While there are many lists of these ’employability’ skills, at Oxford we focus on the key eight skills – based on the Confederation of British Industry (CBI)’s report, Future Fit.

This page focuses on Initiative. To read more about the other seven employability skills, click on the links below.


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Using your initiative is very much focused on making things happen and putting ideas into action. These ideas are unlikely to provide evidence of initiative in a written application, but they might be things you reference at interview.

  • Suggest activities to do with your group of friends, and make it happen. Don’t just be responsive.
  • Try not to over-think things and avoid getting stuck - start by investing 2 minutes to read The Mistake Smart People Make
  • Identify minor problems in your department/college that could be changed and share ideas and seek support from others, for example, on issues which affect your mail room, catering, or welfare support.
  • Recognise when you need support or advice and actively seek help - for example, see a Careers Adviser to get started on your planning or to find new ideas on how to move forwards. 
  • Look for workshops on developing your confidence and assertiveness to help you become more proactive.

These are all quick ways you could take the initiative, and you could refer to in applications.

  • Solve a problem, or make something new happen in your college, department, or in a society.
  • Organise some work shadowing or do a Micro-internships at the end of next term.
  • Find events and workshops on entrepreneurship, for example with the Oxford Foundry and connect through Enterprising Oxford.
  • Attend a career fair having first identified the firms that you most want to speak to.
  • Arrange an information interview with an alumnus working in your sector of interest, perhaps at a career fair, or finding them through social media.
  • Volunteer – for example with Nightline, or with local community initiatives through Oxford Hub.
  • Learn, or teach yourself, a new skill that you really want to learn - pick something that you will enjoy or which offers its own rewards.
  • Join the Oxford Strategy Challenge and develop solutions and recommendations for a real business or local organisation.
  • Create a new speaker series for your department or a society.
  • If you have a business idea, identify skill building opportunities within Oxfordshire-based societies, enterprises and organisations through Oxford’s IDEA Engaging with Entrepreneurship Programme.

  • Identify your own research project to meet your programme requirements.
  • Support a cause that's important to you, for example, organise an event or group to raise some funds.
  • Develop and produce your own creative project(s), perhaps in collaboration with others or for a society.   

Many of the ideas above can grow into long-term commitments. Focus on ideas or issues that are important or which give you a sense of accomplishment and energy, so that your sustain your commitment. For example:  

  • Start a campaign about something you care about, and get others involved.
  • Start your own business or social enterprise.
  • Set up a society, journal or club.
  • Set up an Oxford student arm of a professional organisation or a charity.

Click on the 'CareerConnect EVENTS'  tab below to see upcoming events from the Careers Service where you can build on this skill.

CareerConnect EVENTS

Looking for more?

Check the CareerConnect platform for all our upcoming events and opportunities, book appointments, find jobs and internships, and more.

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