth mindset candidates see hurdles.
Often times we zero in on a job we want, but recognize we’re missing a key experience requested on the job description. Growth mindset candidates are not dismayed when they see this! They assess:
- Whether the credential is really necessary (informational interviews and speaking with people who have that job title are the best sources of information);
- What it would take to acquire the credential;
- And whether there’s a viable ‘Option B’ (an alternative job, volunteer or school opportunity that will give you the experience or knowledge you need without requiring the same amount of money or time).
Once they’ve gathered the above information, they ask themselves how badly they want the gig; is the job worth what’s required to become a stellar candidate?
And if the answer is yes, they go do it.
4. Rejection: Growth mindset candidates view rejections as normal -- and as opportunities for growth
Where fixed mindset candidates get discouraged, growth mindset candidates lean in to learn.
As I shared in our recent article, 10 questions for getting to yes after a rejection, the job search can entail five to ten times more “no’s” than “yes’s.” Growth mindset candidates internalize this and hence bounce back from rejections quickly knowing that it’s all part of the process.
They use some of Dweck’s most powerful mantras to anchor their attention:
- “This is hard. This is fun.”
- “Success is doing my best, in learning and improving.”
- “Setbacks are informative.”
- “Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better?”
And most importantly, growth mindset candidates recognize that rejection doesn't mean having to start over -- and that each "no" really is one step closer to "yes."
With the growth mindset, you use rejection to your advantage by asking yourself and your interviewers the right questions to understand what will help get you to “yes” next time.
The issue could be one or a combination of your interview skills, a networking failure, missing credentials, or needing to shift your focus to the right opportunities for you. Growth mindset candidates keep an open mind when seeking feedback so they can accurately diagnose the problem and tailor their next steps accordingly.
5. Accepting The Offer: Growth mindset candidates learn whether their prospective boss - and company - are growth mindset too
Where fixed mindset candidates avoid unearthing potential challenges, growth mindset candidates position themselves for long-term success.
You may have (and can certainly develop) the resilience to resist the negative effects of a fixed mindset manager or company culture on your happiness, self-belief and performance.
Yet you can also imagine the staggeringly positive impact of being surrounded by the growth mindset at work.
And even though the interview is mainly about selling yourself as the best possible candidate, growth mindset candidates make sure to listen carefully to the language their prospective manager and other interviewers use.
Whether they’re discussing what success looks like, the past employee who held the position, why they love their team or organization, 2018 priorities or growth trajectories within the company -- you know to keep a keen ear open for whether they praise:
- Fixed mindset measures like scores, outputs, intelligence or talent, or;
- Growth-oriented measures like effort, strategy, focus, perseverance, and improvement.
Finding out that your prospective employer holds a fixed mindset doesn’t mean you should decline the offer.
But it should inform how you compare the position to other opportunities and, if you accept the offer, your long-term strategy for holding onto your growth mindset in what is likely to be a challenging work environment.
This is hard, but this can be fun. And this. stuff. works.
Your response to the above may be, “Whoa, this is a lot of work.” You’re right, it is.
Allow me to make two final points before you make up your mind on what comes next:
First, growth mindset isn’t about saying “yes” to every challenge. It’s about leaning into the challenges that stand between you and what you really want. You get to choose which challenges require your concerted effort -- but if it's something you really want, isn't it worth it?
And last, approaching challenge this way really does get easier every time you do it.
Even if you’re not ready to commit to taking an entirely new approach to your job search (or your management duties, relationships at home, studies, etc.), are you willing to pick one small piece to experiment with over the next week?
Try the growth mindset on for size and observe how it makes you feel -- and learn. If you give it a true shot, I can almost guarantee you’ll dive in deeper next week with gusto.