Career Change: Fixed v. Growth Mindset

Carol Dweck, the noted Stanford psychologist who wrote Mindset, is credited with using the terms fixed v. growth mindsets when describing what might be the most underrated aspect of career success and happiness. In recent presentations in both Old Saybrook and Madison, I described the concept as it relates our culture.
We are cultured to believe we are born with innate talents and that those talents are fixed. “I’m not good at math.” That may be one of the most common fixed mindset statements that students make.  Certainly, some people are not naturally gifted at math, but a better – and more accurate way – to view the issue is “I have to work hard to do well at math.” The latter represents a growth mindset.  In advising Career Counseling Connecticut’s clients over the years, I have come to realize that teaching this tenet to clients is pivotal to get career commitment.
Andy, a Senior Vice-President at a large company based in Hartford, was offered a position of huge responsibility at a smaller company in Glastonbury.  Large organizations typically build the careers of their employees in specific areas.  Andy had risen to the top of his area and moving to the broader C-level was probably not going to happen any time soon. So the move to a smaller company made sense.  Andy had frozen, however, in career paralysis. 
Career risk is a different issue in relation to moving from one entity to another.  That was not Andy’s challenge. He thought he might even have more stability at the Glastonbury company because the Hartford company did face potential downsizing.
Career happiness was likely more possible at the Glastonbury company because Andy’s commute would be cut in half, he would be working with a genuine, as opposed to “work” friend (the person who helped get him the job), and he would be free from the endless reports he had to oversee at his current Hartford company. Small companies usually get rid of such procedures.
The issue: Andy was in a fixed mindset mode. He had pegged himself as “good” at his narrow area of responsibility and “unsure” of how he would perform in a broader area. We went through the new job’s responsibilities. There was nothing in the job description that Andy could not learn.  With a growth mindset, Andy prepared to accept the job.