How to Take Initiative at Work? Essential Tips, Examples, and Best Practices

How to Take Initiative at Work? Essential Tips, Examples, and Best Practices

Taking initiative at work means being more proactive in a job without anyone else asking for it. An employee full of initiative is not satisfied with simply performing a regular basis job; they desire to take on additional responsibilities and contribute more. If the company faces a problem, they are eager to be part of the solution.

Research confirms that employees with initiative are better performers, make great contributors, and have tons of amazing ideas for their workplace. This type of person will be valued by their boss for a long time. And to your surprise, an initiative person also brings significant benefits to the company. 

How so? Well, it’s a win-win situation. Having such individuals increases the productivity within the company, and they also bring forth an unlimited source of innovations for their development.  Meanwhile, the employee also has an opportunity to make a positive impression on their bosses. 

Building initiative at work may be more challenging than you think. You want to demonstrate your skills, but at the same time, you don't want to be bossy or to sound like a know-it-all. Let us guide you to strategize showing your initiative in the right time and situations.

How to Take Initiative at Work: Steps and Examples


You may have heard that taking initiative can be draining on your energy, mind, and sometimes your attention. Some individuals have experienced exhaustion from dedicating more time to their initiative than their regular tasks. As a result, they stop after one trial. And it’s normal. An important mindset to have before striving to do more than is required is understanding that you can't do everything. It's good to set your limits.

When you’re ready to go beyond after learning about your capacity, here are the 7 steps you need to know about how to show initiative at work:

1. Identify Opportunities

Knowing where and when to offer your help and ideas requires an awareness of your surroundings. It requires you to observe and stay curious about what’s happening in your workplace without seeming too obvious.

For example: One day your coworkers decide to resign and there is a pile of workloads. You know very well that your skills are a good match to fill the gap, plus the company needs a backup. In response, you voluntarily replaced your coworker’s position.

Your decision to take that chance is based on many considerations: you’ve already counted the time to finish both your jobs and your coworker's tasks, and you already made sure of the compensation and benefits.

2. Setting SMART Goals

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. These five points help you to stay focused on your career goals. With this principle, you can determine the worth of your initiatives and the rewards you can expect.

Some employees set vague goals when it comes to a career. They want to be the best at work. But, what does ‘being the best’ mean? Taking initiative at work will be in vain if you use it solely to appear superior to other employees, rather than aiming for a specific promotion or position.

Your SMART will guide your actions, give you powerful motivation to move forward, clear irrelevant and unrealistic goals that will hold you back, and lastly provide clarity in your decision-making. 

3. Be Proactive

Proactive means becoming more engaged in a project given by the company. Employees not only finish their regular tasks but also take part in the aftermath. A proactive person measures every possibility, is more vocal regarding the project’s result, and tries to take control of the situation.

For instance, you work as a designer in a cosmetic company. You and the team are given the responsibility to create the latest product promotion. And you have an idea to invite one of the Kpop groups as a Brand Ambassador. 

There is resistance from the C-Level because they know the cost would be very high. On the other hand, you believe this kind of promotion will blow up because you already measured and researched carefully. If everything goes according to plan, your career path will be wide open.

💡Pro tips: Being proactive at work is like wielding a double-edged sword. If you are too bold to push your idea in the wrong situation, it can backfire. That's why being proactive has to be based on careful consideration, in-depth research, and prudence.

4. Dealing with Resistance

As mentioned above, not all employees will welcome your initiative with open arms. According to McKinsey and Company, at least 70 percent of new programs fail to achieve their goals due to employee resistance and lack of support from management.

Facing resistance can be exhausting. But if you are committed to seeing it through here are some ways to confront and overcome resistance:

Identifying Resistance: Do the employees refuse your idea because they don’t want to step out of their comfort zone?

Providing Alternatives: Understand that it is difficult to make massive changes in such a short time. So when the resistance comes out, offer another choice that is good for all parties.

Effective Communication: Ensure that all the communications are properly delivered to the team. Remember that communication is the key.

5. Learning from Setbacks

Showing initiative at work is a big step. So you have to learn to accept that sometimes failure is inevitable in any decision. We often hear that defeat, setbacks, and missteps are part of the road to success. 

The crucial aspect of such a situation is how you handle it properly. Of course, facing the consequences can be overwhelming. First, take the time to examine the entire situation. Then, manage yourself by taking responsibility for your failure instead of blaming others.

Don't forget to always keep the lines of communication open with your managers or other people who can provide feedback. You can also ask for training or courses to show that you are willing to learn from past mistakes.

How can we take a big leap at work if we're ill-informed? Showing your determination is not enough when it comes to taking initiative in the workplace. As an employee, initiative needs knowledge and a lot of sources of information.

Let’s take an example: you are a social media admin who wants to become a social media manager. One of the essential skills to get that position is the ability to conceptualize a campaign for the company.

Concepting a thing requires you to stay informed and know what the trends are. It requires a lot of research, monitoring every social media platform, and discussing with another team. 

💡Pro tips: This also applies to other professions as well. Although it may be slightly different in some ways. But the highlight is the ability and willingness to learn new things, to absorb new information, and to be open to trends in the industry.

7. Initiate Cross-Departmental Collaboration

When ambition for the realization of the challenges and ideas can’t be done on your own, initiating a cross-departmental collaboration can be the answer. Interdepartmental collaboration is a vital component of building a successful business and company. It’s also a chance for a larger project to be handled by various people with various skill sets.

But before inviting other teams to collaborate, there are a few steps that must be taken:

Research the initiative projects

The first step is to determine the market opportunity and scope of the project. What is the success rate? Is the project profitable? Who is the target market?  Does this project require a large team? How much will the cost be?

Analyze the risks 
By doing so, you will have a backup if the project doesn’t go as planned. What is the percentage chance that this project will fail? What can we do to prevent failure? What should be done if the plan doesn’t go as intended? Who will take the responsibilities?

Analyze the impact of this project

When submitting the proposal to supervisors, highlight the benefit of interdepartmental collaboration. This working system canhelp to build strong bonds between teams. Strong teams, in turn, are good for the business.

Hopefully, these tips and examples of taking initiative at work will help you in your career future. But keep in mind, don’t take on more initiative than you can handle. Overwork will lead to burnout and mental health problems.


Taking initiative at work involves proactively generating ideas, devising plans, or undertaking tasks that extend beyond one's regular job responsibilities, often as a means to advance professionally. Before presenting these initiatives to managers, thorough research and risk analysis are essential to enhance their persuasiveness and viability. Following a structured approach, such as identifying opportunities, setting SMART goals, being proactive in projects, addressing resistance, acknowledging setbacks, staying informed about industry trends, and fostering interdepartmental collaborations, facilitates effective initiative-taking. It's crucial to balance this proactive behavior with self-awareness of one's capacity to prevent burnout and safeguard both work and personal well-being.

CakeResume is a free resume maker and portfolio builder that provides hundreds of resume templates (free download) and various job resume examples to help showcase the best you. Landing your dream job will be a piece of cake!

-- Originally Written by Erika Rizqi Rachmani ---

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