My daughter is about to move into Year 2 and at a recent transition evening to let parents know more about what would be expected of the children next year, I was delighted to learn that her school promotes a ‘growth mindset’ in the classroom.
When pupils show they have a fixed mindset by saying something like “I’m not good at this”, they are encouraged to think “What am I missing?” This TEDEd video Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset gives a clear introduction to these ideas.
I’d first heard about ‘growth mindset’ at a conference workshop for HE careers and employability professionals called ‘Forget graduate attributes, it’s all about mindset.’ by Rebecca Fielding and Kylie Cook from Gradconsult. The workshop explored the work of mindset researcher Carol Dweck and gave practical insights into how this can be applied to a career. A variety of employers are already recruiting for a ‘growth mindset’. This is predicted to be a trend with other recruiters who are keen to employ staff who have a strong work ethic and who will persevere to get a job done and not give up at the first hurdle.
Growth versus Fixed Mindset
In her book on Mindset , Carol Dweck explains why it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success – but whether we approach them with a fixed or growth mindset. If we are operating from a ‘fixed’ mindset, we believe that our talents and abilities are somehow set or predetermined. We’re either innately good at something or we’re not. When we adopt a ‘growth mindset’ we view achievement through the lens of effort and have a belief that skill development is possible regardless of initial capacity. Carol Dweck believes that praising talent can jeopardise success.
So how does this translate to career thinking?
Gradconsults’ session got me thinking about careers conversations I’d had with students and some of the things they had said about their career planning which would give a clue as to their mindset:
‘I know that the numeracy tests for X employer are really tough but I’m sure if I practise enough I can pass them.’ (Growth Mindset)
‘I’d like to work for X employer but I’m hopeless at maths and will fail the numeracy tests.’ (Fixed Mindset)
‘I’ve made so many applications for publishing internships and been rejected, so I asked for some feedback about my last application from careers. It’s really helped me understand where I was going wrong, so I’m going to keep applying. Careers also put me in touch with a graduate who is working in the field who is going to meet me to talk about how they developed their career.’ (Growth Mindset)
‘I applied for loads of publishing internships last year and wasn’t successful. I’m doing an English degree and I’ve always got top grades, so it’s been hard not even getting rejection letters. I think I’m going to have to re-think my options. I’ll probably end up carrying on working in my old Saturday job having paid £9,000 to do my degree.’ (Fixed Mindset)
Can You Develop a Growth Mindset?
So what if you identify more with the statements above which relate to having a ‘fixed mindset’? Is there anything you can do to develop your ‘growth mindset’?
Some of the ideas here might seem obvious but here are a few suggestions based on my favourites from Saga Briggs’ blog post 25 Ways to Improve Your Mindset :
1. Acknowledge and embrace imperfections
Hiding from your weaknesses means you’ll never overcome them.
2. View challenges as opportunities.
Having a growth mindset means relishing opportunities for self-improvement.
3. Replace the word “failing” with the word “learning.”
When you make a mistake or fall short of a goal, you haven’t failed; you’ve learned.
4. Celebrate growth with others.
If you truly appreciate growth, you’ll want to share your progress with others.
5. Portray criticism as positive.
You don’t have to used that hackneyed term, “constructive criticism,” but you do have to believe in the concept.
And the future?
Given that large tech companies have been early adopters of recruiting for a ‘growth mindset’, what does the future hold? At the moment we know that many organisations have shifted from competency interviews to strengths based interviews. Research is showing that thinking through a ‘growth mindset’ lens can be fruitful in lots of different areas of life – education, sports, business. So if companies in the future are going to be hiring staff who have a ‘growth’ mindset, it could be time to take this mindset questionnaire .
 Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential by Carol Dweck