Future You podcast transcript

The growth mindset

Dan Mason, Editorial manager
August, 2021

This episode of the Future You careers podcast features audio from our webinar series - Rebecca Fielding from Gradconsult gives an overview of the growth mindset and how it can transform your search for a graduate job


In order of first appearance:

  • Dan Mason - editorial manager, Prospects
  • Rebecca Fielding - managing director and founder, Gradconsult

Episode transcript

 Dan Mason: Getting a graduate job isn't all about qualifications, skills and experience, as important as all those things are. It's also about having the right attitude. So find out how the growth mindset can help you achieve your objectives in this episode of Future You.

Hello and welcome to Future You, the podcast from graduate careers experts Prospects, here to help you achieve your career goals. My name is Dan Mason and today's episode is all about the difference your attitude and mindset can make when you're starting your career. Rebecca Fielding, managing director and founder of Gradconsult, spoke at one of our Future You webinars back in May this year. And in the following extract, she explains what the growth mindset is, why it matters to employers, and most importantly of all, why it should matter to you. So if you want to transform the way you're thinking about your career, keep listening...

Rebecca Fielding: My name is Rebecca Fielding, I'm the founder and managing director of Gradconsult, a business I founded nine years ago. I'm also a fellow of the Institute of Student Employers and have spent the last 20 years of my career working in and around the world of early careers and future talent, so things like placements, internships, and graduates, and  indeed, more recently working with universities, so in and around that space, really, for the last 20 years.

But today I want to speak to you about growth mindset. It's a huge topic and a really interesting one. I can't cover it all but what I want to do is to give you an introduction to the topic, and allow you then to follow your curiosity and find out more. 

So let's specifically look at growth mindset and the concept of mindset, because there's all kinds of interesting work around this field, agile mindset, abundancy mindset as well as growth mindset. I'm going to talk to you about growth mindset, but go and find out more. There's so much you can learn about yourself, and about how to use this in your world of work in your personal growth and development. What is mindset is defined by Carol Dweck, she's a professor from Stanford, she's the leading academic in this field of work. And growth mindset like many other fabulous management and leadership theories started in education. She was looking at how mindset and attitude impacts on for example, maths achievement, those people have a growth mindset, significantly outperforming those with a fixed mindset. She talks about this as a combination of things like your non-cognitive skills, your behaviours and strengths and your attitudes and traits toward life. So all these things that are affecting your mindset and attitude towards opportunities and towards learning and towards your own set of self-beliefs about yourself as well.

Fantastic TED talk by Carol Dweck, by the way, if you want to find out more after today. She talks about it and phrased it and couched it in the terms of either a fixed mindset, or a growth mindset. And those people with a fixed mindset have a much stronger set of beliefs about, for example, failure and achievement. Whereas those with more of a growth mindset were much more open to hard work, efforts, looking at potential rather than things being fixed. So the way that I perform is based on whether or not I'm good at something or not versus I can learn something. And these are the kinds of statements that people with either a fixed mindset or growth mindset would frequently say to themselves in terms of the conversations they were having in their own head, when they were presented with opportunities, chances to learn projects, things that would stretch them or scare them a little bit, whether or not they stepped into it or not. So those with the fixed mindset had a much stronger belief that they're good at something or not, that they should be praised for their achievements and the achievements of other people were a threat to themselves versus those with more of a growth over abundancy mindset very much seeing it as being praised for their efforts is what's important, that failure is the path to mastery and the way to learn and a perfectly normal thing, and that if they work hard, and they put the effort in, and they're focused on something, they can learn anything that can improve, they can get better at anything and, and their effort and that attitude really determines everything that they achieve in their life and their career.

But by way of reassurance, for those of you who are thinking, well, you know, I can, I can have as much of a positive mental attitude as I like Rebecca, it's not going to get rid of the COVID pandemic completely. I agree with you. And I'm not by any way, saying that simply having a positive mindset or a growth mindset or attitude is everything. Having a can-do attitude, no matter what, can actually be quite harmful, both to yourself, and indeed to others. Some of you, some of you may have heard of the concept of toxic positivity. So we're not saying that a growth mindset is just about positive attitude. And it's not binary either.

So fixed, it doesn't mean that having a fixed mindset is bad and a growth mindset is good. And in certain circumstances, actually having a fixed mindset can be hugely helpful. For example, if you want to work in risk or contingency management, you might need to wear what's referred to as Edward de Bono's 'black hat' from time to time, if you were the contingency COVID plan for the disaster scenarios then having a more fixed mindset or a black hat scenario can actually help you identify risks more constructively. And it's not all about just business growth and profit, there is a really good business case for growth mindset I'm gonna talk to you about next. But it's not all about that. Growth mindset, as a concept, and as a methodology is also just really powerful and helpful for your own personal development, self-awareness and growth, and particularly within any job application process.

So why are employers interested in it? That's a very whistle stop introduction to it, because we’ve only got 20 minutes and it's a really fascinating subject, but go find out more. Why does it matter to employers that? Expertise and experts have less relevance in a world which is constantly changing as expertise needs to be changed all the time. And your ability to be able to adapt, to learn, to grow continuously, is now one of the single most valuable aptitudes and abilities that any professional in the world of work can have, particularly for people like yourselves, entering and preparing for the world of work. That recognition that failure is the path to mastery that none of us know what we're doing or are experts at the start of any process. But those that learn and become masters of a particular area, and particular specialism and expertise or behaviour area, do so through a process of mistakes, and learning and iteration.

So it's been adopted, as I said it started in education the growth mindset, it was then as these things often are adopted over into the world of sports, elite sports, athletes and coaching, looking at how they can adopt a growth mindset to their performance. And then it's come over into the world of business, a lot of tech businesses have adopted this particular area. And we see, you know, in that area of innovation, and people, a lot of these areas of work tend to follow and flow out of there at the moment.

Delaney did a study back in 2014, that looked at the impact of growth mindset commercially within organisations. And they found the stunningly different set of results for organisations that had a higher abundancy of a fixed mindset employee base and those that had a higher abundancy of a growth mindset employee base, so you can see the commercial impact of an employee base who have a higher growth mindset is significant, more innovative, more trusting, more risk tolerant, and willing to take failures to trust each other and support each other to be able to innovate, move more quickly, and genuinely creates an environment where people feel that they're able to bring more of their talent and their best to an organisation. So employers are interested in people who have more growth mindset traits, yes, for the commercial reasons, but also for those reasons, Satya Nadella talked about in terms of responding to the environment that we all now work in.

So that's why employers are interested in it. Lots of employers, we work with on their graduate development programmes, intern and placement development programmes are now not just looking at growth mindset in the recruitment process, but also in the development programmes that they're running. So looking at how people respond to failure within a recruitment scenario, looking at how people respond in exercises in terms of their bouncebackability, their ability to pivot and change and think differently, but also their response to failure by asking things like interview questions, get this one, what is your most spectacular failure? Awful question, isn't it? The more you think about it, the more you think I don't, I really don't want to be asked that question in an interview. That's horrifying. Because it's got to be spectacular and a failure and I don't know what to do. But it's a fantastic insight to somebody's mindset. So that's the reason why being asked these kinds of questions and why it's important to employers.

So what can you actually do with it, I wanted you to walk away today with some thoughts about what you can actually do. Now, knowing a bit more about mindset, where you can change your mindset, you can develop your mindset. And this is the process by which you can do that by becoming more self-aware of your self-limiting beliefs and your self-talk, by working and practicing on developing and challenging that self-talk and the behaviours associated to it and being prepared to lean in to failure to try new things, to learn, that is a continual learning process. So how can we do that? Well, there are lots of different ways that you can do that, in order to develop your self-awareness, you might want to go and take the growth mindset survey which will give you an insight into your mindset. There's also a much longer version of the quiz online if you want to Google it and find it. That's the very beginning of self-awareness, though, is doing a little questionnaire like this. It's never black and white. It's simply an indication to get you thinking and questioning and heightening your self-awareness about your own mindset.

So what else can you do? Well, you can think about your self-limiting beliefs. Here's just some of the most common ones that we find when we're working with people who are either students or in the early stages of their career. These are the things that people tell themselves, they believe to be fundamental tenants about themselves. I'm rubbish at Excel, I can't do that, I'm not a good presenter, I'm never going to be able to present, I don't do detail, I'm no good at maths. These are the kind of things, just absolute statements said with certainty that people tell us about themselves, and they believe about themselves to be true. You may be looking at some of those now and thinking 'Yes, I tell myself that'. I want you to ask yourself, why? Why do you tell yourself that? Because adopting a growth mindset methodology would suggest that those things those statements aren't true, you're simply not good at them yet. The power of yet.

You have to want to try and get better, you have to accept that you're not good at something to begin with. And failure is the path to mastery, that if you want to get better at it you can, and you will make mistakes along the way, and you're not going to be brilliant at it to start with. And that's ok. None of us were. So challenging those self-beliefs, thinking about why you believe that about yourself to be true, what experience you've had, what feedback you've had, who's told you? And why is their opinion of you so valid? Why have you given it so much power over you to believe and define that about yourself? So explore your self-limiting beliefs, challenge them, talk to people who care about you, ask them what they think.

Next is looking at your self-talk. So changing and practicing that self-talk from negative self-talk, so I'm no good at it, it won't work, I haven't done it before so I can't that's a really common one. I can't do it because I've never done it before. Who says you can't do it? I believe you can do it, you've got the skills and the attitude have a go, you might not be brilliant at it, but you can do it and certainly if you plan then you can do it. So you can challenge your thoughts. You can change your self-talk from this to this. You can change the way that you talk to yourself. So yes, I might not have not done it before, but it's a great opportunity to learn. I can give it a really good go and my boss believes in me. So I'm going to have a try. I'm going to put myself out there from I'm too busy, I can't do that to I choose to do that, from I have to do this to I choose to do that. How many times have you said to yourself in the last month I'm too busy to go for a run, I'm too busy to go to the gym, I'm too busy to ring my mum. That is nonsense. You are choosing either consciously or subconsciously to make something more important than that other thing. It's a choice.

So again, self-limiting beliefs and understanding the things that you believe and believe to be true about yourself really allow you to challenge and change your mindset from negative self-talk to positive self-talk, let's just do a quick thought experiment to bring this to life, I want you please to think about a big career goal. If you've got a pen and paper to hand or a notepad or something you can jot on or a screen, I'd like you to think about writing down a big career goal right now. And for some of you that big career goal might be getting your first internship this summer, it might be getting yourself a job in the pandemic, when you graduate this year, it might be more long term, perhaps you aspire to run your own business. Think about what that career goal is. I want you to start by thinking about all the reasons why you cannot achieve that goal. And write those down.

So why can't I get a job this summer, massive recession, all the internships have been taken away, loads of competition, no support from government, I haven't got location, I haven't got the money, I haven't got the personal networks, haven't got the social networks, haven't got the support, I've tried and tried and tried and failed. That might be your list of negative reasons that you've just written why you're never going to achieve that goal. I want you to take a moment, write them all down. Ok. I want you to notice how you're now feeling about that career goal.

And we're going to change now, we're going to change to the positive self-talk. And turning that piece of paper over or moving down the sheet, I want you to write down all the ways in which you can achieve that career goal, all of the opportunities that you have all, of the assets that you have available, who can help you. If that's about the internship this year, you can keep applying, you can do better research, you can ask for feedback, you can use networks, you can go back to the careers service again, you can do some practice, you can do some simulations, you can come to more sessions like this with Prospects, you can dedicate some time, you can ask friends and family for support for feedback for introductions for networks. There is so much you can do, write down all the things you can do, all the ways in which you can achieve that dream, that goal. All the ways you can do it. No ifs, no buts, no maybes, we left all of that in the negative side of the piece of paper. And now I want you to sense how you're feeling about that big career goal. I want you to recognise that whether you know you're doing it or not, you're having that conversation with yourself about your future all of the time in your own mind, in terms of your self-talk, either you are talking yourself out of opportunities, and talking yourself down, or you are lifting yourself up and looking for the ways in which you can. Accepting that failure is that path to mastery, and things will get better and they will improve. It's about effort. It's about application. It's about continuous learning. Becoming more aware of your self-talk and the impact it has upon us how we feel about things and ultimately those results in the outcome we get make all the difference.

So final thing is about embracing risk and failure, applying some of this mindset methodology, for example, to your job search. Making excellent job applications is a skill. It's a skill that can be developed, you probably weren't very good at it, the first couple of times that you filled it in, you might be getting a little bit better now. Just because you haven't been successful in the past does not mean you won't be successful in the future. Get feedback, see the careers service, get people to have a look at it for you, work hard at it, you will get better. A positive mental attitude is one thing, absolutely, but it must be balanced with effort. If you're looking for a job search dedicate time to it, it is not an easy process, it will take time, it will take several hours every week. Focusing time, energy and effort makes a big difference. When you're looking down that list of skills you might not have them all yet but look at the ones that they really need and look at the things you can learn and adopt that growth mindset that I'm not scared because I don't know that yet. Or I'm not good at that yet. I can learn. Outstanding employer research is singularly the biggest thing that will make you stand out on your application and in your job search. It demonstrates commitment, it demonstrates self-awareness, emotional intelligence, making sure you're doing that is a huge part of success in your job search. It can feel hard to do that when you're in a fixed mindset place of what's the point in bothering doing the research because I'm never going to get the interview anyway. Clearly a self-fulfilling circle. Doing the research gives you the best opportunity of getting the interview, not doing the research almost certainly guarantees you're never going to get one. Seek continuously to improve and get better.

That will take a short period of time for some people, it will take much longer for others. But if you continually adopt that learning approach, ultimately you will achieve and at the end of it, you only need one job offer. That's all you need. rejection is singularly the most expected and normal outcome of any job search. If you've got 79 applications for every one graduate role, then 78 people are going to get a rejection and one person is going to get a job offer. So when you put a job application in rejection is perfectly normal. It is no reflection on you. It might be a reflection of something you can learn about your skills and your knowledge and your approach so far. But that's perfectly normal, it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you. You have to keep telling yourself, I can learn from this, what can I take? How can I grow from this?

Dan Mason: Thanks so much to Rebecca for joining that webinar back in May. And if you want to watch the full event, head to prospects.ac.uk and go to the link halfway down the page 'Watch our webinars' where you can see the video in full as well as find out more about events we have coming up. That's it for this week. Don't forget to follow and listen to Future You on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts, or go to the website prospects.ac.uk/podcasts where you can find transcripts of every episode. Please do share the episode with anyone you know who might find it helpful as they start their career too. That's it for me. Thanks so much for listening and I'll see you soon.

Transcript ends

Note on transcripts

This transcript was produced using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. The audio version is definitive and should be checked before quoting.

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