Growth mindset

June, 2021

As part of Prospects Future You webinars Rebecca Fielding, founder and managing director at Gradconsult introduced us to the concept of growth mindset

This is something that is increasingly being used by employers to both recruit and develop graduates. Rebecca explained that by becoming more aware of, and working on, your mindset (including your self-talk and self-limiting beliefs) you could accelerate your personal development at the start of your career.

We received so many questions from those attending that there wasn't time for Rebecca to answer them all. However Rebecca took the time to respond to some of the most popular questions and we don't want you to miss out on this valuable information - so we've compiled the answers here.

How could we help our friends understand growth mindset, especially when they are really down about getting jobs/internships?

The most important thing to do when a friend is down is to listen and be supportive. If you have any concerns about their wellbeing or mental health, encouraging them to talk to you and access mental health support is critical. The Student Space website is a good place to start, full of student stories, resources and links to available support. There’s even a section dedicated to the experience of applying for jobs during the pandemic.

For some people it can also be helpful to see stats and data, which show the reality of the labour market versus the myths and expectations they may have about their first job out of university. To get this information it’s worth following graduate labour market specialists like the ISE (@IoSEorg) , Prof Tristram Hooley (@pigironjoe), myself (@Rebecca_GradC) and Dr Charlie Ball (@lmicharlie) on Twitter.

Finally, I'd signpost them to the vast array of content, advice and support available through their careers teams and sites like Prospects. There are still plenty of opportunities out there for graduates. They just might look a little different to what people expect.

A previous manager bullied me and it really knocked my confidence. Any advice?

One powerful exercise I would recommend is to write down all the things you've told yourself since this happened. For example, 'I'm not good at…', 'I'll never get another job' or 'People don'[t like me'. However extreme these statements are, you should write them all down - a bit like a stream of consciousness. Then take these statements to people who you trust and care for you. Share with them the statements you are telling yourself and how it makes you feel. Ask them what they think - are they logical or fair? Chances are they will be both shocked to hear what you believe about yourself and offer you a very different view.

Asking those same people what your strengths are, what they value in you and how they would describe your strengths in three words can also be a very helpful exercise. Write those things down (you can even create a visual to look at) and use them as a positive affirmation statement whenever the negative thoughts creep into your mind, or worse you hear that old boss in your head. Tell yourself, consciously, what is true and what is not. Talk back to the critical voices. For whose opinion do you value and trust more? Your loved ones who know you, or that awful old boss?  

This type of self-talk exercise is important and it's all about raising your consciousness of what you are telling yourself and believe about yourself to be true. But it's not easy and it takes time and effort to work on these things. 

I always fail at interview. How can I improve?

The key here is two-fold: practise and feedback. The more interviews you do and the more feedback you get the more you will improve. Remember the power of yet: 'I'm not good at interviews…..YET' - you are at an early stage in your career and still learning this new skill.

I'd recommend getting some mock interviews and feedback sessions booked in with your careers service. And whenever you attend an interview and you're unsuccessful - ask for feedback and be open to learning/improving wherever you can.

It might not feel like it, but I am sure you will be making progress and improving with each interview you have and that is also a very positive way to frame your thinking. Rather than thinking 'I am failing every time' tell yourself 'I am getting better each time'.

Would you re-approach and ask employers for feedback if rejected from a job application?

Absolutely. It's not always possible due to the volume of applications employers receive, but there's nothing to be lost by asking and plenty to be gained. It also demonstrates to the employer you are confident, keen to learn, tenacious and still interested in opportunities with them - all valuable qualities.

How do you incorporate outstanding employer research into a CV or cover letter?

The key here is to go beyond their website. I cannot tell you as a recruiter how many times I have seen my own words lifted from my website and parroted back to me. Instead, you could:

  • Search for people who work there currently. Follow them on social media and notice what they are posting about, as well as following their company accounts.
  • If you know someone who works there (or know someone who can give you an introduction) ask for a phone call and find out 'what it is really like'. Most people are happy to help and delighted to be approached by an interested candidate.
  • Check out industry press, industry bodies and awards for any mention of them and their work.
  • Look into their competitors and customers - what is happening in their market?

Do you have any resources that give more examples of changing mindset in specific situations?

There are an array of activities and resources you can use to help develop your mindset.

Gradconsult for example runs growth mindset workshops with university careers teams and many careers teams also run their own. Have a look into what your university offers. Beyond this I'd suggest watching Carol Dweck's TED talk and reading her book 'Mindset' as a great starting point.

Are there any books about growth mindset that could you recommend?

My four starter suggestions would be Mindset by Carol Dweck, Bounce by Matthew Syed, Grit by Angela Duckworth and Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers.

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