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Proactivity in tech: what it is and how to use it

The word "proactivity" often appears as a job requirement in the IT market, but what does it mean? Is being proactive an obligation or a choice? How can you assess your proactivity? How can you be proactive while maintaining work-life balance? In this article, EPAM Senior Project Administrator Sviatlana Siarheyeva answers these and other questions.

What is proactivity?

The Cambridge Dictionary defines “proactive” as "taking action by causing change and not only reacting to change when it happens." In simple terms, to be proactive, plan your strategy and act!

Today, an IT specialist is expected not only to perform their job carefully but also to actively suggest initiatives to help the business grow in a highly competitive environment.

Proactive actions are more likely to be effective and lead to the desired results when you can answer the following questions clearly:

  • Does the company need my proactivity at this time?
  • Am I choosing the correct strategy for proactive actions?
  • Can I be effectively proactive without causing a conflict of interest with colleagues?
  • Does the proactive goal align with my personal goals, values, and expertise?

Your task is not just to generate random ideas but also to implement them using your experience, skills, and strength. To maintain a balance between required tasks and proactivity, it is crucial to focus on discrete, specific goals, and clearly answer the above questions.

Being proactive does not mean constantly burdening yourself with additional tasks, participating in all initiatives, and still managing to perform your required duties. Effective proactivity involves balancing your personal interests and making an additional contribution to the business.

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How to assess your proactivity

Even routine daily tasks can be approached differently, with a more proactive mindset: examples include things such as carefully completing your assigned tasks so that they do not require revisions, thereby saving your time and your colleagues' time.

Proactivity means not only generating new ideas but also strategic thinking, albeit within your responsibilities. You don’t necessarily need to invent a new product from scratch if you are a tester. You can, however, collect statistics and conduct analysis, offer a solution to a problem or a process improvement, or highlight your contribution to the business — all of these are examples of proactivity.

If you are currently searching for an IT job, try to enhance your resume with specific facts from your previous work experience that demonstrate instances of you taking the initiative. Ask for recommendations from former colleagues: this is easily done using LinkedIn. It can be a big plus is if the recommendations highlight your efforts to perform your work qualitatively, and to develop and propose new ideas that were subsequently implemented.

If you already work in IT, it is useful to keep a journal of your achievements. At the end of each working day, note the proactive steps that you took — large or small. It is essential to do this every day, even if it seems that you only performed routine work and nothing new happened. Look for the meaning and usefulness in your actions, don’t devalue your work.

How can you blend proactivity and work-life balance?

The concept of proactivity seems to encourage “going above and beyond” in your work, taking on new responsibilities in addition to your assigned tasks. It is possible to take on many new responsibilities or try to perfect your work process, but if you think, "Am I taking on too much?" it may be time to take a break. It may also be time to refer to the last question from the above list.

Sometimes, work brings true pleasure, and we are ready to devote all our free time to it. This is not sustainable over a long period of time, though, and it can be a warning sign that burnout may be in your future. For optimal functioning at work and in your non-work life, you want to limit the amount of stress to which you subject yourself. Therefore, it is essential to create a favorable and balanced structure for yourself, in which there is room for productive work, pleasant and relaxing leisure, and time for family and household chores.

5 tips on how to effectively be proactive at work

  1. Think ahead.
  2. Act in a thoughtful and intentional way, do not waste your energy in vain.
  3. Develop a strategy and set goals. Make sure you can honestly answer the question: ”Why are you doing this?”
  4. Don’t betray yourself by engaging in efforts that do not align with your goals, values, and expertise. Doing so is more likely to lead to burnout and disappointment than success.
  5. Evaluate the environment both before and during your efforts to engage proactively. If you are trying to move forward and present initiatives, but you face push-back or condemnation in response, try to discuss your ideas with management. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed! If, however, the leaders do not support your initiatives and do not provide objective feedback, if they stifle instead of guiding, it is worth considering whether a change of job will bring you more satisfaction, and whether you can more effectively realize your potential in a new place.