SkillsAct4Vet – Training

Module 1 - Before the mobility

Unit 5: PROACTIVITY

Short definition

Acting in advance of a future situation, rather than just reacting.

Ability to seek opportunities, take the lead in improving current circumstances or creating new ones and persevere in bringing significant change. To be proactive means to act out of your own inspiration, perform tasks before they are required, invent new ways of doing things and accomplish different tasks or processes.

Difficulties to which this skill responds

Proactive skills are important to employers because they show your ability to think critically and take initiative. People who are proactive can work independently and take action without needing the help or approval of others.

During the work-placement abroad students may feel that the assigned tasks are too simple, or that the follow up they receive by their monitors is not continuous. Actually, opportunities will occasionally come by chance, and they are in an ideal situation to seek out challenges in day-to-day activities This is key for defining  a proactive attitude at work.

During the internship students usually do not take on a different role than the one that has been assigned since the beginning. They may assume that the tutor is not willing to assign more tasks, or make them more complex. However, if they ask for additional responsibility, there’s a good chance they will receive it.

Students may feel uncomfortable since they are out of their comfort zone in many aspects, but taking initiative may lead them to ‘get comfortable with being uncomfortable and be one step ahead’. It’s a powerful path to personal and professional growth.

Participating in a learning process outside one’s comfort zone, when being a good student is not usually enough to guarantee the best results, receiving comments and suggestions should not be taken personally. Some students may not be used to receiving constructive comments on their work. While expressing a feedback, the manager or tutor is not questioning their capabilities. On the contrary, a good feedback is usually key to reaching one’s complete potential. By training their proactivity, the students learn to appreciate feedbacks.

Language barrier is usually a challenging aspect during a mobility abroad, but it is proven that the lack of language skills can be compensated by a proactive attitude. When students ask for feedbacks or make an effort to listen and participate in discussions around them, they are usually perceived as more interested in the work. Everybody around, from the mentor to the manager, or even the host family, will make an extra effort in communication, and this will generate a better engagement and optimize the learning experience.

As the mobility experience may be like a ‘jump into the unknown’, and expectations can be different from reality, proactivity offers a useful tool when it comes to the ability to foresee potential obstacles in order to prevent problems, and to use a a positive attitude to work towards the change, and make an impact, rather than complaining.


Behavioral indicators

There are certain behavioral indicators, or behavioral patterns, that can help mobility students develop their proactivity:

  • Seeking stimuli, opportunities for improvement,
  • Spontaneously proposing ideas, observations, interpretations and solutions, also innovative ones, 
  • Involving yourself and others in extra efforts,
  • Identifying and using social resources,
  • Using information, advice, practical assistance and emotional support from others,
  • Envisioning success, anticipating future problems, planning on how to deal with them,
  • Applying initiation, reflection, planning and prevention as parts of your coping strategies.

Why is this skill important for mobility students and which sub-skills are associated with it

A proactive attitude allows students to face reality in a creative way, and is key to making the most of the experience abroad, whuch is usually full of surprises and unexpected events for the young learners.

If they have the resourses to act proactively in a given situation, and not only to react, they have better chances of overcoming the inevitable challenges of the experience.

A  proactive student  is:

  • A visionary; he/she sees what is still invisible. He/she is able to envision possible future scenarios, and to plan in advance,
  • An optimist; he/she trusts in their own abilities and envisions a future better than the present. He/she is able to formulate proactive questions: “What do I need to improve my present situation?”, “What should I learn to be better prepared?”,
  • A creative person, who envisions other possibilities and proposes alternative solutions,
  • A flexible person, who goes beyond the present, and quickly develops original ideas,
  • A person tolerant to frustration, which is like an emotional bomb ready to explode during short-term mobilities, as students’ emotions are usually exposed in such a new situation. It’s crucial that students learn to tolerate the obstacles on the way to their goals, and are trained to overcome frustration.

Video and Further readings:

1. The video shows what it means to be Proactive vs Reactive and how being proactive largely improves successful results:

2. The following articles are taken from Sharon K.Parker’s website. She is the director of the Centre for Transformative Work Design, and Professor of Management & Organisations in the Curtin Business School in Australia, and is researching, teaching, and consulting in the area of organizational behavior and work psychology.

The two following articles show what is proactivity and the different ways of being proactive:

https://sites.google.com/site/profsharonparker/proactivity-research/what-is-proactivity

https://sites.google.com/site/profsharonparker/proactivity-research/types-of-proactivity

The following article refers to a research carried on in 2012 about how a leader cultivates staff that makes thinks happen:

3. https://26e8811d-a-62cb3a1a-s-sites.googlegroups.com/site/profsharonparker/all-publication-files/Parkerwu_leading-for-proactivity_in-Day%282012%29.pdf?attachauth=ANoY7coaK1I7uCA09aGO8sDyqGrxCRpiYUqdlYbz_m7YaVM_WUfC1CrBE4cJFMA30U9LOS0DE1DsYNt6wzNxNjTMgW_XaFjBi-xR8PzYPJVL5iGGKQvtFw7OkJDtl39RAvZmNClzLxkGPPzdYhh4oEPU_bFpWfrc-ykJRy7CRk6O1U46aRuNTU9h4xn6chELeqQHELanBJ0iEkOxJffHxHqWv_Jff90DPEkFV28dvhr4zyZP2omPbcSZRUwWGjzl_ne9y06wUUcBdaDW2lLNxNVcCnkgj3a5aKkmWzeg3Wzb_wVPhyCOofQ%3D&attredirects=0

4. By the same author, a more recent article about the so-called ‘Proactivity paradox’, when being proactive may go wrong:

https://hbr.org/2019/08/when-to-take-initiative-at-work-and-when-not-to

How to use the exercises

Further in this section, there are two exercises for the teacher to use in order to demonstrate the importance of proactivity. The first exercise is meant to be carried out individually, while the second one is a group activity. The exercises help to elaborate on the soft skill, offering a metaphor of real-life situations.

The following information will show in what way the exercises constitute a training tool, at the same time revealing the strategy to effectively train the soft skill.

Learning outcomes

Learning outcomes for the trainers:

  • Learning the definition of “proactivity” within the context of mobility for students,
  • Understanding the behavioral elements linked to proactivity as a soft skill to be applied in short-term mobility experiences abroad,
  • Recognising sub-skills within proactivity, which are related to students’ behaviors,

The trainers will be able to guide students to:

  • Exercise proactive thinking
  • Be able to envision future scenarios
  • Develop creative thinking
  • Formulate proactive questions