Self-Starter: How to Be the Best Employee at Work

Ene 19, 2023 | performance management

What does it mean to be a self-starter? Essentially, it means being self-directed and self-motivated. If you’re a self-starter, you can take direction from others, but you don’t necessarily need it. 

Other employees might flounder without having enough instruction. However, you spring into action. You ask the right questions or form a plan on your own. That’s because you take ownership of your own success.

How can you become a self-starter? And if you lead a team, how can you strengthen performance management for self-starters? Read on as we cover both of these questions and more.

Table of Contents

1. Traits of a Self-Starter

2. The Importance of a Self-Starter in the Workplace

3. Tips to Successfully Become a Self-Starter

4. How to Manage a Self-Starter

5. Interview Questions to Ask When Hiring a Self-Starter

Traits of a Self-Starter

Self-starters tend to possess a particular set of characteristics. These qualities drive them to give their all every day.

  • Motivated 
  • Curious
  • Action-oriented
  • Confident
  • Energized
  • Self-disciplined
  • Assertive
  • Creative
  • Agile
  • Possessing high standards

Self-starters are internally motivated by their own desire to succeed. They feel driven to excel in every task they do. They bring a high level of energy to their work. And they have the confidence to try new things and put new skills to use immediately.

The Importance of a Self-Starter in the Workplace

Group of self-starter employees meeting
Credit: Jopwell/Pexels

Self-starters bring many benefits to their organization. Here are several main ones.

Relieving Managers’ Workload and Stress

Just 1 in 4 managers has a healthy work/life balance, reports Gallup. That means most managers have an unreasonable amount of work on their plate. 

Self-starters require less direction from their manager while contributing more to their team. Today, managers are dealing with huge task lists and high levels of stress. Having self-starters on their team can ease this burden. 

Increasing Goal Achievement

On remote teams, managers often struggle to stay aware of employees’ progress. Confusion about roles or goals can easily occur—and priorities can fall through the cracks. But self-starters don’t let that happen. 

Forming Self-Directed Teams

Creating an entire culture of self-starters brings even more benefits. As individuals learn to become self-starters, they can form self-driven teams.

Self-directed teams are extremely valuable to their organization. They quickly take initiative and make the most of emerging opportunities. Having teams of self-starters can greatly boost an organization’s ability. And for companies with a flatter structure, self-directed employees are absolutely crucial.

Tips to Successfully Become a Self-Starter

Three self-starter women meeting happily
Credit: CoWomen/Pexels

Want to make a name for yourself in your workplace? Become known as a self-starter. We’ll share tips and mistakes to avoid.

Tips for Becoming a Self-Starter at Work

Don’t worry if being a self-starter doesn’t come naturally. For many people, it’s an acquired ability. Become more self-directed and empowered with these tips. 

Create a To-Learn List

Compile a running list of knowledge and abilities you want to acquire. Make note of things you wish you understood better and skills you want to offer. This will drive you to pursue new developmental opportunities.

Evaluate Your Own Progress

Self-starters don’t wait for their boss to tell them they’ve met their goals. They assess their progress on their own. They reevaluate goals and set new ones when need be. If you’ve met a goal, bring it up with your boss and propose a new one.

Request a 360 Review

Consider talking with your boss about having a 360 review conducted. It will provide a deeper understanding of how you should strive to grow—and what you’re doing well. (And asking for one will definitely mark you as a self-starter!)

Push Your Limits

Self-starters continuously grow by pushing their own limits. They don’t wait for their manager to challenge them. They ask, “How can I grow my skill set today? How can I get comfortable applying a new ability?”

Cultivate Resilience

Don’t let fear of failure hold you back. Challenge yourself to view failure as part of a process. If a plan fails, get back up and try something else. Self-starters fail at times just like anyone else—they just don’t let it hold them back.

Learn When to Ask for Permission

The best self-starters learn when to ask for permission and when to make a call on their own. They err on the side of overcommunicating if they’re not sure—but not in a tentative way. “I’m planning to do X. Does that sound good?” they might ask their boss. By doing so, they act assertively but don’t step on others’ toes.

Pitfalls to Avoid

Steer clear of these mistakes that many self-starters are prone to making.

Lacking Boundaries

Self-starters may be prone to say “yes” too often. After all, they’re highly energized and motivated. But self-starters without boundaries will inevitably suffer from burnout. If someone makes a request, ask yourself:

  • How does this relate to my goals and responsibilities?
  • How important is this? Is it important that I do this, or could anyone do it?
  • Can I rearrange other tasks to make time for this? Should I? 
  • Who is asking? Does my boss need and expect me to do this? Or does a coworker just need to find anyone who can pitch in?

Overlooking Areas for Growth

You may get lots of praise from your boss due to your productivity. Busy managers may focus on holding struggling employees’ hands while assuming you’re doing fine. Some managers may also fear scaring self-starters away with too much criticism.

However, you undoubtedly still have certain weaknesses. For instance, maybe you find yourself experiencing more than your share of conflicts. By working on your emotional intelligence and communication skills, you can become even more effective.

Make a point of asking for feedback if your manager doesn’t share it often. This will encourage your manager to provide feedback more regularly.

Inspiration for Becoming a Self-Starter

Learning from other self-starters will help you build the drive and skills to become one yourself.

Quotes About Being a Self-Starter

Here are a few of our favorite quotes on being self-driven. They’ll help kickstart you into becoming a self-starter!

  • “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”– Sheryl Sandberg
  • “Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. Own it.” – Oprah Winfrey
  • “Let your first hour set the theme of success and positive action that is certain to echo through your entire day. Today will never happen again.” – Og Mandino
  • “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” – Helen Keller
  • “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela
  • “We want things to go perfectly, so we tell ourselves that we’ll get started once the conditions are right … it’d be better to focus on making do with how things actually are.” – Ryan Holiday
  • “A little action often spurs a lot of momentum.” – Noah Scalin

For more inspiration, let’s turn to some examples of renowned self-starters.

Famous Leaders Who Were Self-Starters

Most exceptional leaders are self-starters; otherwise, they wouldn’t have achieved lofty goals. Here are a few examples of highly driven leaders.

  • Einstein had an incredible level of intrinsic motivation. He poured himself into work that fascinated him. Big ideas came to him because he was constantly thinking, which helped him make intuitive connections.
  • Rosa Parks played a major role in catalyzing the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. Already an activist leader, she became an icon when refusing to give up her seat on a bus, knowing this bold choice would fuel much-needed change. Despite the grueling nature of the work, she persisted in fighting for equality for many years.
  • Sarah Gilbert, scientist at Oxford, developed the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. This easier-to-store and less expensive option could make vaccination more accessible worldwide. In addition to leading her highly skilled team, she often did back-to-back media interviews as their efforts came to fruition.
  • Larry Page and Sergey Brin started Google at age 25, while still in school. With their vision and technical wizardry, they created a world-changing technology.

Now, let’s discuss how to show that you’re a self-starter when seeking a job.

Interview Tips: Showing Up as a Self-Starter

How to show a hiring committee that you’re a self-starter? Highlight your strengths with these essential tips.

Do Your Research

Before the interview, do your research on the company. Show that you know what differentiates it and you believe in its mission. Have a few relevant talking points in mind going in. Speak to your shared purpose, articulating the company’s vision and why you believe in it. You could also express how its culture aligns with your personality.

Prepare Stories Highlighting Your Abilities

Think about times when you’ve done all of these things in previous roles:

  • Taken risks that paid off. 
  • Solved challenging problems.
  • Shown vision. 
  • Achieved big goals.

Have stories on these topics ready to share with interviewers. Make sure they share clear and specific examples of the qualities you’re illustrating.

Come Ready to Ask Questions

Bring thoughtful questions to ask your interviewers. Show you’re trying to ensure the organization and role are a good fit. And make it clear that you’re interested in personal growth. 

Ask questions about culture and developmental opportunities. Inquire about support and expectations during the onboarding period. Ask for examples of professional development that employees have undergone in their first year. (You might even ask to speak with current employees about these things.) Your foresight will impress interviewers!

How to Manage a Self-Starter

Self-starter woman meeting Black man
Credit: Kindel Media/Pexels

When leading self-starters, follow this advice for best results.

Best Practices for Leading Self-Starters

How to best manage a self-starter?

  • Ask for their input. Give them a role in decision-making. Survey your employees to get their opinions on things. Or, create a special task force and invite self-starters onto it for decisions related to their expertise.
  • Delegate effectively. Assign them relevant tasks that use their abilities. And talk with them to make sure new tasks fit into their schedule.
  • Use the right performance management tools. Self-starters will love using goal-tracking software to see their progress unfold. Such tools can greatly boost motivation while also giving managers fresh insights to share.
  • Carry out 360 reviews with self-starters. This will deepen their self-awareness and help them reach the next level. Find out if their communication and collaboration skills are on par with their motivation in these reviews.
  • Deliver specific, detailed feedback every day. Don’t just say “Good job”—point out exactly what they did (or didn’t do) well. Self-starters want concrete observations that will benefit their growth.

By following this advice, you’ll effectively use self-starters’ skills and energy.

What to Avoid when Managing Self-Starters

When working with a self-starter, avoid these common mistakes.

  • Burning them out. Self-starters are prone to say “yes,” especially when trying to please their manager. Be aware of this tendency and help them to balance their workload. 
  • Denying their autonomy. Self-starters want to determine how they do their work whenever possible.
  • Assuming that because they’re motivated and productive, they don’t need feedback. Self-starters are even more likely to expect feedback than the average employee. After all, they’re highly driven to grow.

What if you’re trying to bring more self-starters on board your team? Read on for tips on how to identify and hire a self-starter.

Interview Questions to Ask When Hiring a Self-Starter

During interviews, you’ll obviously want to look for the qualities of self-starters described above. Asking the right questions can help you spot them.

  • What opportunities for personal growth would you like to have in the next year?
  • Why are you interested in working here?
  • Tell me about one of your most ambitious goals in your last job. How did you work toward achieving it?
  • What are your long-term goals?
  • Tell me about a major challenge you overcame in one of your last roles. How did you work through it?
  • Think of a time when you had to take on a completely new type of task. How did you handle that situation?
  • Have you ever taken a big risk and failed? Tell me about that.

Now you have a strong grasp of how to identify and develop self-starters. And if you’re an employee, you know how to become a self-starter at work! Keep applying these tips, and you’ll quickly become one of the most valued employees in your company.

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