Can the Power of Zen help you find a job? Or Recruit great Talent?

“In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind, there are few.” – Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Master

My journey began at last month’s Brighton Summit, where Jens Knoop, the visionary behind Knoops Chocolate, shared wisdom that caught my attention (and it wasn’t just the fact that there is a shop dedicated to selling hot chocolate that I didn’t even know existed): applying Zen and the Beginner’s Mind to business. This was new to me, but something resonated with the team, so I have done some digging.

The term “beginner’s mind” originates from Zen philosophy and is rooted in the concept of Shoshin, meaning to have an open mind and look at life from a fresh perspective, free from the influence of the past or speculation about the future.

At first, I was sceptical. Job hunting and recruitment is fast paced and frenetic, so the principles of Zen philosophy and the “beginner’s mind” seemed like an unlikely fit. However, something started to make sense. Developing a sense of calm and clarity can make fast-paced and complex applications, interviews, and decision-making, easier to navigate.

Embracing the “beginner’s mind”.

Think of this approach as a gateway to creativity and flexibility. In business, we strive to create a work environment built on trust, awareness, and openness, promoting a culture of innovation. Having the “beginner’s mind” enables us to embrace curiosity and openness. It teaches us to change our fixed mindset to a growth mindset, fostering enthusiasm, leading to new solutions and breakthroughs.

Most of us tend to develop comfort zones, which can restrict our growth. When you listen with the purpose of truly understanding what someone is communicating, you gain a fresh perspective on even the most familiar subjects.

Looking for a job: unleash your curiosity.

If you are looking for a job, the “beginner’s mind” encourages you to ask questions that dig deeper to understand how things truly work. Treat each opportunity as unique; rather than relying on past experiences, approach each one with a sense of adventure and curiosity. Being inquisitive, thinking with an open mind, and removing prejudgments will result in better experiences and reduce disappointment.

Imagine entering an interview room with an open heart, devoid of prejudgement or preconceived ideas. You listen more attentively, respond more authentically, and forge a genuine connection with the interviewer – which just might help you get the job.

Interviewing: discover hidden potential.

If you are interviewing, the “beginner’s mind” helps you to recognise potential and talent you might have otherwise overlooked. Channel the willingness to learn about the person you are interviewing. Approach each candidate with the desire to understand their unique skills and aspirations, fostering a more inclusive and innovative approach. Resist the temptation to judge based on the CV alone (one of my pet peeves!). Look beyond the qualifications of the person and what they can do.

5 steps to adopt the “beginners mind”:

I know it sounds complex but trust me, with these 5 steps, you can start your journey towards embracing the “beginner’s mind”. Remember, it takes just 2 months to build a habit, so if you start now, it’ll be a no-brainer by the New Year.

  1. Slow down, be present in the moment, and fully engage with each experience.
  2. Free your mind of judgment and be open to new possibilities.
  3. Question everything and challenge assumptions.
  4. Embrace more than one perspective (yes…no…maybe).
  5. Find peace in the idea of not knowing. Not having all the answers is a part of growth.

Embracing Zen and the “beginner’s mind” when hunting for jobs or interviewing isn’t without its challenges. Old habits die hard, and breaking free from preconceived notions can be difficult. However, the rewards are worth the effort. Greater openness, objectivity, and more authentic connections are all possible outcomes.

So, the next time you find yourself job searching or interviewing, remember the wisdom of Zen and the “beginner’s mind”.

Approach each moment as if it were your first – with open eyes, an open heart, and a world of possibilities awaiting. And we highly recommend doing this whilst enjoying a lovely cup of hot chocolate!