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


More by this author

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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Published on March 24, 2021

8 Easy Steps To Finding A Career Right For You

8 Easy Steps To Finding A Career Right For You

In the U.S., workers on average spend 90,000 hours of their lives working.[1] This means that it is likely you will spend more time working than with your spouse or partner. For this reason, it is especially important to love your job. When you are in a job you love, it feels custom-made just for you. You feel your values reflected in the company’s mission. You feel rewarded just for working there — “Thank God it’s Monday,” you think each week, and the paycheck is nice, too.

Here are 8 steps for finding the career that fits your personality like a glove.

1. Look At Yourself Carefully

Firstly, Look Inside

Some diagnostic tests help you assess who you are and what jobs make a good fit. Among free assessments you can take, the Myers-Briggs personality test is among the most popular for gauging how you perceive the world and make decisions. It consists of some 90 either-or questions that indicate whether you consider yourself an extrovert or introvert, and what influences perceptions.

Knowing yourself and the qualities associated with your personality type can help you decide whether you would be more comfortable in a front- or back-office setting, are more of an “ideas” or “execution” person, or prefer an open office or a quiet, enclosed setting to do your best work.

Career Explorer is another diagnostic careers tool, and offers a free Career Test to reveal how your interests and goals match up against some 1,000 careers. The test asks your general interest in a handful of random careers, along with your career satisfaction in previous jobs, and predicts career matches that fit your profile.

Then, Look Outside

Your friends and family members often know you better than you know yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask them, “What kind of career do you see me in?” or “How can I find a career that’s right for me? and pay attention to their answers.

Also, think back to talents you enjoyed in your younger years, particularly those that elicited comments from others along the lines of “You’re going to make a great ___________ some day.” Others often see special abilities in you that you may have overlooked.

2. Write Lists

The perfect career awaits you if you do your homework. Keep careful lists of the qualities you possess and which types of businesses will reward those qualities.[2]


Similarly, when your friends have ideas for you, write them down. You want to be able to go back and reflect on different career paths.

Putting pen to paper — or fingers to keyboards — and allowing yourself to follow ideas where they lead is a valuable step for finding the career that is right for you.

What elements of past or current jobs and experiences stick out as the most enjoyable? List them. Think of careers where you could recapture some of those elements.

Write down the activities where you find real joy. Do you love decorating or rearranging your living room? Could this translate to fulfilling work in interior design or merchandising? Or do you find children endlessly entertaining? Perhaps you would find teaching or youth development a rewarding career path.

Generate a list of ideas, no matter how eccentric they may seem, and see if any patterns emerge.

Write a Master List of All Your Strengths and All Your Weaknesses

Be as specific as possible. If you hate waking up before 11 a.m., it is going to be hard to hold down a 9 to 5 job (unless you can work remotely in another part of the country with a different time zone). If you love talking to people, maybe the back office of a research department is too isolating for you.

Are you high energy or laid back? Do your strengths or weaknesses tend to make you a natural leader or more of a maverick? Own your particular personality strengths and quirks, and think about the various work environments where you could make the most of them. Do you like receiving direction or chafe when someone gives you feedback?

3. Set up 15-Minute Informational Interviews

All of this introspection will help you narrow your search criteria, but then it must lead to action. Ask around to see if there is anyone you know who would spare a few minutes to discuss her field with you. It could be a friend or a friend-of-a-friend or even one of your parents’ friends. You may be surprised to find that people often want to offer advice on the steps to take to start out in their field.


Prepare some questions in advance, for example: ask how the person ended up in her field, what best prepared her for her career, which aspects she most enjoys, and how the field is changing.

Depending on how forthcoming the person is, you might also ask if she would mind if you sent a resume to keep on file in case of any future openings.

4. Read Job Postings

Before you apply for a job, start reading job postings in the two or three fields that excite you. You can find postings on LinkedIn, MonsterJobs, Indeed, Glassdoor, and Simply Hired. Do you feel goosebumps zipping down your spine when you read about certain jobs? It could be an indication that this is the job of your dreams.

Familiarize yourself with job descriptions to learn common industry terms, roles, and in-demand skills. Glassdoor, for example, gives you an insider’s perspective on what it’s like to work for a given company — but keep an open mind, too, knowing that former employees with a grudge are usually the most motivated to post reviews.

5. Write Your Resume

Your resume should reflect the skills you possess and the specific skills sought in a job. But be sure to customize and change your resume appropriately for each position you pursue. Don’t be afraid to parrot some of the words on the list of requirements back to the company. Many times, companies will actually use the key words mentioned in the job posting when screening resumes.

Research the organization that you are targeting and try to work in examples that have relevance to their customers or clients, or to issues taking place industry-wide. State how you can add value by quantifying results you achieved in former jobs or even volunteer activities. For example, “coordinated silent auctions for children’s advocacy organizations that brought in $29,000.”

Ideally, you will want to concisely recount your skills to make a riveting impression as a professional ideally suited for the position.

Check out these 10 Killer Resume Tips to Nail Your Dream Job.


6. Watch a Movie or Two That Features a Character Working in the Field

While movies tend to exaggerate, you may see something that either confirms that you belong in that environment or scares you away from it. Career conflicts are a genre in themselves — you can find most any job represented in some form on the big screen.

The character played by Anne Hathaway in “The Devil Wears Prada,” who successfully navigated her nightmare boss played by Meryl Streep, showed the ups and downs of working on a fashion magazine. Meanwhile, “Legally Blonde” likely inspired a whole horde of young women to enter careers in law.

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Risk

When it comes to job-hunting, the biggest risk is not taking a risk. Write a cover letter that truly reflects your own personality. Remember that you need to stand out, not just blend in to the hundreds of “blah-blah-blah” letters.

So, if you’re funny, be funny. If you’re serious, adopt a more measured tone. If you’re intellectual, use bigger words. Be you, not what you think you should be. When you’re authentic, it improves the likelihood that the career you find will be the right fit for you.

Think of ways to show passion for the career path you are pursuing — and then make the case for why it is the right fit for you. Hiring managers look for candidates with dynamism behind their desire to work for the company. Choose words that reveal that you are passionate, not passive: instead of “helpful,” your findings were “game-changing.” Instead of “useful,” your discoveries proved “transformational.”

Here’s How to Write A Cover Letter That Stands out from 500 Applicants.

8. Thank Everyone Who Helped You — and Especially Everyone Who Interviewed You

The gracious job-hunter lands a job faster. Even if you don’t snag a job the first time around, when you remember to thank the people who granted you an interview, those people will remember you and think of you for other opportunities. Thanks should also go to those who provided you with a recommendation or who took time with you for an informational interview.

While it may seem old school or downright quaint, a handwritten thank-you card still carries cachet. It shows that you took time to be appreciative. Or, if you send a note electronically, sincerely show gratitude and help the person remember you by bringing up something he said that you found helpful or insightful.


A thank you to one person should not be able to be swapped with a communiqué to any other person who helped you in your search.

You Are on a Campaign to Land a Job until You Land the Job

You will likely have to meet several people in a company. Inevitably, those people will talk to each other. Make sure the emails that you write them are different from each other instead of canned notes with different names attached. Take a look at these tips on how to write a thank-you email.

Show unwavering cordiality and professionalism to everyone whom you encounter in the company. Even if you come across the receptionist entering the restroom at the same time as you, politely hold the door. Your good impression will travel throughout the office network.

Bonus: Return the Favor When You’ve Landed Your Job

Congratulations! You finally landed! Now it’s time to pay it forward.

Remember all those who helped you follow the key steps to your sought-after career, and never pass up an opportunity to help others land jobs they love.

Returning the favor will make you even more appreciative of having found the right career for you. And, when you look for your next job, you will find that you’ve built a network of helpful people on whom you can rely.

More Job Hunting Tips

Featured photo credit: Saulo Mohana via


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