Implementing a few of these examples of taking initiative from competent leadership, HR managers, and career coaches may be just what’s needed to stand out at your current job or network for a new one. Taking the initiative at work to complete tasks on time and with little supervision is an excellent way to demonstrate your interest in and commitment to meeting the demands of your employer. For some people, the most significant barrier to taking the initiative and going the extra mile at work is their natural reluctance to challenge themselves or exit their comfort zone. However, in most cases, it’s a good idea to do extra work instead of the bare minimum and set yourself apart from others to earn opportunities for growth and promotions.
At MatchBuilt, we’ve counseled 1000s of job seekers and employees at all levels, and we’ve seen first-hand how a lack of initiative can negatively affect one’s career. Further, we’ve seen how proactive employees leverage their initiative skills in the right way to stand out and get ahead. Many, however, do not know when is an appropriate time or the best way to take the initiative at their job.
What are notable examples of taking initiative at work?
- Taking on a job when no one wants to.
- Going above and beyond for a customer.
- Doing more than what was asked on a project.
- Working extra hours, so your team meets a deadline.
- Implementing new systems to improve longstanding painful processes.
For this article, we asked career coaches, HR managers, and executives that moved up the ranks about how you can take the initiative and its impact at work. Please follow along if you’re seeking initiative examples, sample answers to initiative interview questions, initiative synonyms for your resume, and many relevant tips.
What is taking the initiative?
Most organizations have team leaders with a sense of self-drive who will always make a special effort to ensure they accomplish tasks beyond their job descriptions. They identify what needs to be done and commit to doing what they can to achieve it, even if it is outside their stated responsibilities.
What does taking initiative mean?
Ricardo Luís, manager at a Florida-based human resources tech company, Talentify.io, suggests the following regarding taking the initiative.
Taking the initiative is taking the lead on a task, solution, or project by presenting proposals to the team, identifying a certain problem, and trying to solve it as soon as possible.” It’s the personal drive to get things done, driven by a resolve to succeed. It could be working on a pending project, stepping in for your boss, or fixing a problem. Someone who takes the initiative to get things done feels accountable for outcomes.
To show initiative, one must be able to evaluate a given circumstance and act accordingly. The first step in taking the initiative is following a hunch or an intuitive thought until it develops into a more solid action plan.
Taking Initiative Examples at Work
1. Taking on a job when no one wants to.
2. Going above and beyond for a customer.
3. Doing more than what was asked on a project.
4. Working extra hours so your team meets a deadline.
5. Implementing new systems to improve longstanding painful processes
6. Solving a problem without anyone asking you to do it.
7. Picking up where someone left off even when it’s not your responsibility.
8. Contributing to a project when yours is finished.
9. Asking for more information when you don’t have the answer rather than waiting for someone to come to you.
10. Letting your boss know you want a promotion rather than sitting around and waiting for a job position to come up.
11. Volunteering to take the lead on a project.
12. Identify and implement a new innovation for your workplace to increase productivity.
13. Raising your hand to volunteer your time at a meeting when no one else offers.
14. Starting a petition about an important issue you care deeply about at your company.
15. Joining a volunteer organization to make a difference.
16. Visiting a friend in mourning to see if you can do anything to make their life a little easier.
17. Cold-calling potential customers to sell products out of your current scope.
18. Approaching customers before they ask for help so they don’t feel frustrated and have a good experience.
19. Taking night classes to advance your career.
20. Stepping in to diffuse a tense situation rather than standing by and watching an argument happen.
21. Suggesting a new workplace policy if you see the need for better standards at work.
Taking Initiative Examples During Job Search
1. Taking night classes to advance your career.
2. Preparing a relevant presentation for an interview.
3. Sending a thank you follow-up email with specific discussion points from an interview.
4. Make your resume stand out by sharing how taking initiative adds value to your organization.
5. Sharing how you took the initiative in your Linkedin profile and summary.
Taking The Initiative Tips at Work
Consider the following tips when taking initiative at your workplace in remote or in-person settings.
Ricardo Luís from Talentify.io begins with the first three tips below.
1. Learn to Observe Your Work Environment
A professional with initiative must always be attentive to the environment around them. This way, they can identify what needs to be done and how they can contribute to improving the team’s results.
2. Seek to Contribute with New Ideas
Contribute new ideas to your team and the company based on your observations and the aspects for improvement that you identified. It could be by suggesting a cheap way to acquire a service while not compromising quality.
If you’ve ever worked in a retail establishment, you know that certain items get increased business during various seasons. You set up a display near the cash register for seasonal goods and devise a schedule for switching it out.
3. Avoid Procrastination
Procrastination is the enemy of the initiative. It’s the act of always leaving everything for later. Organize your tasks, prioritize the most urgent ones, set up a delivery schedule, and don’t postpone your appointments.
For example, you were discussing ideas with coworkers in your office that involved many documents. One by one, they make their way back to their stalls, and your desk place is a mess. Straighten it up, put away the papers, and make sure everything is back to normal.
4. Treat it Like a Mindset Shift
Harry Morton, the founder of Lower Street, a company that provides next-level podcast production services for ambitious companies, added the following tip:
Rather than looking at taking initiative as a one-off event or strategy to be used when it serves you, treat it as a complete shift in how you view things. It starts with becoming more aware and mindful of your roles and responsibilities and how they tie into the bigger picture — from how you collaborate with your team members to the quality of work you dish out. Only then can you become more proactive in every task you undertake.
For example, you’re an IT technician and discovered productivity software that can improve your organization’s internal data sharing. Letting your superiors know about it will help them become aware of a valuable tool that might have taken them so long to know or never realize its existence.
5. Embrace Ownership
Lia Garvin, an organizational consultant at The Workplace Reframe Consulting & Coaching, suggests the following tip.
Don’t wait for problems to materialize before jumping in to solve them. Instead, treat your work like an owner and be proactive, working to anticipate problems before they arise and bringing in others to weigh in or share their perspectives. When addressing a problem with your manager or team, bring potential solutions to the conversation. It allows you to demonstrate you’re willing to take initiative and that you’re accountable toward owning the solution.
A good example is if you’re working in a retail shop, and there’s a holiday coming up. You can remind your supervisor to display seasonal goods near the cash register and always make sure you remove them when the festive is over.
David Walter, CEO, Electrician Mentor, gives other ways of taking initiative.
6. Speak Up
David Walter, CEO of Electrician Mentor, a company that teaches its students how to become an electrician, shares the following three ways to take initiative.
To take initiative at work, you need to speak up. You probably have ideas or strategies to improve the company, but they won’t know them unless you voice them.
If an issue arises or you know better how to do a particular task, share that information with your coworkers. You might be surprised how everyone was in the dark, and you stepped in and salvaged a situation.
7. Help Out, Even if You’re Undecided
If a colleague needs help and you have some knowledge in that area, offer your services. The same thing goes for anything else you notice. Anything you can do to move the company forward is part of taking initiative.
For example, if you see your coworker fumbling about setting up his laptop and the projector just before the group session. Knowing the struggle, you can volunteer to do it for them.
8. Ask for a One on One
The top tip, if you want to take initiative, is to ask for a one-on-one. In that scenario, you’ll be able to precisely identify what you need to do to achieve your goals.
How to Take Initiative as a Team
As a team, you can show initiative by tackling a problem together, brainstorming creative solutions, and offering your services to a cause inside and outside the company.
Utilize official or informal training sessions and create shared resources like manuals, SOPs, guides, flowcharts, etc.
2. Team Meetings
Investing in team meetings and retreats to foster creative problem-solving concepts and strengthen working relationships is a great way to get things done.
Always remember to give credit where it’s due and know how to thank someone for taking the initiative to make the team effort successful.
Taking Initiative Synonyms
If you are looking for a synonym for taking the initiative for your resume, here are a few for your consideration.
- come forward
- sign up
- step forward
- bring forward
- chip in
- do on one’s own volition
- go in
- let oneself in for
- offer services
- put at one’s disposal
- put forward
- speak up
- stand up
- submit oneself
- take the bull by the horns
- take the plunge
- take upon oneself
Likewise, here are a few synonyms for initiative:
Benefits of Taking Initiative at Work
You may be wondering why taking initiative is essential. Here are some of the numerous benefits of taking initiative at work in remote or in-person settings.
Often, all it takes is one individual brave enough to take that first step toward their objective, and others follow suit. One person’s initiative can spark a trend. Even if the efforts aren’t much, there is massive potential for positive development from setting an example.
Taking initiative means wagering on an uncertain outcome. Nevertheless, that’s the only way to discover yourself and your capabilities. You’ll feel motivated to keep going as soon as you become aware of your strengths.
Taking initiative at a full and part-time job can increase an individual’s ambition and enthusiasm. People may share a path with you, but no one can ever match your steps. Recognize your abilities and use them to assist others.
Taking that first tentative step into the unknown can make you feel exposed. The greatest danger is falling into the trap of letting fear prevent you from taking action. You overcome your fears and soldier on with determination to succeed by taking initiative.
While teamwork is valuable to every organization, individuals who do not require constant help or supervision from their superiors are a gem. Taking the initiative means you can easily accomplish tasks independently, giving your colleagues an easy time.
Learn New Skills
There is always something fresh to learn. However, you won’t wait for others to instruct you when you demonstrate initiative. You’ll be able to assume responsibility and develop the required skills.
Placing yourself as a competent employee eager to tackle complex tasks boosts confidence and may help you overcome a boss that makes you feel incompetent. Enhancing your expertise without taking a small, calculated risk is hard. Volunteering for opportunities to demonstrate your abilities with a solution-based perspective provides practice, which eventually leads to confidence.
Whatever field you’re in, professional life is very competitive. Even in the most relaxed professions, people must find ways to set themselves apart from the crowd. You will stand out from your colleagues by demonstrating that you’re ready to go above and beyond.
Employers seek out team members who take leadership roles and take initiative since they can trust them to figure out the details independently. Employers value employees who take charge by volunteering for new projects and by working for long-term career goals. It bodes well for future confidence in giving you greater authority.
Improve Decision Making
Just because you show initiative doesn’t mean you’re a lone ranger. It demonstrates that you are capable of making decisions that help in resolving issues, the enhancement of your work ethic, and the maintenance of task focus.
Enhances Time Management
Consider the anxiety of depending on your boss’s guidance on every issue, and then they’re unreachable. If you can figure out things on your own, you’ll be able to remain on top of things and complete your tasks on time.
In the long run, your career will benefit immensely from your initiative in the workplace. Rarely do people who don’t do anything to advance their careers get noticed. The only people who succeed in elevating their professional standing are those who take command of their careers and do whatever it takes to make their desired outcomes a reality.
Do you think taking action will go unnoticed by your employer? You would be surprised at how much attention they pay. Taking the initiative is a sign of leadership, increasing your chances of promotion.
Taking Initiative Considerations
While taking initiative at work is undoubtedly commendable, there are a few things to remember before plunging in headfirst.
Have you finished your routine tasks?
Your first duty is to ensure that you’ve completed the responsibilities your employer hired you to do. Clear your plate before taking up any additional tasks, and do not overcommit.
Consult as needed before taking the lead on a questionable topic. Collaborate on high-stakes projects with your manager, or get approval before moving forward. Ensure you’ve done sufficient research.
What is your risk capacity?
Being proactive involves taking calculated risks, and you should sometimes expect to make blunders and fall short.
Can you underpromise and over-deliver?
At times, you may need to accept responsibility for your actions and acknowledge your shortcomings.
How will others react?
It’s also possible that your honest attempts at initiative and ideas will face opposition. When people dismiss your concepts, try not to take them personally and keep your pride in check. Don’t lose your calm. Exhibit resilience by picking yourself up and continuing your efforts with vigor.
Are you taking on too much?
Equally, avoid trying to take on too much by yourself. When you need assistance, don’t hesitate to ask for it.
Will you give the wrong impression?
Instead, take the attitude of a sponge and be willing to take in as much information as possible. Don’t give anyone the wrong impression. It’s essential to exercise patience since transformation takes time.
Are you prepared to make mistakes?
As a learner, you may expect to make mistakes along the way, including underestimating the time and effort required to complete a task. Over time and with practice, you’ll sharpen your ability to foresee how much work anything will entail.
Are you in good health?
Always put yourself first by ensuring that you get enough rest. Please don’t rush through tasks; give them your full attention. Respect yourself and others, and be open to the ideas and opinions of others.
Qualities That Can Help You Take Initiative at Work
The following attributes are vital when taking the initiative in remote or in-person settings:
- Action-oriented: Making a plan and then carrying it out.
- Ambition: Having a clear vision for your professional development and making calculated moves toward it. The company’s success and the employees’ happiness preoccupy your mind.
- Collaboration: Integrity in relationships with coworkers, superiors, and clients. Confidence in one’s abilities and the willingness to accept calculated risks are the hallmarks of courage.
- Curiosity: Curiosity for the mechanics of things and a desire to improve systems and procedures. Doing a lot of reading. Awareness of one’s surroundings and the ability to make connections between seemingly unrelated events.
- Decisiveness: To avoid stress when deciding between alternatives. Quick thinking and performing timely and pertinent research, analysis, interpretation, and suggestions.
- Determination: You can keep going after a goal, even if it’s difficult or takes a long time to accomplish. You can hold on and not give up, proceeding as planned.
- Goal-oriented: You create objectives for yourself and work hard to achieve them by allowing your ambitions to motivate you.
- Positive mentality: Possessing a positive outlook enhances your other strengths facilitating better social interaction.
- Effective dialogue: You’re capable of listening attentively and articulating one’s ideas in a way that persuades and displays logical organization and thought—also, maintaining self-awareness regarding your vocal tone and focusing on how people behave nonverbally.
- Humility: Respect other people’s thoughts and feelings and regard one’s fellow man. Respect for the mental well-being of others and refrain from going too far. Willingness to consider alternative perspectives. Any person or circumstance can serve as a teacher. Having the desire to try novel approaches.
- Planning abilities and effective organization: Competent handling of one’s time.
- Enthusiasm: The urge to work well, achieve your goals, share your knowledge, make a positive impact, and help others.
- Dependability: Everyone can rely on you. You’re reliable and follow through on commitments.
- Self-motivation: The act of forcing oneself to complete a task, being driven and determined to succeed by forces within oneself.
- Imagining the Impossible: Dreaming big and being creative and inventive involves thinking about the company and how your efforts fit into the bigger picture.
- Adaptability: Are you flexible? If your first assumptions don’t pan out, readjust and give it another shot—motivation to grow and develop more.
Frequently Asked Questions about Taking Initiative at Work
Whether you’re a new employee or a seasoned professional, taking initiative is crucial for achieving success in your career. Here are answers to some common questions related to taking initiative at work to help get you started.
Showing that you can think independently and are committed to personal and professional growth makes you an attractive prospect for jobs and other possibilities. People who take the initiative to develop new and intriguing ideas are frequently recognized and rewarded for their efforts.
It sets you up as a valuable and reliable person in your team. Whenever there's an opportunity, your employer will most probably take you in due to the confidence and ability to take risks as exhibited. As a result, both your professional and personal life improves.
As an employer, you could wonder how to thank someone for taking initiative. The key is to be specific about the employee's initiative and your gratitude. It could be helping the company get investors or successfully heading a project. Here's an example of how you can frame it:
"Your contributions to the team have been valuable, and I look forward to continuing our collaboration. I appreciate your willingness to take the lead on this project and assist us in meeting our deadline."
People struggle with taking initiative for various reasons, possibly internal or external factors. Internal factors include fear of the unknown, self-doubt, and an inferiority complex.
Sometimes the struggle could be because of your environment. Some colleagues or supervisors may be hostile when you try to take the initiative, and it could be because of some perceived threat by your actions.
Taking initiative is a skill that is necessary for all careers. There's always something that needs an assertive person to do it. At the same time, all employers appreciate workers who do not wait for orders before taking up a task. Therefore, it's a skill not limited to a specific career and is valuable in all fields.
Being passionate about the tasks at hand can motivate you to think outside the box to deliver better results. You'll suggest improvements, point out underlying issues, and help others whenever possible.
Taking Initiative Examples Infographic
Below is a great infographic for use around the office.
Examples of Taking Initiative at Work Summary
Taking the initiative or simply doing the right thing is one of the soft skills that can help you prove your leadership skills or become one of the leading job candidates for potential employers. Supervisors may see your proactive approach as a more trustworthy and self-reliant worker, leading to possible promotions, bonuses, and salary increments. Taking initiative examples include taking on a job when no one wants to, going above and beyond for a customer to improve customer satisfaction, doing more than what was asked on a project, and working extra hours, so your team meets a deadline.
When thinking of taking the initiative at your workplace, you don’t have to set your mind on big things. Your initiative can still impact even on light issues like helping someone set up an excel spreadsheet. Even so, it would be best to approach each endeavor tactfully to present a positive outlook. As a result, you’ll boost your confidence and thus enhance your productivity leading to career growth.