Initiative forms part of your self management toolkit and is an important aspect of growing your young professional skills. Initiative is all about seeing the big picture and recognising the activities that you can get on with to move things forward.
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We covered the basics of initiative in your Young Professional test but let’s recap what it is and why it’s an important skill:
What is Initiative?
Initiative is the ability to be resourceful and work without always being told what to do. Noticing where the opportunities are to move things forward, get more experience or make things better.
Using your initiative may require you to bring in some other skills too; you might need to stay motivated, positive and be tenacious to really see opportunities and solutions. We love it when a plan comes together.
Why is initiative important?
People who show initiative demonstrate they can think for themselves and take action when necessary. Employers like to know that an employee can think a situation through and take action without always being asked. Using initiative can mean you spot ways to things more efficiently, that you are supporting teams better or taking opportunities to improve your skills! If the company is running better, you are progressing and the team are happy – everyone’s a winner!
What are the limits?
Sometimes it can read like that using your initiative means knowing, seeing and doing EVERYTHING! There are limits and with practise you will learn how this can work in different situations, with different people and how your initiative impacts other people.
Using your initiative can sometimes mean saying no to projects or asking for help and support. Make sure that you are clear in what you are taking on, there’s a reason initiative sits within self management! You will need to be organised and understand the time, skills and motivations you have to undertake new activities!
Volunteering for too many projects and letting your school work suffer or having no time to do your day job quickly goes from using your initiative to causing a problem.
How can you grow your initiative skills?
- Look for ways to simplify tasks and make things run more efficiently
- Reach out to colleagues and team members who need help.
- Think about problems that might crop up as well as the opportunities that might grow out of the activity
- Keep yourself organised: make sure you are on top of work and activities
- Know your plan, what are your ambitions? Do you need more practise writing essays? Or has your boss highlighted that the next stage of your development is to lead a team? – keep these in mind and look for opportunities to get involved and practise these skills.
The Initiative Scenario:
Jenny is doing a work placement and has been asked to write a newsletter for new customers whilst the marketing team are out at an event.
Jenny has written the newsletter but no one from the team is around to proof read it and check for errors. she’s printed it, read it aloud, taken a break, read it again and is confident that there are no errors.
The marketing manager has asked to see it before it goes out but has been delayed at the event.
Does Jenny show her initiative by sending that newsletter out anyway?
What do you think? Is pushing send the best use of Jenny’s initiative?
We don’t know enough about the situation in this example: is there a deadline? What are the consequences of not sending it? What are the consequences of sending it without anyone else seeing it? Does Jenny have all the tools to send the email even if it was the right thing to do?
This scenario give you a chance to consider all of the options available and to consider when initiative is and isn’t important.
There are many ways Jenny can show initiative, and levels to that initiative too:
- she can ask another colleague to read through the newsletter and double check for errors,
- Make sure the newsletter is pre-loaded into the system so it can be ready as soon as the marketing manager gets back
- Call and text the marketing manager to double check the urgency and ask for next steps
- Make sure the list of new clients is ready
- Make sure any other activities are ready to go too, is there any social media activity supporting the newsletter that Jenny can prepare
There are small steps in most examples where you can be using your initiative to make processes better for yourself and other people – it is about making sure you know what your responsibilities are but also being able to look at the bigger picture and see the next steps in the process and the activities you can do to make that the best it can be!