Initiative can seem like a throwaway line in résumés and cover letters. What it really boils down to is someone employers want to have in their corner who is willing to take charge of a situation.
Demonstrating initiative isn’t limited to the workforce though. Whether you are studying at university, preparing for a new job or simply going about your everyday life, there’s no harm in taking things head on.
Group projects at university offer the perfect opportunity to hone your skills. Rather than let the bulk of the workload fall on one or two individuals’ shoulders, take an active, hands-on approach by delegating tasks to different members of the team.
Aside from being a good way to impress tutors, this is a valuable experience to reference in your résumé as an example of leadership or project management. These ‘soft’ skills are vital in a job market where employers are looking for more than qualifications.
Finding a job
You can show initiative even before starting a job, with the interview process serving as a chance to put your best foot forward. By asking specific questions about the position you are applying for and the direction the company is heading in, you are affirming your interest in the role and the organisation.
Upskilling is another way to enhance career prospects. By taking a short online course or becoming more proficient at a specific program, you are taking it upon yourself to boost your employability prospects.
When you do enter the workforce, initiative can be the difference between career progression and remaining in the same position for an extended period. You are unlikely to earn a promotion by doing the bare minimum and watching the clock all day, so getting on the front foot is the best option for moving up the corporate ladder.
Whether its pitching a new idea, offering to lead a team meeting or asking to assist with an important project, simply putting yourself out there is a step in the right direction. It won’t necessarily have any immediate results but it just may change your employer’s perception of you for the better.
Taking initiative outside of educational and professional confines can be equally rewarding. Volunteering at a homeless shelter or community group, or applying for a leadership position at a sporting club are excellent ways to highlight an enterprising attitude, and could add that little bit of x-factor that pushes your résumé to the front of the pack.
Not only will these experiences boost your employability, they help develop a range of other important characteristics including commitment, work ethic and selflessness. After all, you are working for free!