What is a growth mindset?
A growth mindset is the belief that you can develop yourself through hard work, effort, and practice.
The ‘growth mindset’ concept was popularised by Dr Carol Dweck, an American psychology professor at Stanford University. Dweck’s research and discoveries about the growth mindset led her to propose that instead of being born a certain way, your:
- performance, intelligence, and abilities can be improved with deliberate strategies
- mistakes are learning opportunities rather than failures
- experiences, personal development, and feedback from others shape who you become
Here’s a growth mindset quote from Dweck’s motivational Ted Talk presentation that perfectly sums up her research:
‘Are you not smart enough to solve it…or have you just not solved it yet?’
Below, you’ll find more information comparing a fixed mindset and a growth mindset, learn how to develop a growth mindset, and see some CV, cover letter, and interview examples to use in future situations.
What’s the difference between a fixed mindset vs. a growth mindset?
The difference between a fixed mindset vs. a growth mindset is that people with a fixed mindset believe their personality, talents, and abilities are set, whereas people with a growth mindset believe these traits can be learnt and mastered over time.
Here are some phrases that describe someone who has a fixed mindset:
- I’m going to give up. This is too difficult.
- I don’t want to look stupid so I’ll avoid trying this.
- I take it personally when someone gives me feedback.
- I’m already great at everything I do.
- I know how to do this task well, but I don’t want to improve myself further in case it gets too challenging.
- Others are better at this task than me so why bother pushing myself to do it?
- I failed once so I’m not going to do it again.
- I’m not good at this skill compared to others, so why should I even try?
By contrast, these phrases describe what someone with a growth mindset will think:
- This is difficult, but I won’t give up.
- I’m not as good at this skill or task…yet.
- I appreciate it when someone gives me feedback to help me grow.
- I have so much that I don’t know and still want to learn.
- This task is easy for me but I feel like I can still improve in other ways.
- Others are good at this task, which means I could be too.
- I failed once, but it doesn’t mean I’m a failure.
- I’m not as good at this skill compared to others, but I can still learn from them.
How to develop a growth mindset
Good news! You can change your mindset for the better if you’re willing to work at it. Here are four tips on developing a growth mindset:
1. Identify your current mindset
The first step to developing a growth mindset is being aware of how you currently think and feel about yourself.
To understand yourself better, you’ll need to acknowledge the beliefs you have about your intelligence and abilities. Then, once you know what your beliefs are, you can start to work on changing them.
Here are some questions about your current mindset that you can ask yourself:
- How do I feel about my skills, intelligence, and overall abilities?
- What are my strengths and weaknesses?
- What do I do when I fail at something?
- How do I respond to issues when they arise?
- Am I willing to work hard to achieve my goals?
- How do I view other people’s successes and failures?
2. Start seeing your challenges as learning opportunities
If you’ve identified any negative beliefs about your intelligence and abilities, challenging them is the next step. Instead of assuming your beliefs or failures are permanent, tell yourself: ‘Anyone can change if they put in the hard work and effort, and so can I’.
One way to change a fixed mindset is by looking for evidence that disproves the negative beliefs you have about yourself.
For instance, if you believe you’re not smart, think about examples of times when you succeeded in a task or reached a goal.
Below are more ways to help you reframe your challenges into positive learning experiences:
Failure is an important part of forming a growth mindset because when you fail, it means you’re trying something new and challenging yourself. So accept failure and see it as an opportunity for more growth, rather than a reason to give up.
Additionally, when you focus on learning and growth, you’ll be able to see failure in a more positive light. This approach can be encouraging in other aspects of your life because it’ll remind you that everyone else makes mistakes too.
Be open to feedback from others
Asking for feedback from people who know you well and can give you honest advice is a great way to improve yourself and your skills. Being open to constructive criticism is especially useful in a work or school setting because it shows others you’re willing to improve.
Receiving feedback from people whose opinion you trust can also help you:
- pay closer attention to your strengths along with areas of improvement
- stay accountable, motivated, and focused on your goals
- try new solutions you haven’t thought of and challenge yourself
Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment and paying attention to your thoughts and feelings. When you practice mindfulness, you’re more likely to notice when your thoughts are preventing you from finishing a task or trying a new skill.
When you get a negative or discouraging thought, notice the thought you’re having, acknowledge how you feel, and let it go.
3. Get inspired by others who have a growth mindset
When you’re around people who work hard and succeed in what they do, think of these people as role models rather than competitors. Seeing someone else accomplish something you’re also trying to do can reinforce your belief in yourself.
You can ask yourself these questions when you come across someone who inspires you:
- Which of this person’s traits or accomplishments do I respect?
- What is this person’s work ethic like?
- What types of resources does this person use?
- How would this person approach a task like mine?
4. Set aside time to work on your goals
Making goals and setting time to continuously work on them is another good way to form a growth mindset.
When you set goals, you’re enhancing something about yourself and seeking personal growth in the areas that matter most to you.
So challenge yourself to develop a growth mindset by:
- actively looking for opportunities to learn something new
- setting aside a personalised time that suits your schedule to work on yourself (e.g., an hour a day or three hours every Sunday)
- creating SMART goals (which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound)
- re-evaluating whether you need to adjust or create different goal(s) for yourself as time passes
Growth mindset examples
Having a growth mindset in a work setting is highly valued by employers, so ensure you know how to highlight this vital soft skill as you learn how to write a professional CV or how to write a cover letter, or discuss your work history during an interview.
These examples can give you a clearer idea of how to effectively showcase your growth mindset when you’re applying for a job:
1. Examples of growth mindset on a CV
Your CV is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the different ways you’ve worked to achieve your goals.
And even if you don’t have a lot of work experience, employers are more likely to hire you if they know you:
- will succeed during the work training period
- have a positive approach to learning new skills and concepts
- are willing to learn on the job and continue growing in your role
Here are specific sections of your CV for you to include examples of your growth mindset:
Your CV’s personal statement
Your CV personal statement consists of 1–3 sentences that sit at the top of your CV.
Writing a powerful personal statement tells employers you’d be a positive person to work with and are open to taking on difficult tasks or projects.
Below is an example of an applicant’s personal statement highlighting their growth mindset, which we’ve underlined in green:
Your CV’s work experience section
The work experience on your CV is another ideal place to include examples of times you worked by yourself, with another colleague, or as part of a team to successfully meet an objective.
Here’s a bulleted example from a social media manager’s CV describing their growth mindset:
Your CV’s skills section
Whether you’re applying for your first job or have years of professional experience, listing professional skills on your curriculum vitae conveys to companies you’re proactive about developing in your target role — and outside of your field as well.
To show you’re consistently learning new skills, include any hard skills (technical abilities indicating you can do the job well) that relate to the position you want. For example, learning a language is a hard skill.
One way to highlight your growth mindset when listing your technical skills is to include your proficiency level beside each skill.
Mentioning your skill levels helps companies understand how much time and effort you’ve put into gaining knowledge in your industry and see that you’re constantly learning new skills related to your ideal job.
Here are some examples of skill level markers you can use on your CV:
- Familiar with
- Expert knowledge of
You can also put soft skills (character traits showing how you relate to others) on your CV to showcase your growth mindset. For instance, here are some soft skills that help convey your growth mindset:
|Big picture thinker||Committed|
Here’s an example of an business analyst CV’s skill section that communicates the applicant’s ability to work with multiple types of software and learn new skills:
Your CV’s hobbies and interests section
The hobbies and interests on your CV say a lot about who you are and whether your personality will fit the work culture and environment of a company, so ensure you put out a positive impression of yourself.
Show you’re open minded and a self-starter by listing hobbies and interests targeted to having a growth mindset, such as:
- learning a new skill (e.g., Taekwondo, photography)
- completing challenges (e.g., attending tech hackathons, playing chess)
- displaying initiative (e.g., blogging, making YouTube videos)
- developing patience (e.g., gardening, pottery)
Below is an example of a candidate’s well-written hobbies and interests section:
2. Growth mindset example for your cover letter
If the company you’re applying to seeks applicants who are open to learning and growing, your cover letter is the perfect opportunity to mention how you match this requirement.
Also, knowing how to write a cover letter in a personalised way that reflects your growth mindset will tell employers you’d be easy to work with and able to train others in the future too.
For instance, the opening paragraph from our HR applicant’s cover letter describes their growth mindset in detail (using orange underlines):
3. Example of your growth mindset during an interview
One of the best (and most natural ways) to discuss your growth mindset is during a job interview.
Some ways you can communicate your growth mindset in an interview are:
- describing a time when you successfuly achieved a goal or objective
- mentioning a situation where you made a mistake, and what you did to address it
- listing some skills you’re currently learning or working on
You can try using the STAR method (which stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result) during your interview to convey your thought process to interviewers and show them you’ve got the qualifications and positive attitude they’re looking for.
Here’s an example of a STAR statement describing a time an applicant faced a challenge and how they used a growth mindset to overcome it:
Situation: I worked on a Sociology project last year for uni that required me to use Microsoft Excel for the first time.
Task: My professor wanted us to interview 35 participants and log their answers using Excel. He also asked our class to analyse the data by creating a pivot table and several graphs.
Action: I had never used Excel before, so the idea of analysing all this data was intimidating at first. But I found loads of tutorials on YouTube. The Wise Owl platform was especially useful for me.
Result: After a few hours of tutorials and some trial and error, I made my first pivot table! I was able to log the data correctly on Excel. Not only did I receive a 73% on my project, but I’m now learning advanced Excel just because it’s so interesting.
Why is having a growth mindset important?
Having a growth mindset is important because it can help you overcome challenges in your life when you’re learning something new or developing a new skill.
In the workplace, a growth mindset shows employers you’re sincere about improving yourself, accepting feedback from others, and taking the necessary steps to become better at your job.
For instance, taking constructive criticism from a work performance review and using it to make new self-improvement goals for yourself shows you have a growth mindset.
If you’re in school or university, you might use your growth mindset to learn about concepts or skills even if you don’t fully understand them yet.
Saying ‘I can improve my marks next time if I put in more effort’ after failing a Maths exam, and then making a focused study plan is another example of having a growth mindset.
In your personal life, a growth mindset can frame your life positively by helping you reach different goals through your own beliefs and actions.
For example, instead of assuming: ‘I just don’t have the brains to be an engineer’, a person with a growth mindset will think: ‘I don’t have the skills to be an engineer yet, but I can become one if I have the right resources and put in the necessary time and hard work’.