Do you have the attitude and ability to learn new things that will benefit our company? While employers seldom phrase the question this directly, this is a key thing they want to know when they are thinking about hiring you. So, how can you convey your willingness to learn new things without sounding rote or desperate?
The term growth mindset has been become a trendy word lately when it comes to identifying skills that employers are seeking in their employees. But this concept has been around for a very long time, under a variety of terms. Continuing education, lifelong learning, training and development, professional development, personal development, coaching, and the list goes on. They all get to the same thing – are you willing to learn new things?
While having a list of degree and certificates is helpful, employers want to know more than what you’ve already learned. They want to know if learning is something you’ve done or something you want to do more of. Many employers equate your attitude and ability to learn and apply with how valuable you may be as an employee.
Creativity and innovation are musts for a company to survive, and those don’t happen in places where learning is finished. They happen in places where people are trying to learn new ways of doing things and where people want to try approaches. They happen where people can learn and apply new learning. This is why the attitude – the openness – to learning is just as important as the ability to learn and apply. Creativity and innovation are byproducts of an attitude toward learning.
“People fail because one of two reasons: 1: They don’t know what to do to improve, or 2: They know what to do and simply aren’t doing it. Either way you can take action and change your life.” Rob Liano
If you are one of those people who is always striving to find a new and better way, then stating that you have a growth mindset expresses the idea that you are someone who wants to learn. But stating it will only get you so far. You need to be able to back up your statement with examples. Ideally the example should identify a problem and then show how you took the initiative to learn more about the issue and possible solutions, applied what you learned by trying those possible solutions or creating your own solution based on your specific situation, successfully solved the problem, and close by explaining the positive impact on the company your solution provided.
That’s a lot of instruction packed in a long sentence, so let’s break it down step by step.
Articulate Your Value
State your skill or a set of complimentary skills.
My growth mindset (skill 1) allows me to think creatively (skill 2) and solve problems (skill 3) related to diminished productivity (current challenge faced by the company – you must do your research on the company to know what this is).
Use an example to illustrate how you have applied these skills in the past. Tell a mini-story about your success.
At my previous company, we experienced an increase in the time it was taking for employees to process customer complaints (identify a problem; if possible use a similar challenge to what the company your applying to is experiencing). I requested and was granted (shows initiative) the opportunity to learn (skill 1) how to conduct an analysis of the complaint handling process.
Once the analysis was complete, I was able to identify that there was one specific type of complaint that was delaying productivity (demonstrates ability to apply learning). I proposed a solution (skill 3; state specific solution) that addressed this complaint type in a new way (skill 2; state what makes this approach different from past approaches). Upon implementation, the company decreased the time it was taking to process complaints by X% which in turn saved the company $X (positive impact for company).
“If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.” Anita Roddick
Past Value Dictates Future Value
Being able to quantify and qualify your statements is the only way to truly demonstrate that your ability to apply your skills helped improve the company. And that is something interviewers want to hear. But interviewers want to hear it in a concise and organized manner – they want a mini-story that is easy to follow with a clear impact. The more you can show that your work made your previous company more successful, the more it will be anticipated that you will be able to do that in your next position as well.
But the information you provide in your example must be accurate! That means that in your current position you need to be keeping track of your accomplishments and know how they are impacting the company. It may only be within your department that you can track the impact, or you may be able to scale it companywide. It is critical that you learn how to start documenting this information so you have it at your fingertips when you are up for a promotion or seeking a new position somewhere else.
Putting It All Together
Writing down each of these accomplishments may seem tedious, especially if you are currently happy in your position. But you never know what the future holds and when you might need to be able to showcase your successes. You also don’t know what twists and turns your career may take and some of the accomplishments that don’t seem that important to you, might be the very skills you need to highlight a year from now.
“Your career is your business. You are its CEO. Complacency breeds failure. As the CEO of your career, you must continually improve your skills, especially the art of communication.” Carmine Gallo
Make it your new year’s resolution to track, in detail, all your accomplishments. And learn to put them into a mini-story format so the full scope of the skill and its impact is clear. Then when you are creating a resume for a certain position or promotion, or being interviewed, you have these concrete examples ready to use. Accomplishments that you are especially proud of can also be added into your professional social media profiles as they happen.