What Does Being a Self-Starter Mean?

Updated June 20, 2023

Image description

A man wearing business attire crouches at a starting line like a runner. Next to him, there's a header that reads, "What is a self-starter?" and icons with these labels:

- A hand writing with "Motivated"
- A thumbs-up with "Confident"
- A hand completing a checklist with "Ambitions"
- A hand holding job profiles with "Resilient"

A self-starter sets and works toward goals and identifies solutions to problems independently. Companies often look for self-starters to build teams that finish tasks and achieve goals efficiently. Understanding what a self-starter is can advance your career. In this article, we'll discuss the definition of a self-starter, how to be a self-starter at work and how to showcase your self-starter skills in an interview.

What is a self-starter?

Self-starters are skilled professionals who take initiative, work without supervision and take on projects independently. They often have the following skills:

  • Motivation. Self-starters feel motivated to take action without needing additional prompts or reminders from supervisors. They can prioritize tasks, manage their time to meet deadlines, and take pride in their work.

  • Confidence. Self-starters rely on their intuition, and they can make decisions quickly when needed. They can also speak confidently in front of large groups of people and train new employees.

  • Ambition. Self-starters set and achieve their own goals. They know when to set ambitious targets, and when to thrive in their current position.

  • Resilience. Self-starters can move past challenges and find creative solutions to problems. They adapt to change and revise their routines to improve efficiency when needed.

How to be a self-starter at work

You can be a self-starter at any point in your career and in any industry. Use your skills to take on new roles as you progress in your career and be proactive about discovering solutions and resolving disputes at work. Here are some steps for becoming a self-starter at your job:

1. Embrace challenges

Self-starters enjoy challenges and often take on difficult tasks. When you welcome challenges, such as starting a new project, you show managers you're ready for more experience and are happy to take on additional responsibilities. People with the motivation and confidence to improve and succeed continuously are more likely to receive raises and promotions. To exhibit your initiative, accept some new tasks at work. For example, you can take on a bigger workload, lead your team on a special project or offer to train new team members.

Read more: Show Hiring Managers That You're Ready to Work

2. Get comfortable with discomfort

The most motivated and ambitious employees understand that growing and improving means stepping outside of their comfort zones. To advance your career, you may need to take on some tasks that you're not familiar with or work additional hours. By working past these obstacles and being open to working on more advanced tasks, you show that you're resilient and adaptable.

To communicate to managers that you want the chance to grow, volunteer for some new opportunities. For example, you can offer to give a presentation about continuing education opportunities at your next team meeting or take responsibility for introducing new technology to your team. You can also take special courses to learn new and relevant skills to excel in your field.

3. Set higher expectations

Self-starters routinely raise expectations for themselves and the other members of their team. That way, they can continue improving throughout their careers. When you regularly meet goals, you can set higher targets and more ambitious goals for yourself and your team. This improves your performance and achieves more advanced objectives for your company.

Determine your goals and review them frequently, advancing them whenever possible. For example, you can set a minimum goal and an ideal goal to motivate yourself and your team to continue progressing each quarter. Consider identifying areas of improvement and aligning your goals with business growth projections to accomplish your objectives and increase your capabilities.

Read more: SMART Goals: Objectives for Your Career

4. Focus on successful outcomes

Self-starters replace doubts with confident thoughts, and they keep track of their accomplishments. When you concentrate on favourable outcomes, you gain the ability to channel higher levels of self-assurance and proficiency into any task you take on. Stay focused on successful outcomes and set small goals that help you achieve larger objectives. Meeting smaller goals gives you the motivation you need to continue working towards your more significant targets.

5. Promote teamwork

Self-starters specialize in motivating themselves. However, encouraging teamwork and collaboration with your team members can inspire all of you to accomplish even more together. To promote teamwork, prioritize sharing new ideas and setting goals as a group. For example, you can brainstorm ideas for a new project with colleagues, discuss realistic deadlines and review group feedback. You can also take time to celebrate the awards and praise you receive as a team and recognize the top performers.

6. Get your work done early

Self-starters are proactive and like to get their work done before the deadline. To accept additional responsibilities and showcase your skills to managers, you need to take care of core tasks first. Getting your work done early gives you time to take on additional projects with confidence. Your supervisors will notice and be impressed by your accomplishments, leading to more opportunities for career advancement.

7. Promote yourself

Keeping company leaders aware of your ongoing efforts is essential to being a self-starter. You can highlight and take credit for your accomplishments without bragging, and you deserve recognition for the hard work you put into the company. If you work extra hours or take on extra projects, make sure your supervisors know about your efforts. This reminds them you're an indispensable part of the team. When you have a new idea, write a formal proposal and submit it to executives. You can also send your supervisor a weekly summary report with information about everything that you accomplished that week.

Read more: How to Ask for a Raise (With Example)

Demonstrating self-starter skills in an interview

You can exhibit that you're a self-starter by researching the company before your interview and referring to some details about the company. If possible, do an in-depth search and find the name of the hiring manager to research their background. Mention an impressive project that the interviewer worked on or a product they helped develop that you admire. That way, they'll know that you made the effort to research the business.

During an interview, the hiring manager might ask about your skills, characteristics and whether you consider yourself a self-starter. Providing specific anecdotes is an effective way to show your motivation at work. Here are some examples to use as inspiration:

Visionary leader

As a candidate for a leadership role, demonstrating your forward-thinking ideas can help you establish yourself as an innovator. Consider positioning yourself as a visionary leader by discussing your ability to inspire your team and keep yourself motivated.

Example: “I thrive in leadership positions, especially when I can inspire my team with my vision. In my last role, I led a company-wide restructuring initiative, and I guided team members as they adapted to their new roles. Although the initiative was first met with some understandable resistance, I successfully inspired my team to trust my vision and enjoy their new positions by convincing them of the restructuring benefits.”

Read more: Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples


If you're applying for a role that requires leadership, consider highlighting your experience in guiding teams and your habit of taking risks and embracing new challenges. Focus on your ability to assess risks and make sound decisions by discussing a specific instance when you took a risk at work.

Example: “I understand that taking calculated risks can offer substantial advantages to my team, so I embrace risks when I determine them to be worthwhile. In my previous role, I encouraged my team to adopt a difficult new technology that would transform our organization. I challenged team members to present their progress each week, and I offered rewards to those who hit performance targets.”


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 through the obstacle.

Example: “I strive to be proactive in the workplace. In my last position, we started a new project, and I realized we might struggle with meeting some deadlines. I took the initiative to discuss potential solutions and provide team members with extra training to help them work more efficiently. As a result of my problem-solving abilities, we met every deadline and actually executed the project ahead of time.”

Read more: Tips From a Recruiter: Mastering the Virtual Interview

Goal achiever

You can convey your motivation and desire for success by focusing on your proactive approach to objectives. Try discussing a situation when you achieved high goals and exceeded the expectations of supervisors or customers.

Example: “In my current role, I work to improve my skills at every available opportunity. At first, I merely met my goals, but I knew I could perform better. I independently sought a sales training program, and the techniques I learned have helped me exceed my goals for the past three months.”

Read more: How to Prepare for a Job Interview

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