Searching for work, jobs, internships: Mindset is key!

🧐Students today are in a constant cycle of looking for an internship to fulfil the requirements of their degree, work to finance their academic goals or, as they graduate, a job to move permanently into the workforce. Unfortunately, many students have seen the opportunity they believed they had secured disappear in the chaos of the pandemic. Their expectations of what the next steps were on their path is no longer valid. COVID 19 and its consequences have created huge uncertainty for all of us. How can we manage this uncertainty in a way that moves us forward, if not embracing the unknown, at least not fearing it?

💪I wanted to write an article of encouragement to students and talk about the importance of “mindset” as they proceed with their search. As a coach, I want to inspire you to use your self-coaching skills to question your thoughts and feelings on difficulties or questions you are facing, to expand your thinking, to keep imagining more and more possibilities for yourself, to not let setbacks (which happen to everyone from time to time) become evidence of things being so broken they cannot be fixed. Check out the end of this article, for bonus questions and insights to help you reflect and find ideas.

Where are we today?

Earlier this year our students and new graduates were looking at existing opportunities for jobs and internships and trying to make themselves a match for the skills and experience employers were looking for. They felt the need to be able to check the boxes on the company’s list of hiring criteria to be attractive to employers. Today, global unemployment has increased and companies are struggling to find a new way of working. The opportunity now exists for students and new graduates to change this way of thinking where they have to fit into someone else’s model and opens the door to a more creative approach. Some things have already changed a lot. For example, remote work: In the US, just 4.3% of the workforce worked remotely in 2010. That number increased to around 15% in 2019, and with COVID-19, it’s jumped to roughly 50%. Think of the businesses that emerged from the recession in 2008 that created the sharing economy: Airbnb, Uber… These companies emerged in response to a new paradigm and the creativity of individuals who saw a new opportunity.

How can we now think differently and use today’s situation to create a new paradigm for students?

Or, more accurately, how can students now create the work or job of their dreams themselves rather than waiting for employment to “return to normal” … an unlikely future situation. It is much more probable that a new economy will emerge. We do not yet see what that looks like…but what if students are creating it for themselves?

So why is “mindset” important?

If you refer to someone’s mindset, you mean their general attitudes and the way they typically think about things. I would like to introduce you to the definitions Dr Carol Dweck uses to describe mindset. This researcher talks about “fixed” and “growth” mindset to explore how we view ourselves and the contexts or environments we find ourselves in. Using this frame to create the mindset most adapted to the situation we are facing today helps students as they encounter the new and unfamiliar, and prepares them to embrace what is possible that they have never imagined before.

What does it mean to have a fixed mindset?

People who operate from this perspective about themselves and their circumstances see only what already is…what exists. They do not imagine there is an opportunity to create the world or environment they want as it is already present – it is fixed. They are aware that it will likely change but not that the individual can be the one to influence the change, more that circumstances will intervene and the situation will change to align with the new reality. In this model of the world, the individual is the victim of their situation. When all is rolling along smoothly and life is giving us the results we want there is no problem with this way of thinking. However, when we encounter situations we do not like, that don’t support our hopes and desires, we find ourselves hopelessly blocked in a reality that we do not feel we have the capacity to change.

How might this play out in the situation of looking for an internship or a job?

When, as today, we are facing circumstances that we have never encountered before, we have no roadmap of how to navigate to our desired destination, the roadmap we had will no longer take us to that destination as the road and buildings have all been destroyed (some of it temporarily, some of it permanently), we are in trouble. We may feel helpless looking down a big hole without tools or skills to dig ourselves out. Our “fixed” mindset tells us that the way we learned to think is the only possible one, we don’t have the ability or tools to change things, our brain, our capacities are already “fixed” in place and therefore we are victims of the circumstances and cannot be actors for change.

Now, when we talk about a person who has a “growth” mindset, that person believes at their very core that nothing is fixed, everything is flexible and can be changed through learning new skills, through adapting attitudes and perspectives, through looking at situations with different eyes, through gathering data on how others are viewing situations. You are already surrounded by resources; the knowledge you have acquired, your experiences, your family, friends, network. Reusing and leveraging current resources differently is what many entrepreneurs do. This does not mean you have to create a new business or product but that you can change your situation by looking at what you already have in a different way. A growth mindset understands that our brains are malleable, nothing is permanent and our situation adapts to the way we think about it.

What can you do with a growth mindset today?

You can take this opportunity to explore and discover what you would truly LOVE to do, and/or what you feel you ARE GOOD at, or you COULD BE GOOD at. Instead of limiting yourself to the work you know, think about what you might be able to create or do because you can imagine how to put your gifts and talents to work in a new and innovative way. Take this time to get a sense of what you would love and consider the skills or learning you need to be ready for this new opportunity. Ask yourself what you loved to do in the past, as a kid, or a younger version of you, consider your heroes, people who inspire you and how they created lives they loved, there are many ways to do this exploration. It will lead to increased self-knowledge, self-awareness, and creativity which are prized capacities for any future employer. You will set yourself on a path of self-confidence and possibility, you will discover what is important to you and who knows, you may even create the next AirBnb or the next innovation tool for productivity for remote work. You may also find that job or that internship that you wanted because your focus, thinking, feelings, actions, communication and questions will be inspired by your inner drive to guide your future.

Picture reused from fs blog post here about Carol Dweck’s research on the two mindsets.

It is your turn now, develop your ideas, we’ll help you execute them…

🤩If you find this idea initially difficult to work with, allow yourself to develop it through being guided by a self-coaching technology that adapts to you. If you are already on this path you can go further and faster using the self-coaching technology here to support expanding your skills and ideas for employment. As you connect with the self-coaching platform PocketConfidant, you will see skills and their definitions appearing as you select different challenges. I encourage you to embrace a “growth mindset” and believe in yourself, in your talents (including those you do not yet know you have) and take action on who you want to become. I also invite you today to focus on YOU, your story and vision of the world, work on it, challenge it and shape it to achieve your goals and develop the skills you need.

🤝I am Isla Reddin, a coach in education and career development, and founder of a self-coaching platform for students and young professionals. I work with Universities, participate in employment processes and monitor the skills, attitudes and mindset employers are looking for in their workforce in Europe and the USA. I live and work between France and California and welcome your comments here.

Below this article, find bonus insights and questions to help you work on your growth mindset and on searching for your next opportunities.

From this blog post, you can get started on your self-coaching journey, and you can get further coaching or mentoring with options.
To read about other challenges that students, graduates and young professional face and get some tips, visit the different topics here and check again regularly to follow the topics and stories we add from time to time.

If you want more information feel free to contact us.


Below are questions and insights grouped around several of the headings in the article. See what resonates for you, these questions are designed to help you reflect, and where useful shift perspective so that you can expand your thinking and opportunities.

When facing circumstances you have never encountered before:

  • What questions can you ask yourself to explore the situation and get more information or clarity on what it is, or what is going on?
  • What are you noticing as you think about these circumstances? Are you noticing differences in your region compared to the rest of the world? Are these differences important to observe and consider?
  • How are people reacting around you, and based on this what are the pain points or opportunities to create value that you can see?
  • What are the behaviours you are noticing? What ideas (and beliefs) are shared, what are the different “cohorts” or groups of people you observe? What are the similarities and differences between the groups?
  • What’s new in the market, what are the products and services where demand is slowing down and which are accelerating or becoming overwhelmed by demand?
  • Based on the expertise you have, your aspirations or learning goals, where can you position yourself to gain experience and develop your career, how will the new circumstances impact your activities? If you are in scientific or technological fields, where can you find an opportunity to create value and market your ideas? If you are targeting a business-oriented area, where can you become a key resource? If you are targeting a support-oriented area, where and what are the needs that you could adapt to based on your skill set?

You can question the above elements on your own to empower yourself with new insights.

When you have no roadmap of how to navigate to your desired destination, ask yourself the following questions (and get help from self-coaching technologies):

  • What do I want, what is/are my desire(s)? What would I love?
  • What is the main goal behind my desire(s), where was this supposed to lead me (to achieve what)?
  • Imagining my desired goal or outcome achieved, what would I be doing, learning, saying, feeling, experiencing, living, loving, creating? What would it be providing to me or others?
  • Where could I find a way to achieve these goals and outcomes now/today/in the current context, even if it’s not the initial organization or business or environment I was looking for? What or where can I search to know? Who can I speak to, to find out?
  • How can I adjust my desires or vision to help me still achieve my goals or obtain my desired results?
  • How can I communicate any new ideas now to provoke opportunities?

When you are looking to learn new skills:

  • What do I know today, what did I learn in the past, through school, family background, or personal and professional experiences? What can I talk about with maximum enthusiasm, confidence or energy?
  • What exactly do I now want to know or learn? What do I need to learn quickly to expand my vision and ability to communicate? Is the terminology different depending on the industry I am targeting?
  • If I already have hard skills, should I focus a little more on soft skills? If I have soft skills, do I need to learn more hard or technical skills to improve my CV?
  • Once I know what skills I have and want to have, where else can I look to develop them that I have not already thought of? What are the other areas where those skills are needed or offered to be learned? Where could I find my spot?
  • Who in my network can help me reach some key contacts?
  • How can I now efficiently communicate about myself to let people know who I am and what I am looking for?

When you haven’t yet assessed the value of your existing resources:

  • What knowledge have I already acquired, through experiences, family, friends, my network, education?
  • What opportunities can I find to reuse that knowledge or competence? How can I leverage my current resources (knowledge, experiences, environment, network, tools, equipment, attitude, ideas, personality) differently?

Further questions to help you think out of the box:

  • What do I truly love to do that is not in my CV or skill set but brings me power, inspiration, confidence?
  • What do I feel I am good at that I may not be highlighting yet in my CV? And what makes me feel I can be good at it, what are the elements to help me think more deeply about that?
  • Where could I become good relatively easily or quickly if I was adjusting my goals or my vision of my career or projects?
  • What would it take me to get there, what do I need to do, what are the steps? Do I want to do it? What will be the benefits for me?