One of the things I enjoy most about my new life as a communications consultant is the variety it brings. One day I’m coaching a student on how to write a doctoral thesis… another day I’m editing a policy briefing… and the next I’m delivering a workshop on life skills for offices to a group of statisticians.
But dealing with that variety also has its challenges. Lately, I’ve been spreading my wings outside of the higher education and non-profit sectors to venture into commercial work.
As I begin working with a different sort of client, I am learning how to operate in an entirely new world – one that has its own vocabulary, mores, and ethos.
I’ve long been a huge fan of Carol Dweck’s concept of “the growth mindset.” This is the idea that we shouldn’t think about our basic qualities, like intelligence or talent, as fixed traits that are unalterable.
Rather, she encourages people to embrace a “growth mindset,” one where people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. So, as I make my foray into London’s financial center, “The City,” to drum up new clients, I am in full-on, growth mindset mode.
Here are five tools for adopting a growth mindset:
Dweck maintains that a growth mindset fosters a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.
In a similar vein, one of the key takeaways from reading Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott’s brilliant book, The 100 Year Life, is that we need to abandon the traditional idea of a neatly arranged, three-staged life comprised of education, career, and retirement.
Instead, we need to embrace a multi-phased life course in which people keep learning throughout their lives, take lots of breaks, and dip in and out of jobs and careers.
I think about my immersion in the private sector right now as a form of life-long learning, albeit one that doesn’t happen outside my job, but within it.
One practical step that can help cultivate a growth mindset is affirmations. Affirmations are short, powerful statements of self-belief. I adopted this practice – which, like many others, I stole from Julia Cameron – when I was writing my book manuscript last year.
Telling myself things like, “I’m a good writer,” “I like my book,” and “My writing engages and connects with readers,” was really helpful on those off days where I didn’t have flow or lost confidence in myself. But affirmations don’t have to just be creative.
They can also apply to work, e.g.: “I am a great salesperson,” and, “I enjoy client relationship management,” or perhaps, “I love empowering people from all walks of life to achieve their full communications potential.”
As a friend of mine who spent 30 years as a consultant in the private sector put it, “Don’t think of the Private Sector Delia as different from University Delia or Non-Profit Delia. She is the same person, who happens to be applying her skill set to a different sector.”
Another way to build confidence and gain insight when you’re embracing a new professional identity is to join a group of other people facing a similar challenge.
Last year I joined a global network of professional women called Ellevate, right when I was launching my business. Ellevate operates chiefly through “squads” – groups of women of different ages, sectors, and stages of their careers who meet virtually over 12 weeks to provide advice and support to one another.
I found it incredibly reassuring and useful to bounce ideas about marketing, business development and, networking with other women who were going through – or had already been through – a similar set of challenges.
Research has also shown that what we wear to work affects the way we are perceived by others and the way we perceive ourselves.
With that in mind, if we want to adopt a new mindset – “I am the boss lady now!” – changing our clothes can help change our mindset. I’m already well on my way to rocking the City.
In the end, of course, if you really want to lean into your growth mindset, there’s no substitute for Nike’s motto: “Just do it!“
I was listening to the Creative Class podcast the other day, when host Paul Jarvis observed that “the cure to fear is action.” Although I normally dislike cold-calling people – hearing this clarion call – I grabbed the phone and adopted a “smile and dial” mindset. And guess what? I landed three leads in 24 hours.
What is your new professional identity? What strategies have you employed to get yourself in the right mindset for it? Do you have any specific advice to share with the Sixty and Me community? Please do so in the comments below.