Risk Failure to Achieve Career Success!

If I told you that I have been downhill skiing for more than forty years, you might assume that, by now, I must be really good. You would be wrong. I am what I like to call a “cautious skier”. I seek out the green runs and my goal is always the same – to stay
upright. I would like to ski better, or at least enjoy it more, but my anxiety about the possibility of falling down and hurting myself causes me to tense up unless I am well inside my comfort zone, skiing along trails that barely qualify as hills.

Recently, I asked a friend, who is a ski instructor, for some advice on how I might improve. She told me that if I genuinely want to become a better skier, I will have to get out of my comfort zone, take on more challenging hills, build up some speed, and risk a wipe-out. Sage advice, and also an excellent prescription for career success.

We all enjoy feeling competent at work and school and many of us gravitate to tasks we find easy with the goal of pats on the back at work or high grades at school. Challenges come with the risk of failure and possible confirmation that we are not smart enough or talented enough to handle a more difficult problem or a more complicated situation. Unfortunately, over time, this strategy can result in negative career growth. It is associated with what psychologist Carol Dweck has identified as a “Fixed Mindset”, http://mindsetonline.com.

People with this characteristic believe that they have fixed intelligence and abilities. In their minds, if a skill requires effort to master, if they are not “naturals”, then they must be missing that talent. They avoid challenges, and failure may cause them to withdraw from a particular field of endeavour altogether (e.g. “I will never be good at math” or “I’m just not management material”).

Taking risks may lead to career success!

Taking risks may lead to career success!

In contrast, Dr. Dweck’s research has shown that people with a “Growth Mindset” believe they can build their capabilities through effort and practice. They see setbacks as a part of their growth and look for ways around them, applying even more effort and seeking even greater challenges. They are committed to learning. Not surprisingly, people with a growth mindset are more likely to realize their potential in all areas, including their careers http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pN34FNbOKXc

Stepping outside of your comfort zone to accept a new challenge at work may feel scary, and contemplating a public failure may make you cringe. But situations which make us the most uncomfortable can also offer the most opportunity for growth. If you are serious about taking your career to the next level, you may have to risk a wipe-out.

Caroline Burgess is an Educational Consultant and student of the Career Consultant Certificate Program at Mohawk College. MCACESBlogs is a series of posts aimed at assisting job seekers and those in career development. Be sure to share our info to your network. Happy reading!


What does “talent” acquisition actually mean?


There’s been so much talk lately in the business world about acquiring “talent” like they’re buying new shoes or a new car…sounds rather impersonal doesn’t it? And really what does it mean anyway?

From what I’ve read, “talent” acquisition is about placing potential employee’s skillsets at the forefront of the hiring process and then nurturing those skills. With so many buzzwords floating around it’s hard to know exactly what’s really going on in the job market, so the BIG question is, is this really happening? Is it done at the outset but then later promptly forgotten when the buzz has passed? To avoid unmet expectations, hard feelings or worse employees jumping ship, employers can keep their talent onboard and engaged.

Here’s how: 

  1. Instead of filing away a new employees resume and never looking at it again, how about having a quick sit down with them after the whole hiring process is over and ask them what specific skills they believe they can offer the company. Making a note of what they believe are their strengths will give you some options beyond the job description.
  2. Although some new hires may embellish or have incorrect assumptions regarding their skillsets you can better assess this by setting up a meeting between the team leaders or supervisors and the new hire. This will go particularly smoothly if you’ve included the supervisors in the hiring process; they’ll be more likely to properly assess the person and see them as less of a burden and more of a valuable addition to the team.
  3. Make note of all your employee’s strengths, but beware of lumping people together into similar “talent” pools. Most people’s talents come out the most when working in a team with a variety of skillsets. Also take into account that employees can gain or discover new skills that should be added to their repertoire.

The truth is that most people will often take less pay or a lesser position if they feel that their “talents” are valued. Unfortunately, most new employees will rarely point out they feel undervalued or that their skills are underutilized and will instead remain quiet while plotting an exit strategy.

Maybe we could change the buzzword from “talent” acquisition to “talent” management!