Why I don’t help people (for free)

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Free advice IS the hidden curriculum of any career, even #SciComm, says @meteorscicomm. When I’m deciding whether to give free #SciCommAdvice, one of my main things is […].


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Being a good person means helping people for free and being a good business person means NOT helping people for free. 😣

So there has to be some kind of middle ground here for professionals. But how do you decide who you help and when?

Saying no is complicated. You’re weighing ⚖ a lot:

  • You might need to make money, or typically do make money, from this activity.
  • Giving advice for free risks limiting you to giving low-quality advice or eating up your billable hours/time ⏳ you could be spending making progress on your own work.
  • Access to free advice is tied closely to the networks and inside info that can lead to career success. Thus, free advice plays a crucial role in gatekeeping. 🚧
  • But, helping people can be so meaningful, and so many of us got where we are 🐱‍🏍because people helped us for free.

When navigating this obstacle course, we assert: 

  1. Remember, whether you’re an academic, a consultant, or an employee, there are only 24 hours in a day. You will have to say no sometimes.
  2. Keeping track of who you say yes and no to can help you identify unconscious biases (usually in favor of folks you know).
  3. Free help can feel more viable if it’s going to be common or public knowledge 🌍 that lots of people can access for free (think blogs, articles, podcasts, etc.).

Examine your own process: Who are the last five people you said no to helping for free?

What did they have in common?

Do your answers match your goals?

BONUS! 🎁 Bethann’s running a workshop on the question of big picture goal-setting. If you want to sign up, visit meteorscicomm.org/courses.

Thanks for listening! Need some guardrails? 🏍 Give us a holler and we’ll get you the 🚫 you need.


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