Early in high school, my friends and I all wanted to get summer jobs to start making money.
Since we were young, the options were fairly limited to snowball stands, bus boys, cashiers, etc— the classic “first job” types.
One of our friends, Anthony, worked in his dad’s grocery store.
We all thought it was so cool that he was working and making real money.
Needless to say, we all wanted to get a summer job at Anthony’s dad’s store.
In order to try and get a job, my other friends would go to Anthony with requests like, “Hey man, can you ask your dad if he needs another worker?” or even “Hey Anthony, can you get me a job at your dad’s store?”
Each time they asked, he had the same response, “Yea, I’ll ask him for you.”
Either he never actually asked or his dad wasn’t particularly interested because no one was getting the job.
These same friends would then go back to Anthony every couple weeks with the same request or to check in and see if he had an answer, but he never did.
I also wanted the position but I knew I couldn’t approach the situation the same way as everyone else.
I needed to.
Since I was young, my mom always forced me to have conversations with adults on my own.
She would make me order the pizza on the phone. She would make me go into the grocery on my own. She would make me call the dentist and schedule an appointment.
I hated it when she would force me to do these things because they were out of my comfort zone.
But they paid off.
Instead of asking Anthony to talk to his dad, I decided to go right to the source and asked him if he could send me his dad’s phone number.
When I received the number, I just gave his dad a call.
“Hey Mr. Albert, this is John Michael, Anthony’s friend.”
“Hey John Michael, what can I do for you?”
After a momentary pause to build up some courage, I said “Well…I’m looking for a summer job and was wondering if you needed any help at the store?”
“Hmm…you know, I could use a little help this summer. Have you ever been a cashier?”
“No, but I’m willing to learn.”
He responded “Okay, come by the store next Monday when we open and I’ll show you around.”
I cheered “Okay! Thanks!”
Byand going to the source instead of going through someone else, I got the coveted job at the grocery store.
The Key Difference
Being reactive involves sitting back and waiting for things to happen for you. This is the approach my friends took by asking Anthony to ask his dad.
Being proactive, on the other hand, is about finding a creative way to continue to push forward towards the goal.
Notice how I said “creatively” pushing forward, I didn’t say to aggressively force yourself on others.
A great analogy for this comes from the professor where I train jiu-jitsu.
He often says to imagine a 5 foot wall being in the way to your goal. How do you get to the goal?
When you’re reactive, you wait for someone else to open the door. But if the door is locked, you’re screwed.
If you’re overly aggressive, you’ll repeatedly ram into the wall and try to knock it down…often with no results.
But if you’re proactive, you’ll try to go around the wall. If that doesn’t work, you’ll try to climb over the wall. And if that doesn’t work, you’ll dig your way underneath it.
If you have outstanding credentials or have already done something note-worthy, maybe sitting back and waiting will work for you.
But if you’re like me and trying to get your foot in the door, you need a different approach.
You need to be proactive, not reactive.