Centred Content

Dear Joanna,

I’m a job seeker who is participating in Reena’s virtual job search workshop program. I’m looking for work as a dog daycare attendant and will be ready to go to work in person once I’m vaccinated. I’ve applied for a ton of jobs online, but haven’t received a phone or virtual job interview. My Reena job coach has been stressing the need to increase my efforts with my job search on my own – to take initiative – as it’s an important skill to have on the job as well. What does this skill mean?

Signed: Initiative on the Job

Centred Content

Dear Initiative,

The most common definition of taking initiative is that you find out what you need to know and do for to be a successful employee and then you act on this without being told. It’s also known as self-motivation, resourcefulness, inventiveness, imagination, ingenuity, originality, creativity, drive, dynamism, ambition, motivation, spirit, and energy.  Your job coach is right on.  Initiative has become increasingly important in today’s workplace. Employers want employees  who can think on their feet and take action without waiting for someone to tell them what to do.

Here are some ways to develop initiative in your job search and at your workplace that are presented by https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/initiative.htm

  1. Develop a career / employment action plan. Research has shown that individuals who make long-term career plans are more likely to take initiative. Being a professional who has goals is much more likely to show initiative at work, especially when the action or decision will help them with their job. It is also important to understand your role,  your team, and your organization’s culture so that you know what you need to learn and what steps you need to take to be a successful employee and team player.
  2. Build Self-confidence. It takes one to have a strong sense of self and having the courage to show initiative. How confident would you say you are? If you want to build your self-confidence, set small goals so you can achieve some quick wins. Push yourself to do positive things that you would otherwise be too afraid to do. This can help you build your self-confidence, and help you build the courage to accomplish bigger, scarier tasks on the job later on by taking initiative.
  3. Spot opportunities and potential areas to improve. Often, people who show initiative do so by spotting and acting on opportunities that their colleagues or managers have not noticed.  Often they are curious about their organization and how it works, and they keep their minds open to new ideas and new possibilities. To spot opportunities, consider the following:  What small problems do we have that could grow into bigger problems?  What slows our work or makes it more difficult? What are the goals of my department and how can I help achieve them? For example, if my job is a dog walker, how many dogs can I take to the part at one time on my own as a new employee? How can I achieve the number of dogs to walk required by my boss?  Get into the habit of looking for these things. And if you make a mistake, take initiative and let your boss know as soon as possible – don’t ignore the mistake. And think on your own on  how you can fix the problem right away. And if you need to ask for help, do so. Consider the mistake as a learning opportunity.
  4. Check out your ideas. Do your homework/research to make sure the idea will be good for the company. The more you research and consider your idea(s), the higher your chances of success will be improved.
  5. Be Persistent! Persistence is the art of moving forward even when you encounter difficulty or a standstill. Don’t give up. Individuals who show initiative often encounter difficulties and setbacks along the way. Keep learning and keep being curious by asking questions to better perform your job and to better understand your team and the company culture.
  6. Appropriate vs Inappropriate – Find Balance. Although it is important to take initiative, it’s just as important to be wise in the way that you use it. In some situations, it may be inappropriate to take initiative, and people who generate to much extra work for people can upset others. Just make sure you consider what it is you decide to take initiative in, and how this will impact others. Keep in mind, if the result is going to benefit my team or not. Identify when it is appropriate to take initiative from the following: a) The printer has no paper. Should you refill it? b) You hear that your boss needs extra help in an area you are not familiar with. Should  you take initiative? c)  You notice that the shelves at the store you work at have missing items and some items you cannot read the labels because they are disorganized. Should you find the missing items in the back and reorganize the display even though you do not work in that department?

Hope this helps. Good luck with your job search and refining your initiative skills!


To submit your questions and comments to this column IN CONFIDENCE, please email jsamuels@reena.org