Even as a young professional in my field, I’ve heard the phrase “because we’ve always done it that way” more times than I can count. And every single time I’ve heard it, I’ve rolled my eyes. I’m working on the attitude part of things - because really how professional is the acclaimed eye roll? - but so far I haven’t given up the desire to make every effort better than the one that was made before.
In reality, I’ve probably been lucky enough to work with people who push the envelope just as many times as I’ve been frustrated with colleagues that live in a state of content, and I think a 50/50 split has helped me grow. There are people who I’ve worked with to improve any and all aspects of our work, and I’ve been a part of efforts to help bring others along for the ride.
I learned early in my career that I would prefer to be in the group that works towards positive change, rather than the group that settles for a strategy that has worked in the past. For this reason, I’m that “millennial” who is often asking for a way to do things better, even when I think I did something well the first time. As an SID at a large division school, I take pride in my work, but I also take pride in constantly working to be better than I was yesterday.
Being happy with your efforts and constantly striving to be better can be a delicate balance, so here are a few ways I’ve learned over the years to keep a growth mindset.
Accept that growth is a positive thing. As a competitive person, I always want to be the best, even if being the best means beating myself. Accepting a growth-mindset means accepting that you aren’t always the best at something - or anything - and is essential to the process. You can’t expect to grow if you already think you are great at everything, and you certainly don't want to look at yourself in 20 years and realize that you’re still the same person you were 20 years ago.
Ask for help. I didn’t realize how much of a rut I was stuck in until I asked for a new responsibility at work. Learning a new skill was challenging but all the more exciting because it gave me a renewed sense of purpose. I had been asking my supervisor for a while if there was an opportunity to take on a new task and learn something different, but I had no idea how exciting it would be to actually do something new.
Ask your coaches what they think. They weren’t born yesterday and their perspective will be different than yours, which makes them a great sounding board. I’m lucky to work with two coaches who are appreciative of my efforts but are also open to new ideas and better ways of promoting our programs. For this reason, they are often my greatest critics, even when they aren’t trying to be critical. I love this part of our relationship and fiercely enjoy their hearing their views on ways to be better, because I know we’re all working toward the same goal.
Be consistent. This goes along with point number one in that you need to totally accept a growth mindset, but consistency is key. You can’t dedicate yourself to your personal and professional growth in the month of November but be too busy to do so in December. If you ask for new a new responsibility but decide it’s not the right time, then is someone going to be excited to help you grow next time you ask? Probably not. It’s essential that you stay committed to these ideals if you truly want to grow and be better.
There are obviously exceptions to these rules under certain circumstances, but the ideals themselves are pretty straight forward. If you want to grow as a professional, you’re going to have to work. But if you’re in this profession, you’re probably no stranger to work any way, so why not make the most of it?