What Does It Mean To Be a Self-Starter?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated February 16, 2021 | Published October 7, 2019

Updated February 16, 2021

Published October 7, 2019

Related: Top Resume Skills

Learn more about what hard skills and soft skills to put on a resume so it stands out from the others.

Self-starters are able to set personal goals, train themselves and independently identify solutions. Companies often seek self-starters to build efficient teams who can complete tasks and achieve goals as independent units. 

In this article, we discuss what it means to be a self-starter in the workplace and explore ways to show initiative at work.

What is a self-starter?

Self-starters are professionals who take initiative, can work without supervision and begin projects independently. They typically have the following skills:

  • Motivation. Self-starters feel compelled to take action in the workplace without requiring additional prompting from supervisors.

  • Confidence. Self-starters commonly trust their intuition about the actions they take at work so they can complete certain tasks without deliberation when needed.

  • Ambition. These professionals are driven by setting and achieving goals. They also know when to set higher goals that are still realistic for themselves and their team.

  • Resilience. Self-starters know how to move past difficulties and find alternative solutions to accomplish objectives. They are also better capable of adapting to changes and revising their personal processes to improve efficiency.

You can be a self-starter at any level of your career and in any industry. Use your abilities to take on new leadership roles as you develop your career.

How to be a self-starter at work

As a self-starter, you are proactive about finding solutions and resolving conflicts in the workplace. Here are five ways to become a self-starter at work:

  1. Embrace challenges

  2. Get comfortable with discomfort

  3. Set higher expectations

  4. Focus on successful outcomes

  5. Promote teamwork

1. Embrace challenges

Self-starters excel at testing their limits, and they take initiative by handling difficult tasks. When you embrace challenges, such as beginning a new project, you show a desire for more experience, the motivation to improve and the confidence to succeed.

To demonstrate your habit of taking initiative, make a point of seeking out ways to try a new task at work. For example, you can agree to take on a larger workload, lead your team on a project or offer to help train new team members.

Read more: How to Get Motivated at Work

2. Get comfortable with discomfort

The most ambitious and motivated employees understand that their desire to grow and improve means that they may feel uncomfortable with the advanced level of work they are handling. By working past discomfort, you reveal that you are resilient and adaptable.

To show that you appreciate the chance to grow, volunteer for new opportunities. For example, you can offer to give a presentation at your next team meeting or take responsibility for introducing new technology to your team.

3. Set higher expectations

Self-starters consistently raise expectations for themselves and their teams. When you regularly meet goals, you can begin to demand more from yourself and your team, improving productivity and achieving more advanced objectives.

To showcase this, determine and review your goals frequently, advancing them whenever possible. For example, you can set a minimum goal and an ideal goal to ensure you and your team are motivated to progress higher each quarter. Consider identifying areas for improvement and aligning ideal goals with company growth projections to increase your capabilities and accomplish your objectives.

Read more: Setting Goals to Improve Your Career

4. Focus on successful outcomes

Self-starters try to replace doubts with confident thoughts and keep track of their accomplishments. When you concentrate on favorable outcomes, you gain the ability to channel higher levels of self-assurance and proficiency into any task you handle.

To stay focused on successful outcomes, try setting smaller goals that help you achieve larger objectives. For example, you can develop personal mantras that help you channel optimism and end each day with a review of your achievements.

5. Promote teamwork

By definition, self-starters specialize in motivating themselves. However, encouraging teamwork and collaborating with team members can inspire you to accomplish even more as a group.

To promote teamwork, prioritize sharing new ideas and setting goals together. For example, you can outline a new project with colleagues, discuss realistic deadlines and process group feedback before celebrating together the accolades you receive as a team.

Read more: 6 Tips for Effective Teamwork

Ways to demonstrate self-starter skills in an interview

During a job interview, the hiring team might ask you whether you are a self-starter. Providing specific examples can be an effective way to demonstrate your motivation at work. Use the following samples as inspiration:

  • Visionary leader

  • Risk-taker

  • Problem solver

  • Goal achiever

Visionary leader

As a candidate for an executive role, you may want to demonstrate your forward-thinking ideas to establish yourself as an innovative executive. Consider positioning yourself as a visionary leader by discussing your ability to self-motivate and inspire teams.

Example: “I thrive in leadership positions, especially when I can inspire my team to follow my vision. In my last role, I led an organization-wide restructuring initiative and guided team members as they adapted to their new roles. Although I met understandable resistance, I successfully inspired my team to trust my vision and enjoy their new positions.”

Read more: Your Guide to Visionary Leadership


If you are applying for a role that requires leadership, consider highlighting your experience with guiding teams and your habit of embracing new challenges. Focus on your advanced ability to assess risks by discussing a specific instance when you took one at work.

Example: “I know that taking risks can offer substantial advantages to my team, so I am motivated to embrace them when I have determined they will be worthwhile. In my previous role, I faced the task of encouraging my team to adopt difficult new technology that would transform our organization. I challenged team members to present on their progress each week and offered rewards to those who performed best.”

Problem solver

You can exhibit your self-starter qualities by demonstrating your problem-solving abilities. Consider sharing a specific time when you resolved a challenging problem and led your team effectively.

Example: “I strive to be proactive in the workplace. When we started our newest project, I noticed we might struggle with execution. I took the initiative to discuss potential solutions I had considered. As a result of my problem-solving abilities, we reorganized the project and executed it successfully.”

Goal achiever

You can convey your self-motivation by focusing on your proactive approach to objectives. Try discussing a situation when you made high-reaching goals and exceeded expectations.

Example: “In my current role, I take initiative to improve my skills at every available opportunity. I set monthly sales goals with my manager. At first, I merely met my goals, but I knew I could perform better. I independently sought out a sales training program, and now, I far exceed my goals every month.”

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