insight magazine

6 Ways to Shift Your Career Mindset

Here's how to shift your attitude and acquire the skills to rev up your career. By Shanna Laughton, CPA, CA | Digital Exclusive - 2017


At some point in your career, you’ve probably felt unsure about the direction you’re going. Maybe you’re not seeing a future with your current employer. Maybe you don’t have a manager who’s equipped to coach you to be successful. Or maybe you’re not on the right development plan to achieve your goals. But, above all, the biggest obstacle to your career could be your own mindset.

Stanford psychologist and author Carol Dweck spent decades researching achievement, success, and how people’s beliefs affect nearly every aspect of their lives. In her book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” Dweck outlines two distinct mindsets:

1. Fixed mindset: You believe your abilities and intelligence are static, so you need to prove yourself over and over. You tend to avoid challenges, give up easily, and ignore useful, constructive feedback.

2. Growth mindset: You believe you have the ability to learn and grow through effort and practice because you embrace challenges, stay persistent in the face of setbacks, and welcome constructive feedback.

The clear difference between the two mindsets is that one creates a need for approval, while the other builds a passion for continuous learning and growth. If you suspect your career has become more about chasing approval than personal growth and development, don’t worry – there’s always time to develop a growth mindset.

Here are some simple ways to change your attitude and acquire the skills to further your career.

1. Redefine what growth means for you.

Traditionally, when we think about career growth, we envision climbing the corporate ladder. But career growth doesn’t always involve a promotion. Growth is making a decision on what your career goals are and how you’re going to achieve them. It’s about taking the right next step towards being great at what you do.

It could be as simple as building relationships with your manager, coworkers, or other departments. You could also work on building your communication skills. The point is, whatever you feel like you could do better, focus on getting better at that skill. And be open to opportunities that fall outside of the traditional career path. After all, “up” isn’t the only direction that can help you achieve your goals.

2. Look outside the classroom.

Traditional learning has its place, but it’s not the only option. Work on building relationships with people in positions similar to what you want to achieve. Experienced professionals can mentor and guide you as you navigate through each stage of your career.

They’ll help by challenging you and imparting on you their hard-earned wisdom gained from being in the workplace trenches. It’s invaluable to be able to learn from someone who’s been there, done that, and can help you avoid common missteps.  

3. Learn from experience.

Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it’s the courage to continue that counts.” When you step into the unknown, you take the chance that you’ll stumble. You just have to pick yourself up and try again. Appreciating this cycle is key to creating a growth mindset. After all, continuous learning and development is about your long-term success.

Anticipating and planning for failure and setbacks should always be a key part of your development. Put the priority on experimenting, exploring, and growing rather than the need to be right or look perfect.

And remember: There’s nothing more valuable than learning from experience. While you do need to spend time researching and learning a new skill, don’t wait to put that skill into action. If you hold back until you’re 100 percent ready, you’ll never take action.

4. Practice, practice, practice.

Despite what we’re told, practice doesn’t actually make perfect – it just means improvement. You can’t expect to master something right away, so recognize that it takes time to learn a new skill. In fact, Josh Kaufman, author of “The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business,” found that it takes 20 hours to learn a new skill.

Why 20 hours?

- If you’re not willing to commit to 20 hours of practice, it shows that the skill isn’t that important to you. In fact, you might want to reconsider why you want to learn the skill.

- Committing to 20 hours of practice is long enough to improve your skill without being overwhelming.

- It gives a time frame to your practice and helps you avoid procrastinating.

The act of committing to learn a new skill shows a commitment to growth for yourself and for your career. And, when you put 20 hours into perspective, it’s not that long to commit to a growth activity that can significantly impact your career over time.

5. Reflect on what you’ve learned.

You can get so focused on acquiring a new skill that you forget to step back and see how much you’ve grown during the process. Make a point to recognize and celebrate your achievements – even if you’re not quite where you want to be yet.

It’s also important to constantly look ahead to what’s next – not just for your career, but for what you need to do to consistently perform well on the job. Does your learning and development plan need to be redefined? Is it still worth pursuing?

Making the decision to abandon a learning path can be just as difficult as sticking with it, but if it’s not serving its original purpose, that may be the best decision for you. And don’t keep your successes to yourself: Make sure your manager knows about your ambitions, development plan, and new skill set.

6. Own your attitude about development.

Adopting a growth mindset can be challenging because it pushes you out of your comfort zone, but that comfort zone is a dead end. By taking a new attitude towards your personal growth, you open yourself up to greater possibilities. Not to mention, you’ll begin to reach your full potential – one of the greatest accomplishments anyone can feel in their career.

Shanna Laughton, CPA, CA, is the manager of global tax and payroll at Saba Software. She has over 15 years of experience in public accounting, and providing tax and payroll solutions to organization across various industries. At Saba, her team is responsible for local and international payroll and tax functions.

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