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

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Networking in Italy: More than just aperitivo

Networking as an expat woman means overcoming linguistic and cultural barriers - but it can be the key to success at work. Marketing and communications consultant Mary Wieder Bottaro unravels the mystery of networking Italian style.

Networking in Italy: More than just aperitivo
A female networking event in Verona. Photo: Miriam Lonardi

Many women come to Italy seeking personal or professional gratification. But while it may be easy to integrate into Italy’s many fabulous cultural aspects – the food, the wine, the fashion, the beauty of its landscape – some parts of professional life are difficult for women to overcome.

Women may find it challenging to establish and grow a professional career here, especially those who are not located in a major city.

Entrepreneurs often find it tormenting to understand the bureaucracy in setting up shop in Italy, and then find they need guidance to keep their business afloat legally and fiscally. And the task of building up professional relationships, or even a circle of friends, can be daunting. 

Italy might be known for its hospitality when it comes to food and eating, but in the professional world, women can be their own worst enemy. 

File photo: Pexels

Now, women in Italy are finally discovering that the greatest weapon they have at their disposal is each other.

Forget your average post-work aperitivo. Female Networking (rete al femminile) is on the rise in Italy. Many global networks have hubs in major Italian cities: the Professional Women’s Network (PWN) in Milan and Rome and European Women’s Management Development International Network (EWMD) in Brescia, La Spezia, Genova, Reggio Modena and recently Verona.

Sector-specific networking groups have popped up as well such as Donne Del Vino (Women of Wine), Donne del Marmo (Women of Marble), and two Veronese women have created a Women in Surgery group. So it may be easier than you think to connect with like-minded individuals who can help you build your career.

Italy has traditionally lagged behind its European (and global) counterparts when it comes to the participation of women in the workforce and equal opportunities. In a country with historic family values and a strong religious presence, women are more likely to be stay-at-home wives than have a career.

According to European Commission statistics from 2015, the percentage of women in the workforce between the ages of 15-64 is still below 50 percent – the lowest level in Europe.

So how do we change this mentality?

The goal of networking groups is to create a network of support among women, who can assist each other in achieving professional and personal objectives. These groups help women – including expats – establish new collaborations and expand their circle of colleagues and friends.

The other goal of many of these groups is to create “gender-balanced leadership” and “unconscious bias”. Some of these networking events attract a small quota of men, which helps change the mentality in the workplace and at home in the Italian culture by opening their eyes to the rescources and skillsets which women bring with them.

File photo: Pexels

The professional cultural landscape is also changing in Italy. The younger generation of women is pursuing higher education (as of 2015, the OECD estimated that 55.2 percent of university students were female in Italy), they are career-driven and looking to climb the corporate ladder or start their own businesses. 

This younger generation is also driving the entrepreneurial spirit in Italy, with one in ten new startups being driven by the under-35 demographic.

According to La Repubblica, 35 percent of Partita IVA (VAT number) holders are women, and the majority of those opening the P.IVA are younger, around 35 years old.

This changing culture can lead to many challenges for women:
– How can highly educated women who want to stay in Italy find jobs?
– Do women know the process and the rights of opening a Partita IVA?
– How can women form productive and professional collaborations?

Networking has become the “hot topic” for women in Italy to get answers to these pressing questions, allowing women to find professional opportunities, business collaborations and personal connections over a few glasses of wine.

Finding and Launching Networks in Italy

Seeing how networking was on the rise in Italy, but not able to find a group which suited my own needs, I recently created the group Verona Professional Women Networking in Verona, northern Italy.

I started this group on LinkedIn in order to maximize the growing digital presence of professionals, with the goal of creating a network of professional women who can support each other in career development and create a dialogue around diversity, gender equality and work-life balance issues.

A networking event in Verona. Photo: Miriam Lonardi

Since its creation in February 2016, the LinkedIn group has attracted over 970 members and is active on Facebook and MeetUp as well. We organize monthly networking events comprised of an aperitivo networking hour and then an informative session with activities such as roundtables, seminars and training.

If you're ready to start building a network in Italy, think about what kind of network would be best for your needs.

International networks such as PWN and EWMD have a more global and corporate focus, and many events are held in English.

Local networks or sector specific networks may find present quicker opportunities, such as the chance to meet new acquaintances or a local business collaboration. However, larger networks may give you more visibility and the chance to explore opportunities in other parts of Italy or abroad.

Define your professional and personal objectives first and then search for the networks in your area. Keep in mind most of these networks have annual membership fees and some have selection criteria and a process.

And if you can't find a network in your area or sector, you can always create it yourself!

Use online platforms such as LinkedIn to locate other professionals in your area and organize local meetups. If you are looking to create a non-profit association for your group, it’s as simple as drafting some by-laws with a mission statement and submitting it to the Agenzia delle Entrate.

Buon lavoro!

Mary Wieder Bottaro is a global marketing and communications consultant in Verona, Italy, originally from Allentown, Pennsylvania in the U.S. She has been in Italy for over six years, originally coming as a semi-professional athlete and then developing a career in international marketing and communications for two multinational companies based in Verona (CROS NT and Arithmos). She is the founder and President of Verona Professional Women Networking, a member of Professional Women's Network Milan and on the Board of Directors for Professional Women Network (PWN) Global.

If you would like to write a guest blog for The Local, get in touch at [email protected]