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Career expert: build a ‘growth mindset’ with these five simple steps

If you’re following an international career path, what are the key ingredients in your recipe for success? Not so long ago, it would have been all about your qualifications and past experience.

Career expert: build a 'growth mindset' with these five simple steps
Linda Höglund of fintech company Zimpler. Photo: Zimpler

But if you still believe that, it could mean you have a fixed mindset rather than a growth mindset. That’s bad news if you want a dynamic career in the 2020s at an exciting startup – or any forward-thinking international company. 

The Local has partnered with fintech company Zimpler to examine just how you can cultivate a growth mindset to help you reach your full potential in the years ahead. 

Growing versus getting stuck

Psychologist Professor Carol Dweck at Stanford University defined and explored the idea of growth mindsets and fixed mindsets in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. She showed that how we think about our abilities can influence our success in work, sports, the arts, and other areas – and how those beliefs influence our behaviour.

Essentially, people with a fixed mindset believe abilities are carved in stone. Those with a growth mindset believe abilities can be developed – opening up countless new ways to flourish. Finding people with a growth mindset is crucial to the success of today’s most exciting, forward-thinking companies, says Linda Höglund, Chief People Officer at Zimpler.

“What’s interesting in scaleups or startups is that if we don’t have these people with a growth mindset, we won’t be able to progress as we want to,” she says. “We hire people who we believe have the right values. That means that if we find a great candidate with those values but we don’t have a position for them, we create one.”

To help you find your dream job, here are five steps you can follow to develop a growth mindset.

1. Proactively look for problems

Nobody likes problems. Or do they? The fact is we can’t avoid them in work or in life. Trying to avoid them, rather than confronting them, may just make things worse.

You’ve probably heard how Kodak invented the digital camera only to bury its own idea out of fear (and later went bankrupt). If you have a fixed mindset, you probably see taking on new challenges as risky – you could fail and your cherished abilities may be called into question.

Contrast this with the problem-solving attitude of Elon Musk: YouTube is full of videos where he describes staying overnight and sleeping on the Tesla factory floor or in a conference room to help find solutions when the company was at risk of failure. Research has found that leaders who take businesses to great success tend to ask questions and actively look for failures or weaknesses. Scared to even raise that perplexing work problem? Get out of your fixed mindset! 

A problem-solver for payments: Zimpler is an international payments solution, simplifying transactions between businesses and people

2. Know that power lies in improving things

Identifying problems is only the first step, of course. You’re only looking for problems because you want to make progress by being a problem-solver!

In the right culture, power lies not in claiming all the credit or undermining other people to feel strong, but in a relentless focus on improving all that you can (including yourself!). How do you identify such stars in the making? In addition to being growth-minded, Höglund says the key ingredients to look for in a new hire are energy, ideas and personality, rather than putting experience first.

“A problem-solver with a fresh background will help us look at a challenge in a new way and through that our chances of innovation vastly increase,” she adds.

Photo: Getty Images

3. Think beyond your job description

In a world where entrepreneurs and startups can go from unknowns to industry powerhouses at dizzying speed, change is a given. If you want a dynamic career, you may also need to embrace uncertainty in your day-to-day role. The way in which you can provide the most value today might change tomorrow.

“Working in a startup or fintech company where things move quickly requires a certain way of thinking and expecting change,” says Zimpler’s Höglund. “In our world, you must want to challenge yourself, so you must have a growth mindset. If you want to stick with a routine of ‘one, two, three, four, five’ because that’s your job description, it just won’t work.”

4. Remember, skills are learnable

People with fixed mindsets are very sure about who they are and what they’re good at. Too sure, in fact. Eventually, they’ll find that time and their industry moved on but they didn’t. To avoid this trap, ask yourself what you can learn from other team members. How could you give and receive feedback in a way that promotes joint learning?

It’s also worth knowing that Professor Dweck says entire organisations can also exhibit either growth or fixed mindsets. More and more companies are interested in lifelong learning. To retain the best talent, they must enable employees to learn new skills rather than remain static. And at companies where learning is in the DNA, the hunger for lifelong learning starts with managers and permeates the working culture.

5. Don’t limit your own potential!

According to Dweck, a person’s true potential is “unknowable” since it’s impossible to foresee “what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil and training”. Forward-looking employers today are shaking up how they find – and retain – employees to help people maximise their potential. Tired talk of recruitment is being replaced with ‘talent acquisition’, and some companies have introduced radical approaches to interviewing. 

At Zimpler, which is rapidly gaining new talent as it expands internationally, ambassadors carry out ‘values’ interviews with candidates before they can move forward to a more conventional interview. “By digging into their values, we learn what they’re passionate about,” says Höglund. “It can turn up things that people wouldn’t be brave enough to say in a more traditional interview.”

Some candidates – with great ideas, personality and potential – end up having a job created especially for them. By the end of 2021, Zimpler aims to have open applications on LinkedIn, so anyone can submit their CV and the company can choose how to match them with job openings.

“We feel it’s important to let the perfect candidate tell us what they can do, meaning it’s up to us to then create the job that suits just that,” says Höglund. While people living abroad sometimes feel they “can’t be too picky” about jobs, believe in your ability to shine in the right environment, she adds. “It’s about self-reflection and being brave enough to try new things and put yourself out there. That’s the key to everything in life.”

Learn more about Zimpler – a fast-growing  international fintech company owned by its employees and on a mission to simplify transactions between businesses and people

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WORK

The pros and cons of working in Switzerland

Just arrived in Switzerland? Here’s what’s great – and not so great – about being an employee here.

The pros and cons of working in Switzerland
Photo: Rawpixel/Depositphotos
Pro: Salaries are high
 
There is no federal minimum wage in Switzerland – the Swiss rejected the idea in 2014 – though several cantons have mulled it over, with Neuchâtel likely to be the first canton to introduce it (at 20 francs an hour). 
 
Nevertheless salaries are generally high. According to figures from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in 2016 Switzerland’s average wage was $60,124, the third highest of OECD countries after Luxembourg and the US. 
 
High salaries are necessary, however, given Switzerland is one of the most expensive places in Europe in which to live. 
 
 
 
Con: A significant gender pay gap
 
If you’re a woman in Switzerland, don’t expect to earn the same as your male colleagues. The country has one of the largest gender pay gaps in Europe, with female employees earning 19.3 percent less than their male colleagues according to recent Eurostat figures.
 
“I started getting the impression that not everyone is paid the same so I asked around,” one expat teacher in Switzerland told The Local anonymously. “It’s pretty obvious that women are paid less.”
 
Foreign women get an even worse deal than Swiss women, she adds. “I’m paid less than my [female] Swiss colleague even though we have the same qualifications and experience. It’s frustrating.”
 
 
Pro: Decent statutory holiday 
 
All employees are entitled to at least 20 days (four weeks) holiday a year, on top of public holidays, which makes Switzerland about average for holiday entitlement in Europe, but far better than in the US, where there is no statutory holiday allowance at all (most US employers, however, grant at least ten days).
 
What’s more, some Swiss companies offer more generous holiday allowance than the statutory, meaning in 2016 the average working person took 5.12 weeks holiday, according to the Swiss statistics office.
 
In terms of public holidays, only August 1st (Swiss National Day) is observed in all cantons. Other public holidays vary from canton to canton, though most also observe Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday and Ascension Day.
 
However if a public holiday falls on a weekend then it’s just tough luck – your day off doesn’t carry over to the Monday. 
 
Pro: A good work/life balance
 
By law, the maximum a Swiss company can ask you to work is 45 hours a week (apart from some manual jobs which allow 50). According to the Swiss statistics office in 2016 the average was 41 hours and ten minutes (down 13 minutes on the previous year). That’s relatively high compared to other countries, with France on 35 hours (at least, by law) and the UK on 36.5 hours, according to the World Economic Forum
 
However workers in Switzerland are generally considered to have a good work/life balance. According to the OECD’s Better Life survey the share of employees in Switzerland working very long hours is lower than the OECD average. And Swiss cities are regularly ranked as having among the best quality of life in the world
 
Writing for Vox about her experience of working in Switzerland, US author Chantal Panozzo hailed the country’s adherence to “sacred” lunchbreaks, the culture of part-time work and the high salaries as things that contributed to a good work-life balance.
 
“In Switzerland, you don’t arrive to a meeting late, but you also don’t leave for your lunch break a second past noon. If it’s summer, jumping into the lake to swim with the swans is an acceptable way to spend your lunch hour. If you eat a sandwich at your desk, people will scold you.”
 
 
Employees must have a minimum of 11 hours off between shifts/days, according to the Swiss economics secretariat (SECO). You can be asked to work an extra 170 hours a year but must be paid 25 percent extra or compensated in lieu. 
 
Con: Lack of job security
 
Photo: Goodluz/Depositphotos
 
Compared with elsewhere in Europe, employers in Switzerland are fairly free to fire employees as they see fit, provided discrimination laws are complied with. So if you find yourself turfed out without what you see as a valid reason, you may have little recourse. 
 
According to Swiss workers union Unia, “in principle an employer can fire a worker at any time, providing they allow for the correct notice period”.
 
Firing someone would be considered illegal/abusive if the reason is related to their gender or a personal characteristic (religion, nationality, age, disability, sexual orientation). There is also protection for people absent through illness or injury. 
 
Pregnant women or those on maternity leave can’t be fired either, however that doesn’t stop some employers firing women the day they get back from maternity leave
 
It’s a good thing unemployment benefit is so good then… 
 
Pro: Generous unemployment benefit
 
If you’ve been working in Switzerland for at least a year and then become unemployed, don’t fret immediately: Switzerland has an extremely generous unemployment benefit system. 
 
Most people – including foreigners with a valid work permit – are entitled to 80 percent of their last salary for 18 months. Those receiving unemployment benefit are under certain obligations, including frequent meetings with the job centre and pressure to apply for jobs. But you might also be offered certain other benefits, such as language courses paid for by the job centre. 
 
If you’re self-employed, however, then you can’t claim anything.
 
 
Pro: Good employee benefits
 
If you have a contract with a Switzerland-based company for more than eight hours a week then they must pay your accident insurance. This means that if you have an accident – whether at work, on the ski slopes or elsewhere out and about – the medical costs will be covered if you declare it to your employer and fill in the right forms. 
 
If your accident means you’re off work for a spell, your employer must also pay you 80 percent of your wages during your sick leave. The length of time that lasts is unspecified by the law but is likely to be a minimum of three weeks, according to Swiss government site ch.ch. 
 
Some larger companies may also pay your monthly basic health insurance (LaMal) premiums, and/or offer a GA rail card – benefits which effectively add thousands to your salary.  
 
Con: Poor maternity and paternity leave
 
Photo: gstockstudio/Depositphotos
 
Women in Switzerland are entitled to a maximum of 14 weeks paid maternity leave at 80 percent of salary, up to 196 francs a day. That’s a poor showing when compared to the much more generous policies of many other European countries (although, if you’re from the US where there’s no statutory paid maternity leave you may think differently). 
 
As for fathers, Switzerland offers no statutory paternity leave at all, with most new dads only allowed to take one ‘family day’ for the birth of their child – though some companies are more generous. 
 
The issue of introducing statutory paternity leave or bringing in shared parental leave has been rebuffed by parliament many times in recent years, though the Swiss may finally get to have their say if a popular initiative on the subject goes to a referendum
 
 
Con: Expensive childcare
 
If you’ve got children, working in Switzerland comes with a hefty financial burden given the cost of childcare. A full-time nursery place in Geneva and Zurich costs between 13 to 20 percent of a family’s income, compared with just 4-6 percent in neighbouring countries. 
 
However the federal government has been looking into ways to change this, last year suggesting a 100 million franc pot to help cantons provide childcare subsidies to parents.