It doesn’t matter whether you are starting an apprenticeship, continuing in college, or heading out to work, there is one thing that your bosses or teachers will like to see – an ability to think for yourself. Independence, thinking on your feet, or self-efficacy - call it what you will, but it all boils down to the same thing – showing that you can take responsibility and be trusted too!
While it is good to work hard, put in the effort, and follow instructions, when it comes to getting things done, it is important to show that you can act on your own when needed. Being able to take responsibility is the sign of a leader rather than a follower. It marks you out as the sort of person who is not afraid to take responsibility and can be depended on to make the right choices and get things done when necessary – all without having to be constantly told what to do.
Those that get ahead tend to have these traits and are able to demonstrate them day-to-day. Being able to spot and react to problems and situations is admired by employers who may not have the time or inclination to constantly tell you what to do. Which employee do you think is better – the one who can find something that needs doing or spot a problem and react, or the one who just sits there waiting for instructions?
In fact, the Harvard Grant Study in the U.S. – which, at 75 years and counting, is the longest-running study of people – notes that those who are able to get on and do chores are those who tend to get ahead in life.
While your grades and experience matter, ultimately what will get you ahead will be showing that you can roll up your sleeves and get stuck in. Getting involved will also offer you a good chance to meet other people and build up your network.
From self-made millionaires to those who work their way up to the top in a business or company, they will all tend to share an ability to get the job done, to work hard, and to work under their own steam - however, there is a word of warning needed here too!
While using your initiative and showing that you can think on your feet is a good thing, you have to know your limits. If you are just beginning your training as a nurse, for example, it may not be the best time to start taking too much initiative (“stand back, I’ve got this!”). However, spotting where someone needs help, even with the smallest things, can make a real difference to how you are seen at college or in work.
If you can show yourself to be aware, ready to help get things done (even if it’s not always ‘your job’), and able to take responsibility for your own work, you will mark yourself out as valuable – even if you decide to switch careers. Lying somewhere between soft skills and attitude, self-efficacy will push you further in your life than even good grades can.
There is a saying that ‘hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard,’ and that is certainly part of this. Lazy talent is wasted talent, but hard work can make up for any shortfalls you may have, and being dependable on your own, willing to work as a team, and showing that you can take responsibility is a good route towards promotion right throughout your working life. Think of it as positive marketing for you, as if you were you own personal business!
With employers complaining that young people don’t seem ‘work ready,’ or that they need constant guidance, showing that you can be relied upon will push you ahead of the pack. Look for opportunities to prove your worth, use your initiative, and get involved – just know your limits and don’t take on more than you can handle!