What is proactivity or being proactive (proactive behavior) on the job?
A demonstration of proactivity involves seizing an initiative ahead of a situation making a negative turn. In other words, it is a behavior that prevents a crisis. Such behavior allows organizations to solve problems in their initial stages on their terms and at a lower cost.
This is exactly the opposite of reactive behavior or adjusting behavior when you deal with an already developed situation looking for a solution within an existing frame of limitations.
Proactive behavior means taking control of the situation. If you have analytical thinking skills and identify a future problem, having a proactive approach is the next step. The proactive behavior of employees empowers organizations.
A proactive person takes responsibility and acts instead of looking for excuses in circumstances or other people. Such a person is usually perseverant, courageous, and aware of his choices regardless of the situation. A proactive person also takes time to prepare for a situation that might arise.
As the saying goes, “If you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail.”
The perfect example to illustrate a proactive person would be Captain Sully Sullenberger and the landing of flight 1549 into the Hudson River. Just after takeoff, the pilot ran into a flock of geese that resulted in a loss of both engines.
Instead of following the procedure and returning to LaGuardia, Sully concluded that there was no time and the plane could not make it back, so he landed it into the river, saving the life of all souls on board.
During the hearings, the commission demonstrated using a computer simulation that he could have made it safely to the airport, but when they put pilots in the simulator, nobody landed the plane successfully.
Sully took responsibility and acted. But he was also prepared to act. Here is a quote: “One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years, I've been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience, education, and training. And on January 15, the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.“
Why is proactivity important on your resume?
Employers value proactive employees because they help them prevent disasters. Proactive behavior increases organizational effectiveness. This is especially valued in today's ever more decentralizing work environment.
Companies with policies that encourage self-initiative usually need much less surveillance, which also reduces costs and increases results. Such companies could usually offer a very good work environment and incentives, but they will also look for the right candidate to fill the position.
Simply put, if you want to be employed by one of these companies and enjoy what they have to offer, you have to convince them that you are a proactive person through your resume.
Proactivity is also very important when you work online or in a network of small teams that are located in different places. Most managerial or creative positions as well as the jobs in the IT, medical, security, and other critical sectors require a certain degree of proactive behavior.
What traits, skills, and abilities help you demonstrate proactivity on your resume?
- Personal initiative: this quality is best demonstrated through a self-starting approach and going beyond the job requirements (corporate citizenship). This may be as simple as stepping in and helping someone with the jammed printer before he or she asks for help.
- Future-focused: you have to be able to analyze what went wrong and then look into the future and keep going. Take responsibility, acknowledge, learn from your mistakes and get back on track to compensate for them.
- Goal-oriented: You must be able to set specific goals for the future and measure results. Be specific about your expectations. Most importantly, set realistic goals that are attainable and adequate for the situation. Working with To-do lists in writing is a clear sign of a proactive person. Micromanagement is not needed for these employees. Show that you can prioritize.
- Taking charge: many organizations look for people who will change the status quo creating more efficient structures. To improve and innovate, companies use functional change fueled by constructive efforts.
- Desire for feedback: as a proactive individual you will need feedback to produce and achieve the goals that you set. If you want to get your job done, you will need to observe or directly ask for feedback
- Stress coping: to cope with stress proactively, you need to take action before certain stressful events unfold, thus resulting in less stress. Early actions help modify future situations to be more favorable to you in terms of anxiety and stress.
- Time management and Planning: Plan ahead of time and try not to waste time. Always think about tomorrow and what you can do today to get a better outcome tomorrow.
- Engagement: you will not find proactive people just sitting around and watching. Always try to help and approach a problem immediately.
- Foresight and Prevention: Use observation to anticipate and identify problems. Then use imagination and play with possible outcomes in your mind. Unplanned events must be avoided at all costs, or the cost will be high.
How to demonstrate strong proactive behavior on your resume
- If you made an impact, make sure to include it on your resume. Use keywords such as “started”, “initiated”, “drove”, “led”;
- Indicate roles that you created. If you defined a new role within your organization and created the structure to support it, then this is a strong sign that you are a proactive person;
- Include projects within the organization that you had to complete autonomously, or any side projects that you have and could help your case;
- List any additional courses that might be useful in case of an unexpected situation on the job, no matter how rare it could be. Remember Sully and his “deposits in the bank of education and training”;
- Describe a stressful situation and what steps you took to overcome it;
- List any innovation and improvements you initiated and fulfilled;
- Include a situation where you took control instead of waiting for the events to develop;
- Give proof of problem anticipation and prevention
- List any techniques of crisis management that you applied and how they helped you to avoid or contain damages
Before you emphasize proactivity, make sure to read through the job description, job specification, and all the information on the corporate culture and the company itself you can get.
Some positions require more emphasis on job proficiency and the employer expects fulfillment of predictable requirements.
There are times when you will have to adapt to follow changes that are initiated by other team members. Before you offer help or just start helping, you need to correctly assess the situation and all persons involved and make sure your help will be appreciated.
Sometimes being proactive can be annoying or obnoxious. You could also be perceived as pushing too hard. You need to choose wisely when to be a leader and when to be a follower.
Remember the words of Duke Leto Atreides “A great man doesn't seek to lead, he's called to it.”
Below you will find relevant examples that will help you start:
Example 1: Show your Proactivity in your experience bullet points