How a Growth Mindset Helped Me Survive My Mid-life Career
Last year, after 25 years in public education, I became a statistic. I was one of the 250,000+ teachers that you read about in the teacher burnout articles each year. I had no idea what I was going to do professionally, but I knew that I was too tired and too disillusioned with ‘the system’ to face another year in the classroom. After a well-deserved pity party, I picked myself up and did what every good former librarian does in a crisis – research. I hit the books, the want-ads and the internet to find out what I was qualified to do in the real world.
As it turned out, I had a whole lot of knowledge and education and very little practical experience that matched up with corporate America’s employment postings. What I did have was a deep understanding of the power of a growth mindset and a willingness to take a risk. I applied for my dream job as an education manager at Aveda. Sure, I was underqualified, but I was confident that I had the capacity to learn the skills needed to be a great instructional designer. That scrappy attitude got me through until the final round of interviews. The VP and Director made the sound business decision to hire a fully qualified candidate for the manager role, but all was not lost. They called me back for a different position on the team that would allow me to build my corporate L&D skill set.
In the past nine months I have learned a lot about the politics, the verbiage and the pressures of corporate life. I can tell you that I am busy or that I disagree with you in some very fancy ways. (I’m going to have to push back on that and ask you to pivot as I do not have the bandwidth to take on another project right now.) I’m still not used to the luxury of company funded office products or unscheduled bio-break opportunities. I have taught myself how to use InDesign and Articulate, joined several professional organizations and became the go-to technology nerd for my team. My Strengths Finder profile would tell you that this is because I am a “learner,” but I know that it all comes back to my pal Carol Dweck and what she taught me about having a growth mindset.
In early March life as we know it changed due to Covid-19. Education departments everywhere were scrambling to transform live trainings to virtual. At Aveda our small but mighty team of field educators worked their proverbial tails off to learn the Zoom platform and the basics of being an effective virtual trainer. There was stress, there were more than a few tears and the first few sessions were a little rough, but they persevered. After one tough team meeting my manager asked me why I was so calm amid the chaos. My response? If we don’t give up, we will achieve greatness. We just aren’t there…yet.
On a side note, if you want to improve your capacity to be agile under pressure, just try to wrangle 34 fifth graders for nine months. After a few decades of that, butting heads with the C-suite will seem like a cake walk.