How to develop a growth mindset and accelerate your career

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Written by

Hayley Hawthorne, Ph.D.

If you had to name one thing that would keep you employed, get you hired, or advance your career—what would it be? According to research by LinkedIn, the most sought after soft skills in 2020 are: Creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and emotional intelligence. But, are these soft skills the keys to success? Our answer is … sort of.

The number one way for you to compete in today’s workforce is to have a growth mindset — a term coined by Stanford University Professor of Psychology, Carol Dweck. This may sound easy enough, but the real challenge is identifying your fixed mindset and reprograming it.

Your fixed mindset might quietly be telling you that you’re not capable of changing, growing, or becoming more skilled. Or it might be the reason you’re convinced, in almost all cases, that you already know the best (and the only right) way to do something. This can be understood as being stubborn, unwilling to budge, unwilling to debate, deliberate, change, or even compromise.

If any of this sounds familiar to you, don’t despair. It is possible to break the limits of a “fixed mindset.” But remember, a growth mindset isn’t something you have to have 24/7. A growth mindset is something you can come back to over and over again, remembering your ultimate goals: Staying open and receptive to growing and learning new skills.


1. Increase your humility

Being humble means being open to new ideas, criticism, being proven wrong, making improvements, and acknowledging the support of others. Humility is a key ingredient to the learning process, because a humble person knows they don’t know everything.

Even experts need to stay humble, because in addition to experience and credentials, they are required to add to the marketplace of ideas. You can’t have new ideas without learning something new or changing the way you think. This humble perspective is at the heart of being a lifelong learner and having a growth mindset.

To sprinkle humility into your daily life and develop a growth mindset try:

  • Acknowledge those who helped you the next time you are offered praise.
  • Ask the next time you don’t know what to do or can’t understand something.
  • Take something you do all the time, and try out a new way to do it.
  • Next time a friend suggests you try something they think you may like, actually try it.
  • Next time a child tells you something, believe them and question everything you thought you knew about something.

If you were to only make one change, let humility be your change. Humility is a core feature of a growth mindset, it is the key that unlocks your fixed mindset. Whatever you have a fixed mindset about, if you are unwilling to be humble about what you do, you’ll find it hard to escape.

2. Develop active and empathetic listening skills

Listening is a key ingredient to success. If we have poor listening skills, we can’t correctly decode, process, and perform a set of duties. Having poor listening skills goes hand in hand with having a fixed mindset.

Often if we are unwilling and unable to listen to others, it is because we have a mental block or internal noise that is interfering with our ability to focus on a speaker and what they are saying.

To become a better listener and develop a growth mindset try:

  • Stop talking and soak up all you can in every meeting, interaction, and opportunity.
  • Intentionally practice empathy when listening by imagining why a person might be saying something.
  • Stay aware of your own biases, if you find yourself naturally resisting an idea.

Try watching the news from a source that you might otherwise deem to be from “the other side.” See if you can empathetically and actively listen without falling into the trap of argumentative listening, which is ultimately just listening to refute and argue against a speaker.

Remember, this isn’t meant to be easy–deep rooted change never is.



3. Get out of your comfort zone intentionally and often

In order to grow, we have to expose ourselves to new things. That can be really uncomfortable, whether you take baby steps, or big leaps. Getting out of your comfort zone will give you confidence, help your mind make new connections, build resiliency and agility.

Think about how that would play out at work. Imagine being able to more smoothly navigate change and naturally gravitate towards opportunities for innovation and creativity. That would certainly help you make the professional moves you desire.

To start getting out of your comfort zone try:

  • Taking a baby step: Try changing a small, patterned behavior.
  • Taking a big step: What is something that you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t done yet?

Immerse yourself in the new, the uncomfortable, and develop skills to navigate unfamiliar terrain. After some practice, you’ll realize you’ve developed a growth mindset—a skill every employer is seeking.

The next time you have an opportunity to try something new, or try something a different way—don’t let your fixed mindset get in the way. Instead, develop a growth mindset and truly accelerate your career.


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Illustrated by Juanly Cabrera and Ash Oat

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