Maintaining a career mindset during times of change
Self-knowledge, goal setting and preparation can help clients increase their resiliency
A pertinent issue both a career practitioner and jobseeker can face during transition is maintaining a career mindset. Change is inevitable and a part of daily life, but COVID–19 has presented a unique set of challenges that require a strong career mindset and an arsenal of change management skills. Incorporating change management skills into a career mindset is good starting point that will enable you and your clients to stay grounded in an ever-changing economic and social landscape.
What does it mean to have a career mindset?
The definition of a career mindset presented in this article is blend of several career development theories that have helped jobseekers find meaningful employment and opportunities for their careers to grow and develop. It draws on theories from John Krumboltz’s Planned Happenstance, Frank Parsons’ Trait and Factor, and Donald Super’s Super Self Concept. It also embraces the philosophy of the core competencies and career development terms found in the Canadian Standards and Guidelines for Career Development Practitioners. There are new and emerging theories and models that can build on the work that you do with your clients developing a career mindset, and another helpful reference is the book Career Theories and Models at Work: Ideas for Practice.
A career mindset is a strategic approach to career development that is deliberate and focused on how the individual seeks to shape their future and see their career develop and unfold. It includes an attitude of flexibility and openness, as well as the view that all opportunities have the potential to advance personal and professional development.
An individual who has a career mindset is aware that careers are fluid and require adaptability; is open to assessing paid and unpaid opportunities as they arise; and embraces the unexpected, serendipitous moments life can throw at us. A career mindset includes an understanding that change is inevitable. This means the jobseeker has a contingency plan to ensure the direction of their career remains on track, and that they are not impulsive and over-reactive in the face of change.
“A career mindset is a strategic approach to career development that is deliberate and focused on how the individual seeks to shape their future and see their career develop and unfold.”
A career mindset is a tool any jobseeker can develop and periodically review. It involves being creative and innovative to increase resiliency in times of change. Although change can be emotionally draining, when a jobseeker finds themselves in these situations, the knowledge that they have a solid career plan will help reduce the impact of change and offer some relief while they adapt. A career mindset can give confidence, as it ensures a plan is in place and is still moving forward.
Developing a career mindset
The career practitioner can support the jobseeker with knowledge and tools to develop and employ a career mindset.
Know what you have to offer: The first step in guiding jobseekers to develop a career mindset is to help them assess what skills and expertise they have to offer an employer. This can be challenging when a client is in the midst of change, working on their resume or not properly prepared when asked about this during a performance review. We can forget we are constantly evolving and developing more skills, experience and learnings during the course of our career. Our views and capacity change as we continually receive new information and our horizons broaden, providing opportunity to steer our careers in different directions. Having the jobseeker revisit their skillset and take inventory regularly reminds them what they offer to employers, boosts their confidence and can shed light on areas where capacity building is needed.
Set goals: Many of us have heard about goal setting so many times that it feels like a cliché, which diminishes its value and importance. However, goals provide direction and purpose when we follow them. Without goals, we have no way to take action and track our progress. It is one thing to say what direction you want your career to go, but if you do not map out the journey, you are not taking the steps needed to put the decision into action. When used effectively, goals are our compass and the guide we need to reinforce a career mindset. If the jobseeker you are working with has not set goals recently, this is a valuable step to keep their career on track and fresh.
Be prepared: Maintaining a career mindset may be difficult during times of uncertainty, but it is necessary to weather the storm and remain focused. Without a career mindset in place, jobseekers risk being in a position where their choices are limited – like when facing an economic downturn or a company reorganization. During these times of duress, clients may become less objective and more reactive when looking for employment opportunities.
In her book How to Survive Change You Didn’t Ask For, MJ Ryan recommends getting all the facts about a situation before jumping to conclusions or making assumptions. Whether the client you are working with is looking for new work or just wanting to move within an organization, they need to gather as much information about the business’s operations, its culture and how it adapts to change.
Some questions to guide your clients when they are gathering information are:
- What are the company’s goals for the future? Will you be able to move and grow in the organization?
- Does the organization promote career development and actively involve the employee in the direction they want to take their careers?
- What are the growth and trends in the organization and in the industry? Will the client’s skillset meet the gaps and future trends of their industry?
Look for opportunities to grow: We often look at promotion as the only way to learn new skills and climb the corporate ladder; however, we risk overlooking other, less obvious opportunities. When we have a career mindset, we are open and constantly looking for opportunities to grow and develop. We can do this by looking for gaps in an organization and understanding where our skills, values and experience will fill them.
If a jobseeker is interested in a particular position, they need to read beyond the job posting to understand what skillsets the organization is really trying to fill. Take the initiative to get more information by reaching out to HR, a manager or someone who currently works in the role about the “nitty-gritty” of the position. Explore additional training needed to excel at the role. Examining the trends of the industry through labour market reviews and future forecasts can reveal what training is required to advance in the field.
Examine your attitude: It is hard to stay focused when life is in constant change; however, without a solid career plan, we can unintentionally convey the wrong messages to potential employers and individuals who can help us progress in our careers. Daniel Goleman, behavioural scientist and author of Working with Emotional Intelligence, talks about self-awareness and understanding yourself. Being self-aware when emotions such as fear or anxiety arise will help your client redirect and deal with them right away. A solid career mindset exudes confidence and a calming effect that others will see and want to imitate.
Regardless of where a jobseeker currently is in their career, determining and maintaining a career mindset will lessen the impact of change, improve their personal and professional development and guide their journey to happiness and success.
Nancy Curtis has been working in the field of career and employment services for over a decade in both the public service and non-profit sectors. She is passionate about career development and sees it as a vehicle to lead others to find meaningful and lasting employment.