Published on March 10, 2021

How To Be a Self-Starter And Take Initiative At Work

How To Be a Self-Starter And Take Initiative At Work

Why do I need to be a self-starter and take initiative at work? Aren’t those traits only necessary for entrepreneurs? After all, isn’t the journey towards success only about beating the competition?

I thought this way for years. Even as a child, I thrived off of competing against my peers. I won all the games, aced every test, and enjoyed looking over my five-year plan over coffee when I was seven—okay, forget the coffee, but you get the idea. There was something addictive and satisfying about meeting my objectives and exceeding my peers. And when I stepped into the workforce as an adult, I carried this ideology with me.

As an older Millennial, I grew up believing that business success meant a corner office in Manhattan, enormous shoulder pads, and Jimmy Choo pumps. Okay, maybe I watched a little too much Sex and the City growing up, but you get my point.

When I got my working permit, I followed Dolly Parton’s anthem, 9 to 5 to the letter.[1] I focused on climbing the invisible ladder to the top and avoiding the pitfalls by staying one step ahead of the competition.

Let’s just say it didn’t work for long.

I soon realized that life within the business sector no longer echoed a 90’s sitcom. If anything, it was the antithesis of what I had learned growing up. And if I wanted to stay ahead in the game, I needed to understand the new rules. I had to gain an entrepreneurial mindset, become a self-starter, and learn how to take the initiative.

If you want to succeed this year, you might need to shift your focus. It’ll take some work, but I’ve made it easier for you. Here are seven essential tips that will change how you work and help you become a self-starter.


1. Run Your Race and Set Your Pace

When you can no longer see your competition, you up your own game. Being a self-starter is more than posting selfies on Instagram with the hashtag #EntrepreneurLife. It takes work, and it takes time.

Running your race requires you to look ahead and not around. When you take the time to concentrate on your journey, you don’t care how fast or slow the people around you are traveling. Their race is not your destiny. Don’t allow their movement to become your distraction.

So, set your own pace, schedule your day, and figure out how you work best. When you take the time to become a self-starter, you permit yourself to work differently. And this can be incredibly freeing and helpful.

2. Skip the Rituals and Branch Out a Bit

When I first launched my business, I had no idea how to plan my day. I was used to working the same forty hours a week, taking lunch breaks at the same time, and conversing with the same people day-in-and-day-out. Needless to say, my life was a bit boring.

It was nice to know what to expect each day. But when I stepped away from the box and colored outside of the lines, I realized that these rituals of sameness were keeping me from moving forward and meeting my career goals. Think about it, “you are the average of the five people that you spend the most time with.”[2] Let that sink in for a moment. Look at your goals, and then look at the people next to you.

I’m not encouraging you to throw out friendships or refuse to talk to your coworkers. What I am saying is that you need to mix things up a bit if you want to be a self-starter. Don’t get dragged into the group complaining party. Let others sulk in the corner. You have goals to meet and work to do.

So, before you face another week of frustration, question your surrounding and get to know some new people at the office. Embrace the diversity of various perspectives and let that influence your objectives.


3. Don’t Settle Into a Box If You Want to Succeed

Competition keeps you at the top. But here’s the deal; the top is relative—it’s related to the work ethic and the ability of those around you. If you only strive to be the best compared to others, you limit your actual potential because you can only go as far as everyone else desires to go.

To reach the top, you need to break through the barriers, and you have to be willing to go against the grain and go beyond your colleagues’ expectations and excuses. Remember that not everyone wants to move past a particular stage. Many people just want to check-in, check-out, and then place their check in their bank account on payday.

If you learn how to be a self-starter and take the initiative at work, the sky is the limit. However, if you remain stuck in competing against those around you, you’ll never reach your goals—you’ll get stuck following someone else’s dreams and miss out on your own goals entirely.

4. Be Teachable and Seek to Learn

No one ever expected to drum up potential coaching clients on Tik Tok, adapt to a lateral leadership model or work from home 24/7 for an entire year. 2020 completely shifted the business world, and we were pushed off the high dive and weren’t provided with any lifejackets.

No one took the time to train us how to dance, sing, or present a business pitch on social media. The business sector was always about the “know-how,” not entertaining strangers online. But all that changed. Life is much different than what we learned in college.

Years ago, you might have received an A+ for a presentation on cardboard with pasted pictures, but people want more—and they deserve more. To succeed in today’s work environment, you need to create something better than a cardstock display. You need to ask questions, consult with your colleagues, and take a class or two if you want to expand your ability to connect—and, most importantly, communicate your ideas.

If you want to succeed in today’s workforce, you need to present more than an Ivy League degree. You have to bring a hunger to learn and a willingness to adapt.


5. Being a Self-Starter Requires You to Be Self-Aware

One of the worst things that you can do is move forward without direction. After all, just because you’re moving doesn’t mean that you’re making progress.

If you want to be a self-starter, then you need to be self-aware. And introspection isn’t always the most comfortable. When you understand your strengths and weaknesses, you can either hide and avoid acceptance, make excuses and refuse to adapt, or face the facts and embrace the awkwardness.

Taking the initiative at work requires you to take ownership of your present and your past. It’s the only way to move forward.

6. Know Yourself and Then Accept Yourself

Before I started my own business, I worked in the 9-5 world, and I would always judge my performance against my coworkers. I would pat myself on the back, hold my head up high, and feel confident for about five seconds.

But the feeling never lasted long. Behind my smile and charisma, I felt like a could never keep up. Dealing with reality wasn’t easy, but I’m extremely thankful for this feeling. When I accepted myself, I permitted myself to progress forward with warts and all.

When you take the time to celebrate who you are and your own goals, you don’t care to replicate your life after someone else. You realize that you don’t want to follow someone else’s path. If you want to succeed, then you need to own your own goals and take the initiative to bring your dreams to fruition. So, next time you see your reflection, celebrate who you are and stand up tall.

7. Develop an Entrepreneurial Mindset

If you want to be a self-starter, you need to learn how to stand alone. This means that you need to develop the mind of an entrepreneur—even if you never plan on leaving your 9 to 5 job. It’s not about the location. It’s about perspective.


Having an entrepreneurial mindset gives you the ability to think differently and gain the tools you need to be a self-starter and take the initiative at work.

If you are new to this concept, here are three tools that will help you to develop this type of mindset:

  • You need to embrace challenges and see them as stepping stones towards progress.[3]
  • Surround yourself with other entrepreneurs.[4] When you’re with people in the same field, they spur you on to dig deeper and risk greater. Being an entrepreneur is a lonely position. When you connect with other square pegs in round holes, you create a support system and a strong community.
  • Be ready to swim upstream, wade in the water alone, and face the twenty-foot waves while pursuing your goals.[5]
  • Entrepreneurship is not easy. But it’s one of the most significant traits that will assist you in becoming a self-starter and taking more initiative at work.

You don’t need to be an entrepreneur to follow your own path. You just need to know yourself, stop judging yourself, and run your race without comparing yourself to those around you.

Final Thoughts

In many ways, learning how to be a self-starter and taking the initiative at work gives you the tools to succeed in your professional life and meet your personal goals.

So, color outside those lines, skip the rituals, and walk your path. Create a far more fulfilling life than a forty-hour workweek. Get to your destination without being deterred by the noise and work without being boxed in by comparison.

More Tips on How to Be a Self-Starter

Featured photo credit: Fabio Rodrigues via


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Dr. Colleen Batchelder

Diversity and Inclusion Consultant and Leadership Strategist | Executive Coach | Dr. Batchelder teaches business leaders how to create corporations where Millennials want to work.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

How to Get Promoted Fast (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Get Promoted Fast (A Step-by-Step Guide)

“Attitude is altitude,” a famous adage tells us. When it comes to getting promoted fast, maintaining a can-do attitude conquers all. Keeping up a sunny, pleasant professional demeanor will help you win friends and influence Human Resources managers. So will good work hygiene. Show up early, work late, and volunteer for assignments once yours are completed to the best of your ability.

Realize, too, that every office newbie wonders how to get promoted fast. So you are always competing against others at the company for that spot above yours. For this reason, it’s not enough to be a whiz at your given tasks. You also need to be likeable—the type of person whom others want to work with and (ultimately) work for.

Research shows that employees with high emotional intelligence (EI), such as managing relationships, are 75 percent more likely to be promoted than employees with high IQ.[1] Teamwork matters as much as your individual abilities.

Additionally, these 10 steps will help you succeed faster than you dreamed possible.

Craft a Plan for How to Get Promoted

Step 1: Have a Plan

In this world of fast-disappearing mentors, you need to be the architect of your own plan.

Ask others in your field what they did to get promoted and how long it took. Map out a general timeline for your own advancement.

One thing to consider: think of where you want to be five years from now, then work backwards to figure out when you should receive your next promotion.

Step 2: Commit Your Plan to Paper

Studies show that writing down one’s dreams and aspirations helps them happen faster.


One Saturday when you’re not at the office, take a few hours to capture your plan on paper. Then, separately, pen the tangible steps you believe you need to take to accomplish your dream.

Perhaps you should aim to get into the office at least a half hour earlier than your direct supervisor each day. Or maybe write, “win one piece of new business per year” as your goal. Do you know someone who could throw your company a piece of new business? Consider reaching out to that person.

Step 3: Discuss Your Plan with Your Boss or Direct Supervisor

Performance reviews are a logical time to ask your boss how to get promoted. Bear in mind that any raise you receive may be an indicator of whether you’re perceived to be on the fast track for promotion or on a slower track. (To find out how your raise compares to other workers’ raises, ask around.)

If you already are on the fast track, just keep doing the excellent work you are doing. If you discover that you are on a slower track, it may make sense to first work out with your boss the steps you need to take to get a hefty raise, and from there, make the case for why you deserve a promotion.

Get It in Writing

Step 4: Ask for It in an Email

Did a client commend your public speaking ability? Did your research report exceed your boss’s expectations? Did your colleague profusely thank you for pitching in over the weekend? In the most gracious way, ask that person to send you an email thanking you and to please copy your boss on it.

When it comes to discussing a potential promotion with your boss and the powers-that-be, glowing emails really help bolster your case.

Be sure to bring those emails with you into your performance review meetings. The emails can help you prove you deserve a promotion.

Step 5: Put Any Interim Managerial Tasks in Writing

If you are ever asked to fill in for missing supervisor, ask your boss to write an email to the whole team about the process to be followed.


This one step will help clear up confusion among your teammates and smooth the way for you to demonstrate your managerial talent. You’ll spend more time managing people and less time trying to manage the process.

The Casual Check-In

Step 6: Check In with Your Boss Now and Then

If you happen to have a boss who gives you a lot of feedback, consider yourself lucky. You will already know how you are doing long before any performance review. You can also use any negative feedback to help you make micro adjustments so that you can bring up your performance before it’s officially rated.

However, if you happen to have a boss who doesn’t offer up much feedback, make it a habit to casually check in with him or her. Wait until a calm moment, knock on the door or cubicle wall, and ask if he has a minute or two. Then, simply sit down and ask what he thought about your contribution to the latest project. (See Step 7.)

But take care. The casual check-in should be used sparingly. Do it too often, and your boss may start to consider you a bit paranoid (and then wonder why you are).

Step 7: Accept All Feedback (Positive and Negative) Gracefully

When you ask your boss for feedback, you will receive it. And you may not always like what you hear.

Maybe you thought your two-minute introduction to the new product launch was phenomenal, but your supervisor found it uninspiring.

Perhaps you thought the client meeting was a smash success, but your client said otherwise after you left the room.

Those who get promoted fast demonstrate an ability to receive positive feedback gracefully and bounce back from negative feedback equally gracefully. Even if you don’t like what you hear, thank your boss for sharing her feedback and promise her that you will work to improve. Then, draft some action steps you will take to keep your promise.


Solve Problems

Step 8: Remember You’re There to Solve Problems, Not Create Them

Try to be easygoing and flexible. Strive to receive the plum assignments, but realize that everyone in the firm also wants the better assignments. So, be gracious when you receive a terrible assignment, and just do your best to finish it professionally.

If you find yourself with a lot of free time, volunteer for extra work, but be judicious about what you volunteer for. It’s important to be perceived as poised and professional, not desperate and clamoring.

Prove you deserve to be promoted, instead of nagging your associates about how to get promoted.

Step 9: Work Hard

Today, business moves at the speed of technology. It’s important to keep up with technology as it evolves. You may need to take additional classes or get additional certifications and digital badges just to stay ahead of change.

Be the person at your company who embraces change rather than shunning it. Do things the new way, and prove that you love to learn.

By showing your willingness to change with the times, you’ll prove that you’re an employee who’s worth keeping around.

Invest your time in learning about the business, your company, and your clients, and your investment may well pay off in a promotion.

It’s Not Just What You Know

Step 10: Get Along with Everyone

Bosses tend to promote those whom they like faster than others on staff—regardless of their talent level.


So first and foremost: get along with your boss. But don’t kiss up because that will make your coworkers turn against you.

Strive to be known for being nice to all, fair to all, and coming up with creative solutions to problems.

To boost your popularity, try to attend some of the outings, all of the office parties, and as many office showers and office birthday celebrations as you can without sacrificing your work product. Occasionally offer to organize one of these events if you have the time.

Getting along with everyone is one is a surefire way to get ahead and be promoted faster.

The Bottom Line

To get promoted faster, it’s important to understand that ambition coupled with camaraderie wins.

When your supervisor notices that you take criticism well and learn from mistakes, and that you keep emotions in check and get along well with others, you will earn respect.

The most important mantra for those who long to get ahead: be professional.

Solve problems, so that you can be promoted to tackle and solve even bigger problems.


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