Taking Initiative Tavorro Careers

Why Taking Initiative at Work is Key to Your Success

The Definition of Initiative

The practice of stepping out and proactively taking action.

What is Initiative?

Initiative is the practice of looking for ways that you can contribute to your team, department or organization and taking action. It’s saying to your boss, “Would you mind if I helped out on this project if I did so in my spare time?” What boss would say no? 

Why is Taking Initiative Important?

In today’s economy,  jobs are in high demand.  Many have been unemployed for an extended period of time or have taken jobs that were not a perfect fit just to get by.  Those that have jobs are often disengaged from their jobs and take them for granted. They are only marginally invested in the overall success of the  organization and do as little as possible to hang on to their job.  We’ve all seen the clock watchers and those that do just enough to say they are working.   However, business owners and managers are on the constant lookout for people who take the initiate and strive to add value to the organization. This may be the quickest way to get yourself noticed and advance in your chosen career.

How can You improve in this area?

1.  Be a Go Getter

Offer to help out wherever it’s needed. If you know your co-workers could use some help on a project, offer to help.  When you hear of something your boss is doing, say to him or her “I can do that for you” or “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you with that.” I guarantee that your boss or manger will notice the effort. Take the initiative to do additional work that hasn’t been assigned to you. Ask for more challenging tasks. Do the things nobody else wants to do. Follow through and make sure a task is complete.  Be the stand out Go Getter! A great book for you to read if you would like some additional guidance in this area is Dr. Bob Nelson’s Book 1001 Ways to Take Initiative at Work.

2.  Figure Things Out on Your Own

People who take the initiative figure out how to do things on their own. Instead of waiting to be told exactly how to do something, Google it and learn how to do it yourself. Take a class or ask a mentor to teach you. Bosses are busy people. They don’t have time to sit down and make a step by step list of instructions for each and every task or assignment that may come up. They want their team members to be independent and figure out how to do things on their own. When possible, solve any problems that may arise or at the very least, when making your manager or boss aware of a problem, have a possible solution in mind for them.  Be creative and think outside the box.  Challenge yourself to find the information on your own and figure things out for yourself.  In the end you will be glad  you did.

3. Speak Up

Taking the initiative means contributing to group discussions. While there should be a certain amount of time that you lay low and earn the respect of others, you need to be an active participant who is engaged, thoughtful, and eager to contribute. Rehearse your comments in your head and then offer them with confidence. Nobody has to know that you might be anxious or intimidated. Take a risk and be bold. Show your co-workers and boss that you can be a valuable member of the team.

Always remember, you are lucky to be employed.  No one is irreplaceable and there is always someone willing and ready to do your job if you choose to do it poorly! By taking initiative you are positioning yourself for success and advancement! Start today!

We love hearing from you! Share your comments, ideas and suggestions for taking initiative below!

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  1. I agree being a go getter helps a ton in the work place. Making sure you are taking on as much responsibility as possible will show your bosses you have what it takes to move up the corporate ladder. Don’t get complacent, be a go getter!

    • I think there is too much emphasis on “moving up the corporate ladder”. There is a saying,” I spent my career trying to move up the corporate ladder only to find out it was leaning against the wrong wall. Be true to yourself and don’t worry about impressing the bosses. Take pride in what you do and do what you love and success will find you.

    • Elizabeth M McKenney

      The one area of taking initiative that stands out the most for me is #2 “figure things out on your own.” This statement stands out to me because one time my boss stated to us about the new employees, “If I have to sit there and tell you what to do for everything you will be effectively fired.” This statement by my former boss just proves how important taking the initiative to figure things out on your is and that your bosses do indeed notice. This is article is great advice and I would also like to add, if you have the attitude that this is your business or organization and always work like you are the business owner or boss, you will always be successful. It shows you care about the success of your organization, because if you do not care and your organization ceases to exist, then you no longer have a job.

  2. Being a go-getter sounds great on paper, but it can lead to extremely stressful situations where you end up with unsolvable or too many assignments. The trick to being a great go-getter is to know your limits. Don’t take on too many tasks at once and do not do tasks you believe you will have tremendous trouble with. Furthermore, don’t let your boss take advantage of your willingness to help, have the courage to say no when you are having too many responsibilities heaped onto your plate.

    Remember, it is not worth being a go-getter and then get fired for failing expectations.

  3. I wholeheartedly agree when it comes to the value of initiative. I’ve been on the giving and receiving end as an employee and as a department manager overseeing 20+ staff members. I will admit there is always the chance of being taken advantage of, but I’ve personally found this to be the exception rather than the rule. Showing initiative not only makes the job more enjoyable, you end up gaining a sense of pride and increased confidence as a result of your contribution.

  4. Having been a former manager at a well known logistics company, I can’t stress enough how important it is to be a “go getter” and take initiative. Management is under a lot of constraints to get the job done with less. If you have employees willing to take on more jobs to prove themselves it makes deciding who gets raises and who doesn’t that much easier. I tell every young person I know this advice “Make yourself extremely valuable. Go to work every day thinking, how can I make it known that I want to advance in my company.” No one is going to come and ask you. If you want to get ahead, volunteer to work overtime, step and ask for that next project, work overtime without expecting to be paid for it. All those things get noticed and will pay off in the long run.

  5. So many people do NOT take initiative. It’s sad really.

    People complain how they “have to do the same darn thing every day.”

    People feel “stuck” in their current position because there are “no more opportunities.”

    They just take orders and get their job done, but don’t try to seek new challenges.

    You nailed it when you said you have to be a Go-Getter. You can’t just sit around and expect major projects to get assigned to you. You can’t just “wait” for your boss to promote you. You can’t just “hope” to get a raise. You have to actually go and get it.

  6. It’s crazy to think that more people aren’t actively trying to take initiative in today’s job market. With the shortage of jobs, it’s essential to do every little thing possible to get ahead. Taking initiative in your job is a way to do that without having to step on anyone’s toes.

    Plus pretty soon after taking initiative at work you’ll notice that you’ve started taking initiative in your daily life. Work habits tend to bleed over into daily life quite a bit. It’s a good step and this is great advice!

  7. Couldn’t agree more with you about the value of initiative. I’ve been on the receiving and giving end as a manager and an employee and – yes – there are some who will attempt to take advantage, but from my experience those occasions are few an far between. I believe using initiative not only makes the job more enjoyable, but it gives one a sense of contribution and fulfillment. As an added bonus it’s the best possible way to set yourself up to advance in your career.

  8. The more you can do for your employer the better! And the better you are to them the more they will reward you!

  9. I have a co-worker who always spoke up and I would feel a bit embarrassed whenever she would talk in team meetings. But it turned out that she got promoted recently. I guess her drive was seen by others. I’m going to come out of my bubble and try it.

  10. Taking initiative is definitely key to moving up in any organization. If you only do your assigned duties, you won’t really show your ability to do any task other than the one you were originally hired for. In some competitive environments it’s important to go “above and beyond” even to stay in the same position.

  11. Being a go getter is the key to having a fulfilling career. You almost never fall into a dream job. You have to go after what you want to get it. Controlled aggression is a big asset in the professional world.

  12. While it takes a moment or two for a new worker to become comfortable in a new situation, your three steps ought to be the goal of every employee. When one offers to help out wherever it’s needed, they start to get a bigger picture of of the dynamics and build a network to support them in their down time. When one stops waiting to be told exactly how to do something, and gets the list of best practices for accomplishing a task, they can add value and efficiency to the situation. Thirdly, when one can develop skill in speaking up in ways that enhance the life of the group they move into real leadership development. Great post Tavorro!

  13. In the current job market, you need to stand out. Taking initiative will open up more opportunities for yourself and will help you get a better job or better pay.

  14. These three steps are essential to success in the workplace, especially if an employee wants to “move up the ladder.” With the competitiveness of today’s job market, it is important to be a “go getter” and make yourself stand out among the crowd. Having taught high school for 9 years, I believe these skills start in our schools and it is important to teach young people that taking initiative is the first step to being successful in future education as well as in a career. There are those that stand out and those do not. Without initiative, an employee can quickly go unnoticed. Great post and wonderful advice for all types of careers and jobs.

  15. Being a go-getter is important, but I find as much if not more value in someone who is willing to learn. Gophers end up just that- getting taken advantage of for errands. Don’t be so eager to appear as a brown-noser… that sets you up quickly for blackmail and backstabbing from fellow peers.

    So yes, learn all you can and do all you can, but balance it out also.

  16. This post could be more helpful if the points weren’t so vague. For example, taking initiative is something people already know is a good thing but aren’t really sure about how to go about it. It might be more helpful to give examples of how people can improve upon this ability that are more specific than just “be creative.” Overall the article is pretty good and has valid points, I just wish they were a bit more specific.

  17. The blog entry here is something that many individuals tend to overlook, especially those who are complacent in their workplace. Often I’ve seen people essentially mentally “check out” once the workday is finish, however I think that’s the opposite of what someone should do. You should always be constantly looking for ways to be better at work and looking for ways to be more efficient in what you do. Constantly learning and re-inventing yourself and how you complete certain tasks is absolutely crucial in order to succeed, especially in such a competitive market.

  18. I’ve never really gave much thought to initiative before. I’m definitely going to try to implement what you’ve prescribed. My self confidence really holds me back from finding opportunities and I could really use some initiative in my life. I totally agree with your part about figuring stuff out on your own. My dad used to say all the time, “making a way out of no way” and I’ve always felt like knowing that that’s possible sets me apart from everyone else and keeps me strong.

  19. I think that figuring things out yourself is very important because I think you learn better this way. Your will remember something a long time if you had to spend time figuring it out yourself. These are all good points though and very helpful! Speaking up is probably the toughest for me personally. Thanks for the good information!

  20. Putting forth initiative has almost always benefited me in the workplace. Not only does it show your superiors and team members that you’re willing to put in the work to make your organization succeed, but it exposes you to opportunities for networking and professional growth that you would not have otherwise encountered.

  21. I think sometimes some people do not realize how lucky they are to have a job in this economy. I agree that people should take the initiative at work. On the same token, sometimes employers realize how vulnerable people are to this economy, and they can get taken advantage of in certain ways such as pay, and increasing work demands. Maybe both employers and employees should start working together again. Being the one to take the initiative is something the employee can do to contribute to the employer and gain some leadership in the process; being a good to hard working employees is a way a company can get on top by creating a more productive work environment since employee satisfaction contributes directly to the quality of work.

  22. Initiative is great for many workers striving to make a name for themselves. It creates the divide between silent and assertive, good and better, and the not-there-yets and those with leadership potential. I like these three suggestions listed on how to take initiative because, really, it’s just that simple. It gets hard only when the person has nothing to say, is disinterested, or is just too quiet or timid. But taking the initiative is important and never harmful. It’s a good practice in projects, team building, and even in getting a job in the first place. I believe I’m good at taking the initiative at times, but I know I can do better, so I appreciate useful articles like this.

  23. I agree whole heartily with being a go getter, but first get your work done. If you have time left than help out with others or stay over off the clock to help. Sometimes figuring things on your own can lead to big mistakes if you don’t know what you are doing. If you feel in your gut that you know what you are doing go ahead. Speaking up is a good thing that I have experienced first hand. I always get ahead by showing that I am totally committed by contributing ideas at work.

  24. An individual has a responsibility to try to make sure they take the initiative in order to succeed!

  25. With the way the job market is today, it’s in everybody’s best interest to be a go-getter and make it happen. No one is giving out handout today, if you want it you going to have to grind out and make it happen for yourself..

  26. It’s very true that being a go-getter works. When I was trying to apply for my first job, I only got it because I showed the most interest in it. I know for a fact there were more qualified applicants, but I kept checking in with them to see the status of the position.

  27. Good advice. Now to get up off my butt and do something. What do people think about how to take initiative when you have anxiety?

  28. This is really good advice for people who like to research stuff on your own. Look up something for your job, in that time you use for checking on baseball statistics! Your checkbook will thank you!

  29. I agree that it’s important to figure things out on your own. My mom is a hospital administrator and complains that millennial employees always wait for direction and hesitate to just dive in and figure things out on their own. People who can take the initiative to think of something and get it done will set themselves apart.

  30. Contributing to my team is what I do best. I also try and speak up as much as possible when I believe that what I have to say will benefit my team. I love the advice shared and I really believe it will help many people in their current jobs. I have always been a go-getter and I believe that will really help someone stand out from the rest of the crowd.

  31. taking the initiative is a great way to get ahead in the business world! anything you can do to gain an advantage in todays ultra competitive market is a plus!

  32. This is a great way to get ahead. Perfect for anyone for any business really. Taking the iniative will greatly enhance your ability to succeed in the business world today!. You must figure things out on your own level and with confidence!

  33. I’m usually the first to take initiative when I see something that needs fixing at the office. I hate waiting around to see if someone else is going to manage the problem. I’d rather just handle it myself and get it done.

  34. Taking initiative can sometimes be the difference between those who rise in rank and those who stay at the bottom level. You have to put yourself out there and make things happen. Great article and should serve as inspiration for those looking to get ahead.

  35. One of the things that will make you valuable to your superiors is taking initiative to fix problems. You can make a great impression on a superior by alerting them to an issue but also already have it taken care of before going to them.

  36. In an extremely difficult job market, I feel one does need to have an ‘edge’, something about themselves to stand out. The employee that stands out for positive reasons, will be the one to get noticed and ahead.
    Keeping this in mind, when two of my now-adult children graduated from college and started their job search, I advised them when they went on an employment interview for somewhere they really wanted to be employed, to offer to “shadow” someone at that job for a day or two, voluntarily for no pay. They found this to be an attention grabber on the interview, -showing 1) that they were really interested in being there and the position available
    2) that they were willing to prove themselves in that particular work environment and how well they would “fit in” at no risk to the employer. It WORKS ! One is a State Social Worker, who had to decide between 2 job offers and by shadowing both, she was able to make the best choice for herself. The other obtained a position as an ER nurse as a hospital, the interviewer was impressed he would even offer to do this and hired him without having to actually shadow.
    This advice can also be used if you already have employment, -is there a higher position you want to apply for ? -offer to fill that position with no pay for a couple of days if you truly feel confident in yourself, -show what you can do. Another department you would like to be transferred to ? -offer to shadow yourself and prove yourself a good fit. If that’s not applicable, perhaps do some advanced work/art that you are capable of and present it to a boss.
    Often, to get what you want, you have to give some.
    (Shadow=following someone around that is where YOU want to be)

    • Great suggestion Barbara about shadowing and offering to show your employer what you are capable of. I can say first hand this works, I had an employee offer to fill in for someone that was going on maternity leave and she ended up working out so well, that we promoted her.

  37. So true, if you don’t take the initiative at work someone else will and you will be left wishing you had. Don’t ever get so confident that you think they can’t replace you because they can, and will.

  38. I took the initiative and got the job of my dreams once. I was looking for work and told the interview I’d be available in an hour! She was so impressed at my drive, she hired me on the spot!

  39. I’ve actually found all three of these nuggets to be useful in both my job searching efforts as well as my efforts on the job. Nicely done, concise list with a wake-up-call message about appreciating what we do have and making the best of it. Although I thankfully don’t have an issue with speaking up personally, I really commend the detailed advice provided here about how to do so with clarity and confidence — i.e., “Rehearse your comments in your head and then offer them with confidence. Nobody has to know that you might be anxious or intimidated.” Whether being bold is difficult or comes naturally, that’s GREAT advice! 🙂

  40. It is definitely important to show initiative while on the job. At my previous job, all my supervisor talked about was how she wanted me to show initiative. I was somewhat afraid to get out of my comfort zone though. Towards the end of my time at that job, I started doing more, and taking initiative and I could tell my supervisor and others were really happy that I did.

    Really great article. It shares some great information to help people out if they can’t figure out what they are doing wrong and need some tips to do better.

  41. I really think figuring things out on your own is very poignant advice. These tips are great but are people going to follow them? I know quite a few people that hear a lot of good advice for looking for a job but don’t follow through. Is there anything else we can do to motivate them?

  42. This is very true. I used to work non-stop in my job but I only ever did what I was told to do. Even though I was one of the longest-standing employees, I was always being passed over for recognition and promotions. This was despite the fact I performed well and was dedicated and committed. As soon as I started going the ‘extra mile’ by showing more of my own initiative, I started to receive far more recognition.

  43. This is very helpful advice, spot on, especially in this economic climate. You have to motivate yourself, be an enthusiastic go-getter with a “can-do” attitude. I was unemployed for 15 months and it made me feel awful. It took away my drive and spirit. The only way I climbed out of that funk was to pull myself up by the bootstraps and take charge! Be proactive! Great advice here….you have to take charge of your future and do everything you can to boost your chances. Take heed…put your best foot forward, be innovative, think outside the box and most of all, fire it up and be energentic and take initiative.Good luck!

  44. This article has some great tips to help people get ahead not only in their careers, but also in other areas of their life. Taking initiative and speaking up is an important way to get what you want.

  45. Taking initiative is the best way to get noticed in your career by the important people. As long as you’re not an annoyance or too aggressive. You don’t want to go unnoticed and passed by. By standing out, you’ll be more valuable in your company.

  46. Taking the initiative will help you to develop confidence and trust in yourself. Also it will allow you to develop confidence in yourself. I learned to take the initiative leads to a good amount of work and confidence.

  47. Job security is important for your career and you financial success. Taking initiative proves that you are a valuable employee and increases the chances of employment stability.

  48. Everything has to be done in balance. It’s great to a be a go-getter and in some cases that can really help you move up and get ahead in your position. If you’re getting things done without anyone even asking and are efficient, many bosses will take notice of that and reward you when it comes time for raises. But on the other hand you don’t want to to get to the point where you’re doing more than your fair share of the workload. Some companies will see that one person is getting everything done (even though the job may really require more than one employee) and skip hiring a second employee or end up relying on you too much to always be the one who gets things done without really compensating you for what you’re doing.

  49. This is great advice, I wish this was out when I was younger. You need to go out and make your own way in this world and taking initiative is what gets you ahead in life. This is great advice to anyone, from those just starting out to those who have been going at it for a long long time.

  50. These are all wonderful suggestions, but what do you suggest for those who have a work environment that is not conducive to new ideas or projects? I do my best to take the initiative when and where I can, but I always receive a lot of push back, and that does not help my spirits!

  51. By taking the initiative and making good plans in your career is very important. That is why this article provides great tips on taking the initiative and what you need to do in order to do well. I think this is quite interesting and people would probably benefit from this.

  52. That’s what I keep telling my friends… opportunities don’t just fall into your lap (well, at least not too often)! I know several people who got promoted because they volunteered for projects and proved they could do more than the current position required.

  53. You have to take initiative as waiting for things does not work out. Seize the opportunity.

  54. Taking initiative is the only way to get noticed in a crowd of workers. Your hard work has to be apparent to management

  55. I think everyone needs help in those areas to one degree or another. Speaking up has always been a tough one for me but I’m working on it.

  56. These are all great points I currently have around 25+ working under me because I took initiative to work hard and not to sit back and let others get further ahead. I also took the time to learn as many aspects of other jobs that were not related to my field in my company to make myself more valuable and to see what other departments go through.

  57. I agree with most points of this article. I fear it leans more toward being a workaholic though, which I would never approve of. It’s important to continue to be yourself and also apply these kinds of values to your work.

  58. Taking initituative is a sure way to get the attention of your supervisor and help move up the ladder.

  59. Taking initiative shows your boss and other important figures at your organization that you appreciate your job and are invested in the overall success of the company. This is one of the best ways to be recognized and possibly promoted.

  60. Fascinating blog. I definitely see the value in this. I mean, you can’t get opportunities if you don’t try to get them. Great advice, look forward to more content.

  61. I agree with taking initiative, some think it is brown-nosing; they need to get real! Can’t imagine just watching the clock waiting for the day to move. My opinion ( and actions over the years) are if someone is willing to hand you money…do the best you can for it, it most always pays off for the better. This is good advice here.

  62. This is a great little article with good advice for people who wish to move up in their field but aren’t sure how to do so. The one thing I would add is that it might be a good idea to mention wanting to be promoted here and there. Not every day or even every week, of course – that would get annoying for your coworkers – but often enough that your boss doesn’t begin believing you’re satisfied working extra hard in a lower-paying position. It doesn’t need to be said too often, but it will just further solidify you as the first person your boss thinks of when they’ve decided to promote someone.

  63. One thing I have found is that taking initiative not only impresses the higher-ups, but it also gives me more job satisfaction. When I’m going out of my way to do a good job, to learn more, and to do more, I’m more proud of my work, and we all enjoy doing things that we are proud of.

  64. One thing I have found is that taking initiative is good for getting you noticed. You must get noticed to succeed in business so taking the initiative is a very good thing.

  65. Legal Secretary

    There was a time when I would have absolutely agreed with you, but just last week I was let go from my position as a legal secretary to the managing partner of the law firm I work at for taking too much initiative. So whether or not taking initiative is a good thing really depends upon the situation and your superior(s). My boss happened to be a micromanager personality, so anything extra I took on threw his precise agenda out of whack and stressed him out. A truly good secretary would have sensed this and backed off and done just the tasks given. This would have pleased him more, and I would not have been let go from this position. Fortunately, the firm realized I was a good overall employee, so I am still employed at the firm, but just lost my assignment with the management partner and am now a floater secretary. So the true wisdom lies in assessing the needs of your employer, not your own.

    • Hi Legal Secretary! Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us! Congrats on going the extra mile and assessing the true needs of your employer! As with anything in life, finding balance is definitely key! It sounds like things worked out wonderful for you in the end and we hope you will be very happy and successful in your new position. Keep us updated and let us know how things are going!

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