When it comes to getting a job and keeping a job, which is more critical, your skill set or your mindset?

“Nothing is impossible. The word itself says ‘I’m Possible!'”

– Audrey Hepburn

First, let’s get on the same page about definitions since jargon often gets in the way when we’re seeking clarity. Skills are your capabilities. They are what you have learned to do. Mindset is about belief systems. You develop your skill set, but you choose your mindset.

Your mindset is the lens through which you see and navigate the world based on what you think and believe.

A skill is an ability you learn. The workplace jargon is a competence or core competence that you have developed often to an accepted standard. Remember your performance review? That’s all about your skills.

And here is a fundamental truth: You can have a rich skill set and a poor mindset and find yourself stuck. However, if you have a strong mindset, you can continually develop your skill set. 

But that’s not where the story ends.

Mindset Matters.

Consider this. When it comes to creative thinking, innovation, creating something from scratch, intuition, dealing with setbacks, change, challenges and adversity, having the right mindset is the key. Your mindset and ability to deal with adversity plays an enormous part in how you cope with any of these scenarios. If your mindset is defeatist, you will struggle.

If you are serious about innovation and growth, then it is critical that the focus be on those who demonstrate the natural mindset to think creatively and disruptively.

So what about skills?

Mindsets vs. Skill Sets.

Skills are obviously very important. You always want to make sure that the person you are hiring can perform the job. But mindset is a different animal. You are more likely to get or keep a job because of your mindsets rather than skills alone.

Your skills might get your foot in the door but even if you only have the bare necessities for the job, you might still get the job by demonstrating that you are a willing and fast learner – that you have a growth mindset. You can’t teach people to want to improve themselves. That’s why having the right mindset in an interview, gives you an advantage over your competition.

That’s why if you were to ask most employers what they would value most – someone having the right skills or someone having the right mindset – I bet most would answer mindset.

Employers are hiring for mindsets and training for skill.

But in many cases we say we want mindset but only screen for skill set.

So are skills less important?

Skills are the means by which we cultivate mindsets. 

What have we learned so far? We’ve learned that mindsets are more of an innate part of us, whereas skills are not necessarily fundamental to our human experience.

But if we look at skills, or clusters of skills such as Communication Skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing, presenting) or Social Skills (cooperation, responsibility, respect, conflict management) or Self-Management Skills (self-regulation, organization, time management, personal behavior) or Thinking Skills (analysis, synthesis, comprehension, metacognition) and so on, we see that many of these skills are crucial parts of the human experience, that could well be thought of as a mindset. We see that these skills are needed to cultivate the right mindsets of appreciation, empathy, enthusiasm, integrity, tolerance, optimism, objectivity, positivity, abundance and so on.  

A final word…

In the final analysis therefore, I would argue that the debate between mindset and skill set is a misguided one. You need both to succeed. The question is where you as an individual need to place the emphasis based on your own self understanding.

I believe that only if we make room for and honor the necessity for both, mindset and skill set, will we create a culture of empathy, understanding, and abundance.

Good luck.

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©2021 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A., CPCC

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