Designing Your Future

Carve a path to your career success with a growth mindset and productivity-first approach.

by Adobe Communications Team

posted on 11-05-2018

Two in five baby boomers stayed with their employer for 20 years or more — and nearly one in five stuck it out for 30-plus years. But their millennial children and grandchildren? Not so much. These 20- and 30-somethings will have, on average, 15 to 20 jobs in their lifetime — five by the time they’re 35.

Today, younger workers are looking for something that syncs with their goals and their lifestyles — and they aren’t alone. More and more, a “successful” career path means putting the professional in control of his or her own destiny.

This topic was core to the first annual Adobe for All Summit. This conference, focused on advancing the company’s diversity and inclusion, included sessions to help employees from all backgrounds accelerate their career growth. The overriding message: it’s essential to learn diverse soft skills to pivot and perform in this new landscape — where employees often can’t anticipate their next step because it’s still evolving, or, in some cases, doesn’t exist just yet. Having the right mindset, level of focus, and connections make workers more likely to be promoted into leadership roles and, even before that, can help professionals frame their paths and figure out how to pursue career goals.

#1. Cultivate a growth mindset

One important way to amp up your impact and be successful is to employ a growth mindset.

“A growth mindset impacts how we deal with challenges,” says Rachel Herter, senior consultant at Paradigm. “Do we see challenges as a sign we maybe don’t have what it takes to be successful? Do we feel threatened? Or do we think, ‘This is a learning moment, this is just one point in time — I can get past this and get better?’”

A growth mindset, Rachel notes, is simply the belief that we can fundamentally improve. However, this belief leads to important behaviors, such as hard work, confronting setbacks, and learning as challenges arise. Having a growth mindset, then, helps workers excel in challenging environments by increasing resilience and enabling better performance. To get here, cultivating a growth footing involves seeking out feedback, setting big goals, and sticking with things when they get hard.

“A fixed mindset is the belief that things like our abilities, talents, and intelligence are fixed traits, like height or eye color,” Rachel says. “When you have more of a fixed mindset, you believe that you can learn new things, but can’t fundamentally change these innate traits.”

Research shows people who have a growth mindset perform better — they take on more challenging work, set loftier goals for themselves, and learn from mistakes,” she says. “These behaviors are especially important in challenging, dynamic situations where there may not be a road map for success.”

#2. Stay focused and productive in an always-on landscape

Texts are streaming in. Online messages are popping up. Phones are ringing. Emails are flooding your inbox — and the day hasn’t even started yet.

In today’s always-on professional environment, workers are busier than ever but are rarely given time to work — just 60 percent or less of an employee’s day is “productive.” Research shows the rest of the day is spent changing tasks every three minutes, checking email 36 times per hour, and enduring 31 hours of unproductive meetings each month. Quality work is meant to happen in the short windows between these tasks — and that’s a problem.

“That’s just not how the human brain works best. It’s not even how the human brain works at all,” says Sahar Yousef, a cognitive neuroscientist at University of California, Berkeley. “Being always on and hyperconnected means you end up not being able to truly focus and be productive when you have time because you’re completely drained.”

This work arrangement prevents people from thriving. “We thrive when we oscillate between intense periods of focus and production and then rest and renew,” Sahar says. “And then we come back and we’re focused and productive again, and then we go back and rest and renew.”

Beyond this, Sahar recommends keeping a clean workspace, turning cell phone and computer notifications off when you’re in a state of focused work and productivity, and wearing noise cancelling headphones in an open-plan environment. Also, plan to carve out time each day based on when you’re most mentally clear and energetic — protecting these peak performance hours on your calendar when you won’t have meetings and you’re not in reactive mode answering messages during is a big game-changer for most folks.

Lastly, Sahar says, “unplug” when you are and when you are not in periods of focused productivity. “Set expectations with your team and with your coworkers that ‘I will be off the grid for the next two hours,’” she says.

While this may feel extreme, managing expectations and being clear about your productivity parameters is a win for all sides. “According to our research, if you can protect a few hours a day when you’re at your best to get through your most high-value work, you will do at least 20 percent more with each day and each week, which means you absolutely will be more productive but you’ll also feel better,” Sahar says. “You’ll actually rest because you won’t have that need to jump back online at the end of the day because you didn’t finish the important tasks.”

#3. Continually leverage your relationships for insights and knowledge

Within these environments, connection is always front and center — and that naturally leads to the notion of networking and creating those critical workplace relationships.

“Having a network allows you to have access to different information, resources, and knowledge,” says Angela Szymusiak, a principal in talent development at Adobe and Adobe for All presenter. “This allows you to get the insight and perspectives to continue to grow, especially as the landscape continues to evolve.”

That said, building a network doesn’t necessarily mean having formal mentoring relationships in place. Angela believes “informal mentoring” is optimal for today’s unpredictable, ambiguous workplaces. Anchored in short, informational interviews, these relationships enable employees to learn more about different roles, different departments, and different paths firsthand, without committing to a time-intensive mentorship relationship. These “just in time” conversations can aim to answer specific questions when you have them.

Connections can be aligned to any consideration, objective, or goal, from whether you should get an MBA, to preparing for a leadership role to, potentially, changing careers or paths.

“Informal mentoring is, I think, much more valuable and relevant in a world that changes so quickly, because nobody’s tied to that relationship,” she says. “It comes down to really having relationships that you can tap into to gain perspective, insights, encouragement, support — all the things that are really valuable when you’re driving your career.”

Soft skills build successful careers

Each of these strategies and soft skills shares a common thread — the employee is at the center of his or her own unique story. Together, these soft skills can help you design a career path and a meaningful future that challenges you, inspires growth and learning, and helps you be productive and connected — no matter where your specific path leads.

It’s a mindset and approach that’s helped Angela realize her own goals. “Every few years I take inventory of what I love and don’t love about my current job,” she says. “I ask myself what I would like to be doing more of, and what strengths I want to utilize more. This has really guided me throughout my career and helped me ensure I’m doing more of what I love, and more of what I’m good at.”

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Topics: Community, Diversity & Inclusion, Future of Work