The Job Search and Growth Mindset

You might wonder why I have a photo my son at his Taekwondo tournament as the featured image on a blog about the job search and growth mindset…. Hang with me!

During a particularly intense training session last month, his coach (Mr Lee) talked to the kids about growth mindset and how it impacts how he designs their training in preparation for nationals.  He uses the following framework and it really stuck with me…

Train to Learn – We all need to learn the game that we want to participate in; the rules, the strategy, the norms, the expectations, the equipment, the schedule …

Train to Train – We need to get in shape; building muscle, creating flexibility, developing endurance ….

Train to Compete – We need to know what it feels like to win AND lose; how do our emotions react, our mind, or bodies?  How do we treat ourselves and others when we make mistakes or master a skill? When do we celebrate and when do we double down and work harder?

Train to Win – ONLY after we … know the game, are in shape, have experiences winning AND losing can we apply all of our learnings and really start to win on a consistent basis.

These stages are not linear processes, they require moving back and forth between each stage as you are learning new skills, patterns and facing increasingly challenging competitors. BUT … mastering the previous stage is necessary and essential in order to master the next stage.   You don’t go from train to learn right into a national competition, you need years of train to train and train to compete in order to make it that far.

How does this apply to the job search?!  As I reflect on my search of the last year, there are eery similarities…

Train to Learn – I spent almost a full year learning all I could about the nonprofit space, before I even left Target.  I went to networking events, tracked websites, read job descriptions, researched search firms, met with people that had made the move from corporate to nonprofit, increased my volunteering and found boards that I was passionate about that I could be on to see, 1st hand, what happened behind the scenes in a nonprofit. I wasn’t actively looking for a job, I was learning if I’d be a good fit in this space and trying to understand the rules of the game and the other players.  This time also allowed me to really understand what I was looking for in my career move; what type of organization, role and impact did I want to make? What was my passion? My strengths? My gaps?

Train to Train – Once I realized that we live in an incredibility rich community of innovative nonprofit leadership, I knew there was no way I was going to be able to really perform in this space until I made a commitment to it. I needed to get my game on and … I couldn’t do that while working full time; regardless of how much I loved my team or my company.  I needed to start training, building muscle and put my learning into action.  I left Target and spent the last 9 months going deep on my board work, using my skills in probono projects and networking with key leaders in the space to learn the biggest barriers, challenges and opportunities facing nonprofits in todays world.  I got sore muscles, my brain hurt and I was exhausted at the end of every day but … I also expanded my network, created partnerships and found muscles I never knew I had.  This was also a great time to practice telling my story; what were my career goals, what motivated me, how did I plan on making a difference, what did I want to be sure to learn?

Train to Compete – I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of a number of interview/search processes which is an interesting form of competition. While these didn’t ALL turn into job offers, there were amazing life experiences that taught me … I can compete in this space, I have transferable skills, I have a network of people willing to help me learn/prepare for interviews and, sometimes, not getting the job is a blessing in disguise.  I’ve had good days and bad days/weeks. In fact, in April, I was training to compete and there wasn’t anything to compete for!! I was doing all the hard work and not an interview or open job in sight. That was hard …to keep getting up, everyday, go out and meet new people, learn, tell my story and put myself out there when there wasn’t a single open position that I would be qualified for as a candidate.  There were days I doubted myself and started to look at roles that weren’t my ideal job or even a good fit.  But, I have a great coach and she helped me remember how much I was learning, the incredible people I was meeting and that this was time to stay positive, persevere and do the hard work.

Train to Win – I feel like I’m getting there…there are things I’m realizing that I couldn’t have seen/understood 9 months ago because I didn’t have the life experience/perspective.  Some examples?  The networking I’m building is not just a network to help me find my next role, it’s also the network that will help me onboard, support me as I learn and become my new peer group. These people will be my life line when I start a new role!  While this website is a great tool for helping share my career change goals, it’s also going to be a great on boarding tool when I DO start a new role.  It will give my new organization/team a sneak peek into who I am and (hopefully) help reduce any anxiety about a new leader coming on board. Finally, my coach is not only a great resource for the job search process, but because she’s been on this journey with me for the last year, she’s also going to be a phenomenal resource as I plan my on boarding approach and will help me stay grounded as I become a nonprofit leader.

If you are in transition, how are you approaching your search? Are you training? What are you learning? Are you stuck in one stage? How can you double down and work through it?

I promise, all your training will pay off!