The meaning of proactive
Proactive can be defined as; “(of a person or action) creating or controlling a situation rather than just responding to it after it has happened.” So to me this doesn’t mean waiting for something to be done or expecting someone to do it for you, as you’re not taking hold of the situation or contributing to it. You’re passively observing and not getting involved in the situation.
A situation in this context is a circumstance that is relevant to you. Which could be a myriad of things like careers, jobs, social activities, health, hobbies etc. Hopefully you can see what I am alluding to. To me it's about listening to your environment and using your intuition and responding carefully with precision. Like evolution, it can be viewed as the survival of the fittest that succeeds.
Proactivity in practice
Basing this situation on my whole experience of developing my career, below are some examples of how I be proactive that have led to successful outcomes and other opportunities.
- Desire to help people and make it known
- Follow up anything discussed or set in tasks and projects
- Showing initiative by asking to take additional work/responsibilities on
- Ask to be involved in specific tasks and meetings
- Ask for specific training or qualifications
- Comment on others work – suggest ideas, ask to use it, develop it further
- See an idea then analyse and evaluate how you can use it and apply it to your purposes
- Publish and promote your work through blogs, social media and websites
- Network at events – ask others what they do and decide how you can use their expertise
- Building rapport up before applying for jobs
- Offer to collaborate if unsuccessful after a job (if appropriate)
- Just ask for what you want – it can only be a yes or no, and if it's a no, look for alternatives
I am extremely enthusiastic in getting involved in anything that increases my knowledge and skills and meeting and collaborating with new people. Which is an excellent starting point in being ready, willing and able to be lead on your own proactivity. You just need to know what you want, and be willing to put a significant amount of effort in and do things that fall in line of your direction, just like setting goals. As I frequently say "it depends how much you want something that determines the effort you put in." The way I feel about my own proactivity is like giving me a platform (creativity) and I’ll perform (demonstration). But this comes with a certain amount of confidence which grows over time (trust me I've lived it). However, you can build on this by doing the following that I did throughout my career:
- Be true and authentic to yourself
- Be ready and willing to be productive
- Intend on doing an outstanding job
- Give to receive – you must first give to enable receiving
- Be helpful and supportive – you are a resource
- Be quick to learn and search for information instantly
- Give a solution not a problem. Solve problems and remember how you resolved them
- Know your audience; people and places and their motivations and objectives
- Identify gaps where improvements can be made
- Awareness of what (or could) needs to be done in the workplace
- Awareness of boundaries of what you can and not work to – determines freedom and creativity
- Respond appropriately and positively to situations and change
- Be creative, flexible, open and honest
- Keep up to date with what others do – sourcing latest information and good practice
- Curate relevant knowledge, skills, resources, people and places
- Know your own abilities and have resources at hand
- Be ready to provide/share your own expertise (knowledge, skills, experience) and resources to others information
- Know who you work best with – find/choose mutual creative and positive energy to bounce off
- Make your voice or any creations stand out – it needs to reflect you and people need to see it’s from you
- Make sure your contributions are visible and evidenced (or someone will take credit for them)
- Avoid being over dominant – allow others to contribute
- Connect others up – initiate/mediate a professional relationship
Why be proactive?
To date being proactive pays off very well, especially in my experience with developing my career. When an opportunity comes up, do think about it, but do say yes. If you don’t have the knowledge or skills at the time, you will during it, depending how interested you are in it. If it’s something you want everything will fall into place. Get involved in things to keep relevant and current. The more you positively put yourself out there other opportunities will arise. It’s an ever ending chain of events that surround the saying of ‘the more you put in, the more you get out’. Act upon what you are experiencing, lead and be productive in your actions and welcome new opportunities.
Proactivity with caution
Whilst all of this is positive and elevates your professionalism, remember to be proactive in moderation! You may find yourself doing and thinking too much or appearing too keen, which can be bad for your mental health. Don't let it take over you – you have a life to live and experience alongside this, so stay happy and positive.