The graduate mindset

Why is the graduate mindset so important for career transition?

In this article Dr Jodi O’Dell discusses the graduate mindset, specifically within a veterinary environment.

There is a lack of real understanding around what is meant by mindset, and, why mindset is so relevant within a work and development context. As such being able to define mindset is important.

For me, mindset can be defined as ‘the attitudes and beliefs that underpin behaviour’.  This can be context and person specific. Context specific, in that mindset can differ depending on the context, or challenge faced. Person specific, in that mindset will differ depending on our individual experiences.

Encouragingly, therefore, mindset is something that we can change, influence and shape. In terms of development and career transition, this is very relevant, especially if we want to influence a different outcome, reaction or response.

“mindset is something that we can change, influence and shape”

The graduate mindset and impact

When considering the role that mindset plays in the graduate context, this is particularly relevant for career transition and preparing graduates for life after study.

Establishing the right mindset, which manages expectations around the reality of working life, is key.

The graduate dilemma within the veterinary profession is a good example to explore.   Evidence suggests that there is an alarming number of vets who either leave the profession within 5 years of qualifying, or with the luxury of hindsight, would have chosen a different career. Inevitably, a similar picture exists across other clinical professions and beyond.

How and why therefore, does graduate mindset underpin career transition?

Continuing with the example of graduate vets, the challenge students face is quite stark. During university years, clinical training exposes student vets to the latest surgical techniques using state of the art equipment. This sets high expectations.

In sharp contrast, the reality of a first work placement can be far less glamorous. Often junior vets may find themselves in a small practice, possibly in a remote part of the country, or industrial park, administering routine vaccinations to cats and dogs. The early promise of a pioneering career is replaced with the routine reality of working life. This can quickly lead to disillusionment, followed by disengagement.

“The early promise of a pioneering career is replaced with the routine reality of working life”

For the veterinary profession and educational institutions alike, their challenge is to support students to make a smooth transition from university to work.

In part, the solution resides in understanding the graduate mindset. More specifically, influencing a more open, positive mindset. This can create the agility and flexibility required to cope with change and transition.

In terms of managing expectations, research suggests that it is important to manage ‘cognitive dissonance’. This involves bridging the gap between the reality of our experience and unrealistic expectations that might exist. A process which helps avoid disillusionment and disengagement. This can be achieved through appropriate reflection using guided goal setting techniques and cognitive behavioural processes.

Supporting a shift in graduate mindset is a very important step to help prepare students for working life. This would equip them with the psychological mindset to cope with change, leading to a more satisfying and fulfilling career.

Dr Jodi O’Dell is the founder of the Engage toolset which assesses mindset, provides a robust set of personal development interventions and measures impact over time. To discuss how Engage can help you support, grow and develop graduate mindset, please contact us here.

(C) Engage Coach International 2017. Author Dr Jodi O’Dell. 2nd May 2017.