Do you want to get noticed by those you report to at work? Do you want to stand out among your peers and fast track your career goals? Then here is the one thing that you need to take at work in order to do that - initiative.
Initiative is defined in many ways but I like the two following quotes;
"There are three types of people in this world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened." - Mary Kay Ash, American businesswoman
"Initiative is doing the right thing without being told."
- Victor Hugo, French writer
Initiative is one of those qualities that will set you apart from your peers almost instantly. It does not matter where or what you do, being able to look around you and spot where you can take initiative and help out is invaluable. Taking initiative is considered one of those soft skills that is vital for career success and advancement. And don't let the term "soft skill" deceive you - your hard skills get you hired but your lack of soft skills will get you fired! Soft skills are crucial and of this set of skills taking initiative ranks near the top.
Research with employers in Canada indicates that by far the vast majority (over 80%) prefer to do their hiring and recruitment internally. One of the key skills that they are looking for are employees who take initiative or what is sometimes termed as "self-monitoring" the ability to perform your tasks without a great deal of supervision or no supervision at all.
Another way to describe initiative is simply by asking this question; do you only do what is required of you or do you look for ways to improve your work and align it with your employer's mission? I have used an effective technique in interviews to evaluate whether someone has the quality of taking the initiative; I will have candidates wait in a seating area before an interview and will leave a piece of trash in plain view on the floor. When I come out of the office to invite them in I will check to see if they have picked up that garbage and dropped it in the garbage bin. An oversimplification? Maybe, but I can almost guarantee that the people that take the time to notice and address a simple issue like that will also be the people who will notice other things more key to the company and either take action or bring it to the attention of management. I don't want employees who just put in their time and don't engage with what I hired them to do. Initiative is the kind of trait that is valuable in every organization and at any level.
I recall hearing a story of how Disney hired for initiative and how they use it to enhance the company mission and brand. It was borne out by one of the groups that provide daily room service in one of the many Disney hotels. In this story the son of the story teller had won a large "Woody" doll the previous day at the park. They went out the following morning and left the "Woody" doll on the unmade bed. When they came back this is what they found; the bed had been made and "Woody" had bee propped up on a pillow, with an open box of candy beside him, an open can of soda by one hand, the television remote by the other hand, and the television was on a children's cartoon show. It was magical and their family still talks about it to this day! Remember this was room service and that is the power of someone taking initiative!
Yes, sometimes companies don't make it easy or safe to feel like you can take initiative but that does not mean there are not lots of opportunities all around you. Practice developing an eye for those opportunities and don't be afraid to take a chance. Whether it is something you deem as menial or perhaps a more serious issue, if you see the chance to make a positive contribution to your company, take it.
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