We can often confuse being independent with being able to do exactly what we want without answering to anyone. Whilst that might sound good, it isn’t what me mean and it certainly isn’t the skill employers are looking for. Being independent is about being able to manage yourself: taking initiative when required, knowing what needs to be done and doing it without a constant need to be reminded and taking ownership when things go wrong.
Having good independence skills is useful when you work alone but it is also a really valuable skill to develop as a team member too – a team is only as strong as its weakest member, everybody has to put in their own contributions and if one team member can’t do their part it can all fall apart very quickly.
So what are the first steps to improving your independence skills?
The first step on your journey to being more independent is to get organised. Managing yourself can start with managing your time and activities. Believe it or not the first sign of independence isn’t needing your mum to drop off your PE kit each week, being late for every meeting at work or consistently missing deadlines.
Think about how you schedule your day, week and month, what are the things you have to do and realistically how long do they take. When you are thinking about all of the things you have to do don’t forget any sports clubs, chores or appointments you have to keep as well as your projects and work too. An independent person will start to map out the best time to get all of these things done and will take ownership if the month, week or day starts to get too busy. Don’t forget to keep checking back, things don’t always go to plan, if you are part of a group work task and a team member lets you down or the project runs late you might need to rework your plan. How things looked at the start of the month will most likely change as the month goes on and more work or activities start to crop up.
Once you know what your day, week or month looks like you can start to not only take control but also take some initiative. That might be starting a project early, researching some new training techniques for a sports team or taking on additional tasks for a project or even outside of work school (maybe volunteering might be for you!)
You can take responsibility in two ways, firstly by agreeing to take responsibility of certain parts (or all) of a project. Show that you can independently lead a team, make sure all team members know what they are doing and that deadlines are met.
An independent person also takes responsibility of their own actions too, you can take credit and understand why things have gone well but you also acknowledge and own up when things have gone wrong – this is sometimes called being accountable.
Young Professional Challenge:
For this young professional challenge we will start small and plan out what you have to achieve today:
- What are all of the things you have to achieve today?
- How long will they take you?
- Is there anything that might get in the way of you achieving these tasks?
- Do you need anything from anyone else to get them done?
- What your key responsibilities are in each task
- What more you could do to take ownership or responsibility
- Where you might not meet a deadline, who needs to know
- The successes of each task