Hacker Career Advice
Be Helpful, Be Helped
I joined my current company about a year ago. And since then, I’ve built a lot of trust and social capital, which I can use to get things I want:
- Prompt code reviews from my colleagues
- Veto rights on a new hire or initiative
- PTO flexibility (I’m getting married soon and I’d like to take a month off)
- Other intangibles that improve my work/life balance
How did I do it? By following the advice I’ve been giving y’all for years:
- Save other people time
- Learn about your colleagues’ schedules
- Regularly talk to your boss
- Prioritize usefulness over novelty
But listen up, there are two ways to utilize this power:
1. Spend it, like currency
For example, if you really want your buddy to do something for you, you can say “You owe me!” They’ll begrudgingly acquiesce and give you what you want, but you’ll also have given up some of your power.
Furthermore, what you receive may not be as valuable as what you could have gotten, had you waited. This transactional approach isn’t very sustainable, but if you need something specific, and have run out of options, it can be useful.
True story: Last week, I almost cashed in a bunch amount of capital to get a better desk in our new office.
Fortunately, a fellow engineer reminded me that my code would be the same no matter where I sat, and that this was a poor use of my (limited) capital.
He was right and I’m glad I listened. A a week later and I can’t even remember why I wanted that particular desk in the first place.
2. Exude it, like confidence
The ultimate flex is not having to call in favors in the first place, because people are already eager to help you. Why? Because they know you’d do the same for them.
When you want someone to prioritize something for you, just ask them like you normally would. “Hey Jim, can you please prioritize this for Thursday? It’d really help me out. Thanks!”
Since you always look out for your coworkers, they’ll look out for you too. Your track record of helpfulness, dedication, and teamwork won’t go unnoticed.
I know that’s all a bit anticlimactic - but it works. People want to help helpful people.
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