Career Advice Career Guidance and Counselling

Selfless positivity will give you long-term rewards

I recently read Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam Grant, which distilled a philosophy that has guided me for some time. Fundamentally, the concept is that if you give unconditionally then there is a significant long-term positive payback.

Through his research, Grant shows that this return on investment is much greater for those who give their time and resources without an agenda or expectation, compared to those who either expect a direct return or who just take from others. Seeing this in black and white was comforting and, in a small and exceptionally networked environment like Hong Kong, I believe it is even more relevant.

The key to putting faith in this way of thinking is understanding how your reputation evolves around you without your influence. While you have direct control over your immediate professional impact, the way you are perceived by others has a life of its own, and it is your actions that set those events in motion.

Earlier in your career, you are more likely to be assessed on your technical outcomes but, as you become more of a potential role model, you will be judged on your wider influence. In a closed-door meeting where your potential is being considered, the picture of a natural mentor, trainer, facilitator and enabler will be infinitely more powerful than that of a selfish careerist.

In the work environment, look at the next chance to answer a question for a colleague, to devote time to someone else’s project, to mentor/coach a junior who isn’t on your team in a new light. Even beyond your internal corporate structure, assisting someone looking to find work at your company or giving broader industry insights to someone making career decisions are positive acts.

There will be people you help who will proactively support you in future and who change your life for the better without you having to ask. The more positivity you put out there, the greater the return will be. Just don’t be someone who expects it.


This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Good vibrations.