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One Employability Skill to Rule Them All:
The Growth Mindset

See also: Positive Thinking

A growth mindset is one of the most wanted soft skills of the year. This is all the more essential, with the increased automation and mechanization of most job sectors. The future of workplaces is quite uncertain. According to a report, by 2030 more than 300 million people will have to learn new skills or change positions.

Employees with a growth mindset will constantly seek to better themselves and develop their skills. They actively seek out challenges and take any setback as an opportunity to learn. Therefore, this one belief will motivate a person to learn new skills and to develop existing ones. High levels of adaptability showcased at an individual level also help make the company as a whole be more flexible in the face of the constantly changing industry requirements.  


What is Growth Mindset

Growth Mindset:  Ladder extending from an open head.

It all started with research run by Carol Dweck and her colleagues on students' attitude toward failure. The term "growth mindset" was coined by Dweck in the early 2000s to describe beliefs about intelligence and learning. During their study, they found that students cope with failure differently: some integrate the experience in their growth plan, while others simply get stuck. Although the theory stems from education, it quickly outgrew it and became integrated into all fields, including sports and workplace psychology.

Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford, has published her findings in the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Although the book is based on scientific research, it is an accessible read to the general public and has since sold close to 1 million copies.

Fixed vs. Growth Mindset

The theory is built on the dichotomy of fixed and growth mindset. Individuals with a fixed mindset believe in innate talents and gifts and do not devote a lot of time and energy to learning. They tend to avoid challenges out of fear of failure. What is more, a fixed mindset correlates with negative thinking, which can be detrimental to one’s psychological well-being.

People with a fixed mindset usually attribute a lot of meaning to success, but especially to failure. They view failure - regardless of how small it may be - as a personal affront. They believe that failing means they are not good enough. And since intellect and talent are thought to be innate, there is nothing to do about this. Some adopt a defensive mechanism and deflect responsibility and blame to others.

Here are some characteristic behaviors for people with a fixed mindset:

  1. Avoid challenges
  2. Hide mistakes
  3. Disregard feedback
  4. Respond to feedback in a defensive manner
  5. View feedback as criticism

In comparison, people with a growth mindset believe that talent and intellect are malleable and can be developed throughout their life. Thus, they focus more on hard work and learning. These individuals also tend to be more open to feedback from others than those with a fixed mindset.

Setbacks are viewed as an integral part of evolution, as opportunities to learn and improve future actions. People with a growth mindset use failure as motivation to better themselves and their performance. Through overcoming obstacles, they build resilience and boost their creativity. Therefore, failure is not charged with negative implications, as is the case for people with a fixed mindset.

Some actions that signal a growth mindset are:

  1. Continuous effort for self-development
  2. Taking courses to learn new skills or develop existing ones
  3. Actively search for challenges
  4. Volunteer for new tasks
  5. Accept and follow feedback


How to Nurture a Growth Mindset

A growth mindset can be adopted by anyone, as long as they put in the work. This is not an easy belief to obtain and keep because we all have a series of fixed mindset triggers. Receiving criticism and comparison with other colleagues can easily lead to a defensive response. To ensure that we do not stray out of the growth zone, it is important to first identify such triggers and work through them.

One of the basic elements of a growth mindset is to take action. Therefore, if you want to develop your beliefs, an efficient way to do that is to constantly seek new ways to improve your skills and abilities:

  1. Build your tech skills
  2. Sign up for courses to develop new or existing skills
  3. Practice networking

Implications of Having a Growth Mindset

Advances in neuroscience have shown that it is possible to boost neural development through our actions. Nurturing a growth mindset will lead to higher levels of motivation and better achievements.

One of the many benefits of having employees with a growth mindset is that they nurture a positive work environment. These individuals thrive in fast-paced environments and are eager to take on new projects. They take each challenge they faced as an opportunity to self-develop. When met with setbacks, they are more likely to find innovative solutions and engage in risky behaviors.

Having a growth mindset at a managerial level can send positive ripples across the department. These managers are more prone to offer positive feedback to employees and promote a work environment that supports creativity and innovation. Therefore, employees will benefit from a nurturing setting that helps develop their growth mindset. 

A growth mindset can also be practiced by corporate entities, with visible effects on both a collective and individual level. Employees benefit from more support from their managers and colleagues. Also, teamwork and creativity are highly valued and encouraged. Employees report feeling more dedicated and empowered.

Therefore, it is no wonder that recruiters are actively searching for candidates that display a growth mindset. What is more, this has become a crucial point to integrate into the pre employment testing guide. If during an interview a candidate mentions examples of showing initiative in taking over new projects and learning new skills, this is a clear indication of a growth mindset. Another tell-tale sign is the belief in turning failures into learning opportunities.


The Sky's the Limit

An employee with a growth mindset will be driven by a constant desire to learn new skills and develop existing ones. The fearlessness and innovation displayed by these individuals can help a company face any oncoming challenges.


About the Author


William Ford has completed an MA in organizational psychology and went on to work in the field. For him, his job is his passion. He believes that working should be an activity that you take pride in and enjoy. Therefore, his interest falls on making employees and employers benefit from a safe and stimulating workplace.

An avid advocate of a healthy balance between career and personal life, William dedicates most of his free time to his family, working out, and meditating.

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