As the world keeps changing, it feels more difficult than ever to have a better career. The path toward advancement in any company isn’t a ladder. Often, people need to take on lateral positions to gain vital experience and exposure to new tasks.
We can take many other steps to improve. Whether it’s as broad as a college degree program or as specific as CNA training, pursuing further education can unlock new opportunities. Deliberate networking also gives you the potential to tap a vast resource for quality prospects.
The details will vary within each company or industry. But overall, career progress anywhere has come to resemble something like a spider’s web. It relies on navigating a series of complex and intertwined connections.
There is a silver lining to this maze of complexity. If you master the underlying principles, you can make steady progress no matter which path you take out of the many forks in the road ahead. And that all comes down to controlling how you think and respond.
Wiring for growth
You’ll encounter many potential setbacks or frustrations in your career. As you approach major milestones, there will be hurdles to get past. A promotion may require acing an interview or exam, for instance.
Smaller versions of those challenges are also sprinkled throughout each day at work. Colleagues may prove difficult to engage with. A supervisor might not be very receptive to your suggestions or approve your output on a given project.
How far you make it in any endeavor is not about succeeding every time you face a challenge. It has far more to do with the way you respond in the event of failure. This is detailed in the book Mindset by psychologist Carol Dweck.
Through her research, Dweck found that people could be classified into two categories according to mindset: fixed or growth-minded. Those with a fixed mindset tend to believe that one’s capabilities are inherent. Success comes down to talent. Struggling is a sign that you don’t have what it takes.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are those who have a growth mindset. While results still matter to these people, they believe that your capabilities are improved through effort. And failure serves as a prompt for them to work harder to get better and overcome obstacles on the next try.
The growth mindset is one piece of the puzzle. It influences how well you learn in the face of adversity. But often, today’s careers require people to think outside the box. You’ll be greatly rewarded for making connections that others don’t see.
Consulting firm McKinsey acknowledges that intentional learning benefits from a curiosity mindset in addition to a growth mindset. This is, in essence, cultivating curiosity as a quality. It keeps you motivated to learn, have a keen awareness of gaps in knowledge, and be open to ideas from all sorts of fields.
Maintaining your curiosity is an essential advantage because it serves you well at all stages of your career and life. Our world changes rapidly. More than ever, the jobs we perform require skills that didn’t exist when we were in school.
This translates to a growing emphasis on breadth and depth of knowledge. Few careers remain so self-contained that they only benefit from an exclusive focus on domain-specific knowledge.
If you want to keep thriving, even decades from now, stay curious. Keep on learning, even about fields that might seem unrelated to your own.
The final part of this mental apparatus for your career is thinking in terms of abundance. This concept actually comes from Stephen Covey in his self-help classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Most people tend to view life from a perspective of scarcity. They see it as a sort of zero-sum game in which people can only advance at others’ expense. Someone has to lose for others to gain.
It takes effort to adopt the opposite perspective of abundance. But doing so allows you to recognize that there is more than enough to go around for everybody. We can all share in recognition and rewards without losing any sense of personal security in both the short and the long term.
A growth mindset lets you turn life’s varied and ever-present stressors into a stimulus for improvement. Curiosity keeps you self-motivated and fuels creative connections.
But having an abundance mentality allows you to operate smoothly within any career context and be perceived as not only someone capable but positive and influential. You’ll need all three, and it all starts with changing the way you think.