Let’s face it; nobody wants to be labelled the office ‘eager beaver’. You know, the one who loves to volunteer for coffee runs, that stays an extra hour to polish reports and uses their lunch break to fix the photocopier?
But while it’s easy to poke fun of the eager beaver’s antics and wonder where they get the motivation from, we can actually learn a thing or two from the person who’s willing to go the extra mile for the good of the company.
So, if you’re itching to take initiative at work but don’t want to ruffle any feathers, here are a few quick and easy tips that can get your foot in the door and onto the career ladder.
1. Play to Your Strengths
Taking initiative in the workplace can sometimes be difficult, especially if you’re a new hire. After all, nobody wants to be accused of stepping on anyone’s shoes. But showing initiative doesn’t have to be a grand gesture to prove how superbly talented you are; it simply means going beyond your job description to help a colleague, your boss or even the company.
The easiest way to do this would be to know where your strengths lie and where you can use them. For example, if you’re an Excel whizz and noticed that the shared Google docs need sprucing, you can offer to organise them in your spare time.
2. Think Like the Owner
It’s easy to come in the office and not care about how much the company is spending. After all, you’re not a shareholder. And because you’re not earning millions like your boss, surely there’s nothing wrong with printing your side-gig project on the office printer. It’s not like you’re the one footing the electricity bill and paying for office supplies, anyway. Right?
Wrong. When you can’t treat the business as your own, you’ll have no chance of advancing and getting that promotion. Caring about what you do is the backbone of showing initiative and one way of doing that is thinking like an owner would.
Instead of seeing your boss as a money-hungry villain, try putting yourself in his or her shoes. How would you feel if someone you paid thought so little about the company you worked so hard to build? So, the next time you’re having a bad day and want to get back by leaving the computer on or the refrigerator door open – think about what a business owner would do and adjust your attitude from there.
3. Get to Know the People Around You
Although there’s essentially no harm in rocking up to work, clocking in your eight hours and going home. By doing so, you could be missing out on opportunities to form key relationships with your colleagues. After all, you do spend most of your waking life with these people!
By getting to know the people around you, you’ll feel more motivated about helping the company because you’ll feel personally connected to your colleagues. And you don’t have to be everyone’s new best friend just to do that. You’re not obligated to know how Jane from Accounting is handling the divorce or if Jim from Marketing really cheated on his partner– there’s a fine line between being snoopy and sincere.
So, next time you’re hanging out in the break-room or office kitchen, try putting your phone away and instead, ask how your colleagues are doing and start forming those vital bonds.
4. Help Bring in and Nurture New Talent
While it’s easy to hire just anybody, finding and recruiting, the right kind of employee is hard, especially if your company culture requires certain qualities that can’t be easily found. Which is why HR managers appreciate it when employees send potential candidates their way. By vouching for the applicant, you’re able to shorten the recruitment process and lessen the risks of hiring someone who may not fit well with the company’s culture or pass its standards.
5. Speak Up
There will come a time in your professional life where you will feel the need to speak up on a specific matter. Whether it be the current marketing structure, the lack of social media involvement or something as simple as your concern of personal hygiene around the office. But voicing out your opinion is certainly easier said than done.
Although it might seem difficult, there’s a way to speak your mind without coming off as rebellious or disrespectful; first, don’t confront your boss or colleague head on. Request for a meeting and let them know about your agenda beforehand as no one likes to feel like they’re being attacked. Second, make sure to practice what you need to say and always start on a positive note. Lastly, carefully weigh if what you’re recommending truly benefits the company or if it’s only helpful to a select few (will investing in a Nespresso Coffee Machine really triple the company’s ROI? We didn’t think so, either).
Speaking up to try and create change is always risky but doing so also has its rewards. Apart from showing your knack for problem-solving, it also indicates that you have what it takes to become a future leader.
6. Volunteer to Help Others
If you see a colleague drowning under a pile of paperwork and have extra time yourself, volunteer to lighten their load by offering them a helping hand. By doing so, not only do you strengthen teamwork within your own department, you also show that you’re ready to take on more responsibilities, which is an outstanding quality of a potential leader.
When helping others, however, it’s always a good rule of thumb not to toot your own horn. If they’re able to do a great job because you helped them, there’s no need to downplay their success by taking credit for it. In all likelihood, your manager or team leader already knows what you’ve done through your colleague anyway, so just let your actions speak for themselves.
7. Be the Office Cheerleader
Sometimes, taking initiative is as simple as being the person who orders coffee when everyone’s having a long day; or someone who cheers up a colleague when they’ve taken heat from the boss or a client. Trying to make other people’s day better (even when you’re having a horrible day yourself) is already doing more than what’s expected. It makes your colleagues feel less bad about themselves while motivating them to do better.
Initiative doesn’t always need to be self-motivated; it doesn’t always have to scream, ‘Hey! Look at me! I’m awesome!’ Sometimes, it takes the shape of small and kind gestures that make a world of difference to others and the company you work for.
We often think of our jobs as a means to live: we go to work, do what the boss wants, get paid, end of story. But if we took an honest look at our careers, we'll soon realise that it’s the people who go the extra mile that end up creating a lasting impact and finding fulfilment in the work that they do.
How did you show initiative in the workplace and how did it pay off? Let us know in the comment section below.