Career expert: build a ‘growth mindset’ with these five simple steps

If you’re following an international career path, what are the key ingredients in your recipe for success? Not so long ago, it would have been all about your qualifications and past experience.

Career expert: build a 'growth mindset' with these five simple steps
Linda Höglund of fintech company Zimpler. Photo: Zimpler

But if you still believe that, it could mean you have a fixed mindset rather than a growth mindset. That’s bad news if you want a dynamic career in the 2020s at an exciting startup – or any forward-thinking international company. 

The Local has partnered with fintech company Zimpler to examine just how you can cultivate a growth mindset to help you reach your full potential in the years ahead. 

Growing versus getting stuck

Psychologist Professor Carol Dweck at Stanford University defined and explored the idea of growth mindsets and fixed mindsets in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. She showed that how we think about our abilities can influence our success in work, sports, the arts, and other areas – and how those beliefs influence our behaviour.

Essentially, people with a fixed mindset believe abilities are carved in stone. Those with a growth mindset believe abilities can be developed – opening up countless new ways to flourish. Finding people with a growth mindset is crucial to the success of today’s most exciting, forward-thinking companies, says Linda Höglund, Chief People Officer at Zimpler.

“What’s interesting in scaleups or startups is that if we don’t have these people with a growth mindset, we won’t be able to progress as we want to,” she says. “We hire people who we believe have the right values. That means that if we find a great candidate with those values but we don’t have a position for them, we create one.”

To help you find your dream job, here are five steps you can follow to develop a growth mindset.

1. Proactively look for problems

Nobody likes problems. Or do they? The fact is we can’t avoid them in work or in life. Trying to avoid them, rather than confronting them, may just make things worse.

You’ve probably heard how Kodak invented the digital camera only to bury its own idea out of fear (and later went bankrupt). If you have a fixed mindset, you probably see taking on new challenges as risky – you could fail and your cherished abilities may be called into question.

Contrast this with the problem-solving attitude of Elon Musk: YouTube is full of videos where he describes staying overnight and sleeping on the Tesla factory floor or in a conference room to help find solutions when the company was at risk of failure. Research has found that leaders who take businesses to great success tend to ask questions and actively look for failures or weaknesses. Scared to even raise that perplexing work problem? Get out of your fixed mindset! 

A problem-solver for payments: Zimpler is an international payments solution, simplifying transactions between businesses and people

2. Know that power lies in improving things

Identifying problems is only the first step, of course. You’re only looking for problems because you want to make progress by being a problem-solver!

In the right culture, power lies not in claiming all the credit or undermining other people to feel strong, but in a relentless focus on improving all that you can (including yourself!). How do you identify such stars in the making? In addition to being growth-minded, Höglund says the key ingredients to look for in a new hire are energy, ideas and personality, rather than putting experience first.

“A problem-solver with a fresh background will help us look at a challenge in a new way and through that our chances of innovation vastly increase,” she adds.

Photo: Getty Images

3. Think beyond your job description

In a world where entrepreneurs and startups can go from unknowns to industry powerhouses at dizzying speed, change is a given. If you want a dynamic career, you may also need to embrace uncertainty in your day-to-day role. The way in which you can provide the most value today might change tomorrow.

“Working in a startup or fintech company where things move quickly requires a certain way of thinking and expecting change,” says Zimpler’s Höglund. “In our world, you must want to challenge yourself, so you must have a growth mindset. If you want to stick with a routine of ‘one, two, three, four, five’ because that’s your job description, it just won’t work.”

4. Remember, skills are learnable

People with fixed mindsets are very sure about who they are and what they’re good at. Too sure, in fact. Eventually, they’ll find that time and their industry moved on but they didn’t. To avoid this trap, ask yourself what you can learn from other team members. How could you give and receive feedback in a way that promotes joint learning?

It’s also worth knowing that Professor Dweck says entire organisations can also exhibit either growth or fixed mindsets. More and more companies are interested in lifelong learning. To retain the best talent, they must enable employees to learn new skills rather than remain static. And at companies where learning is in the DNA, the hunger for lifelong learning starts with managers and permeates the working culture.

5. Don’t limit your own potential!

According to Dweck, a person’s true potential is “unknowable” since it’s impossible to foresee “what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil and training”. Forward-looking employers today are shaking up how they find – and retain – employees to help people maximise their potential. Tired talk of recruitment is being replaced with ‘talent acquisition’, and some companies have introduced radical approaches to interviewing. 

At Zimpler, which is rapidly gaining new talent as it expands internationally, ambassadors carry out ‘values’ interviews with candidates before they can move forward to a more conventional interview. “By digging into their values, we learn what they’re passionate about,” says Höglund. “It can turn up things that people wouldn’t be brave enough to say in a more traditional interview.”

Some candidates – with great ideas, personality and potential – end up having a job created especially for them. By the end of 2021, Zimpler aims to have open applications on LinkedIn, so anyone can submit their CV and the company can choose how to match them with job openings.

“We feel it’s important to let the perfect candidate tell us what they can do, meaning it’s up to us to then create the job that suits just that,” says Höglund. While people living abroad sometimes feel they “can’t be too picky” about jobs, believe in your ability to shine in the right environment, she adds. “It’s about self-reflection and being brave enough to try new things and put yourself out there. That’s the key to everything in life.”

Learn more about Zimpler – a fast-growing  international fintech company owned by its employees and on a mission to simplify transactions between businesses and people

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Have your say: How would YOU shape Berlin?

“Berlin enabled me to become the kind of person I want to be,” Canadian Mo Moubarak tells us.

Have your say: How would YOU shape Berlin?
Photo: Getty Images

 Produced by The Local’s Creative Studio in partnership with Berlin Partner for Business and Technology

Have your say: How would YOU shape Berlin?

Have your say: How would YOU shape Berlin?

“Berlin enabled me to become the kind of person I want to be,” says Canadian Mo Moubarak. It’s a sentiment that resonates with many international people who moved to the German capital to work in a vibrant atmosphere of innovation and progress.

From its thriving startup scene to its enviable cultural highlights, Berlin is one of the world’s most exciting cities – and, with the rare sense of freedom and opportunity it offers, the city continues to attract global talent during the pandemic.

Moubarak, one of the founders of the successful digital recruitment firm MoBerries, is effusive about the city he has made his home: “I came here as a 19-year-old with €3,000 in my pocket, and went on to run my own company. You know what makes this city incredible? Your word means everything – that’s what matters. Not your money.”

While living in Berlin is an unforgettable experience, that doesn’t mean it comes without its challenges for internationals, however. That’s why The Local has partnered with Berlin Partner for Business and Technology, the city’s public-private development partnership, to explore the experiences of three international people living and working in the German capital. 

From the level of English to digitalisation, we’re also inviting you to make your voice heard on how Berlin could become even more welcoming to new arrivals. 

Want to make Berlin an even better place for internationals? Take the 5-minute Talent Berlin Survey (one reader who completes it will win two years of free access to The Local Germany)

Photos: Getty Images

Hurdles and challenges

Problems securing accommodation, lack of clarity in regards to visas and long waiting times for appointments were some of the concerns voiced by Claire Waggoner, an American copywriter who moved to Berlin in 2019.

Although she loves life in the capital for its vibrancy and cultural heritage, she states: “Making the choice to move here was pretty much the only ‘easy’ thing about moving from the US to Germany. There were two major challenges: securing an apartment and getting the ‘letters of intent’ required for my freelancer’s visa.

“If I could have spoken with a government employee before my visa appointment, I would have been much more confident going into that initial appointment.”

Priyanka Nair, originally from India, came to Berlin in 2016 to study an MBA, before moving into HR. She says she faced similar challenges. 

“I could manage with the bureaucracy as I spoke German but wondered how those who couldn’t speak the language would manage,” she says. “Getting appointments with different agencies was difficult. I sat up late looking for appointments at government offices like the foreign or registration offices.

“Like for everyone, finding accommodation was the hardest part.”

Having said that, Priyanka is hugely enthusiastic about the city she now calls home and the opportunities to integrate by getting involved with group activities.

“Do you like Improv? There are meetups weekly. Want to stand up for a cause? There are various demonstrations you can participate in. Love sport? You can join any sports club or do a marathon. The point is, there is something for everyone here. You can be whoever you want.”

Create the Berlin you want to live and work in: take the Talent Berlin Survey (for every completed survey, Berlin Partner will plant a tree)

Share your views and experiences

The examples above are some of the hurdles that Berlin Partner – a partnership between the city government and local business – wants to learn more about. To reach out to the many internationals who have made the city their own, Berlin Partner has created the new Talent Berlin Survey.

The short, confidential survey gives you the chance to share your view of life in Berlin, so you can help shape and improve all the important aspects of the relocation and settling in process. It’s a unique opportunity to tell the state government how you think Berlin can become a more welcoming city for international newcomers like yourself.

“Berlin is the most international city in Germany, and it’s changing all the time,” says Burkhard Volbracht, Head of Unit Talent International at Berlin Partner. “From my experience, we’ve seen a lot of people come to Berlin in recent years – and the government thinks that they’re all settling in smoothly.

“We feel that this is the wrong picture. Some people do struggle and have problems, and they do need the right person to speak with, or the right door to open. What we at Berlin Partner want to identify are concrete points where we can be better – for example, language competencies or better digital services. We want to be able to roll out the red carpet, in a sense.

“We think that this is the first opportunity for those coming to Berlin to really tell us how they found moving to the city”.

Mo Moubarak
Claire Waggoner
Priyanka Nair

Shape Berlin’s future (in just five minutes!)

Have you moved to Berlin to work, or are you in the process of moving? Here’s your chance to help build the kind of city that suits both your career and lifestyle needs.

Spending five minutes to complete the survey will not only help build a friendlier, more inclusive German centre of innovation, but for every survey completed, Berlin Partner will plant a tree, contributing to sustainability efforts in the Berlin area.

The Local is also offering a two-year membership for one reader that completes the survey – that’s two years of insider insights, advice and explainers for life in Germany.

Want to help shape Berlin’s future in just 5 minutes? Take the Talent Berlin Survey. One lucky reader who completes the survey will receive two years of free access to The Local Germany