“Damien, you’re selfish!” said my old mentor.

“For what?!” I was shocked.

“You’re afraid to help the neighboring lab because what they might think of you? That’s selfish!”

That was an eye opener. I was more focused on how I felt rather than focusing on how I could help.

I didn’t understand at the time, but now, working with so many young investigators and scientists to develop their own practices and careers, I see what he means.

Most of the time we don’t get what we want because we’re “selfish”.

I’m not talking about a traditional selfishness, where you’re not sharing obvious tangible resources like equipment, reagents, or funding.

I’m talking about your intangible resources, like talent and knowledge. We should all share our resource skills in order to help others move to the next level. We must stop focusing on our own feelings, and focus on the feelings of others.

Focusing on our own feelings of self doubt or advancement ends up inhibiting our career growth.

This also applies to self proclaimed, “nice” people. Sometimes, we are under the misconception that we’re just trying to be nice. However, we potentially can be masking selfish behavior.

PI candidates struggle with career / job negotiations, because of their mindset and approach.

Great work, done by Wharton School of Management’s professor Adam Grant, illustrates the basis of how we negotiate our working relationships. He showed that the giving approach is the most sustainable and advantageous in our career and in life. He dispels the myth that “nice guys finish last”.

So, if it’s not obvious, how can you tell if you’re being selfish, and what can you do about it?

I offer up three criteria on how to recognize selfish behavior within ourselves, and how we can change it in order to still get what we want.

1. You’re selfish if you think that you’re going to get taken advantage of.

Too often, we worry about getting an unfair deal, however that’s the wrong position to take during job negotiations. If the people are supposed to be your future trusted colleagues, assume positive intent .

If their initial offer doesn’t help you, then tell them know how that doesn’t help. Explain what is needed in order to reach your shared goals. Share the details from your preliminary budget. Ask for alternative suggestions, if need be.

2. You’re selfish if you don’t share your knowledge with those in need.

The Boston MBTA & government transit services has a saying, “If you see something, say something.” That also applies in negotiations. If a future collaborator or colleague could use improvement in their work, bring it to their attention. Ask them if they’ve considered a different perspective. Offer a suggestion as how to improve it by citing strategies that have worked for you in the past.

Offer helpful suggestions, WITHOUT assuming reciprocity. This presumption includes an actual job offer.

3. You’re selfish if you’re afraid of what people will “think” of YOU!

If you’re afraid of being taking advantage of, or that you’ll look ridiculous, then you’re thinking about YOU, just like I did with my neighboring lab. I was focused on my own feelings.

Focus on the group and your potential colleagues’ needs.

Share with them your experiences and an eagerness to help them to be successful, as well.

Ultimately these are your future collaborators and colleagues. Offer them a hand first, instead of expecting a hand out. They’ll respect that and reciprocate by ensuring your startup needs are fully met.

Stop being selfish and share your knowledge and talents with the world.

Were you a beneficiary of a selfless act by a colleague or a co-worker? How did that make you feel? What did they do for you? Did you reciprocate?

Don’t be selfish, leave a comment below and share with us.

Let us help you to be successful…NO STRINGS attached.

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