keep away from my money!

Why Being Selfish is the Best Way to Get Ahead in Your Career

Who cares the most about your career: you or your boss?

Who cares whether you’re getting paid fairly: you or Human Resources?

Who cares whether you’re learning new skills that will guarantee job security in three years: you or a career counselor?

Welcome to You Enterprises. Sure, your boss, HR and career advisors play critical roles in your work life, but they aren’t the driving force of your career. They expect you to take control of your own professional life, and you should see things that way, too.

Being a team player is great and an important skill in the workplace. But for a few key issues, forget everyone else—you’ve got to be selfish if you want to see changes. That because at the end of the day, no one’s going to look out for you the way you look out for yourself.

Here are the three things you need to be the most selfish about:

1. The work you do on a daily basis

How often have you done a job that wasn’t part of your job description? Were you performing that job for more than a few months? Did that help or hurt your long-term career? In most cases, this “different” job hurt your chances of getting a promotion in your core job, because you were spending your time doing something else that another manager requested.

Pitching in is necessary, but sometimes you just have to stand up for yourself and say NO. Be nice, but give a good reason why you can’t do it.

Managers are always trying to create the best team possible, even if it’s not in the long-term interests of their team members. In other words, their job is to do what’s best for them or best for their team—and that’s not necessarily what’s best for you.

A lot of this has to do with personal branding. If you are known for doing X and you are doing Y, then you’ve got a serious issue to address.

2. How much you get paid

When was the last time someone from Human Resources came up to you and said, “You know, Jenny, I think you are being underpaid. Come to my office tomorrow morning and let’s talk about how we can adjust your pay accordingly.”

If that has happened to you, great for you. But if you’re like the most of us, it probably has not happened.

Unless you take an active role in how much you get paid, you will always be paid less than everyone else.

There are plenty of ways to take an active role in negotiating salary. Come prepared with evidence of how much everyone else is making through services such as

Often, HR or your boss will state that compensation is only discussed during your annual review. It’s a common tactic that is used over and over by employers. Yes, it’s true that there is a standard time to discuss compensation, but this does not mean it’s the only time to discuss compensation.

The stronger your case, and the more the company needs you, the easier it becomes to get a pay bump before the annual review. It’s up to you to push your case and timeline.

3. Who you work for

Depending on the size of the company you work for, sometimes you have a choice of manager. The problem is that nobody ever tells you that you have a choice—and being part of a bad group or having a bad manager could seriously hurt your career long-term.

Your manager will probably never tell you that a lateral move to another manager is a possibility for you. That could be because he needs you in his group, or because—as is so often the case—he has no idea he’s a terrible manager.

Thinking about requesting a transfer? Could be a great move, especially if you like the company you’re working for. The best time to ask to switch groups is when a big project of yours has ended or is near completion. The easiest way for a switch is to find the group you want to work for and approach its manager. In the meantime, check out how you deal with a horrible boss.

Robbie Abed is a technologist and career aficionado. His mission is to help talented people find a job through his book Fire Me, I Beg You and his personal blog.


  1. Sincerely Managers interest is that you produce for them, rather than preparing you for managerial job. As a Personal Growth Coach and Manager I can advice that the best thing to do Is Value Yourself.

    I talk about Business Insurance advices on my Page, please visit it Business Talking.

  2. There is an old saying: If You don´t value youself and your Job who else would do it. So all I can tell is that whatever you do in your Career do it with passion and dedication. Be smart so no one take advantage of you and be positive.

  3. I was attracted to this blog because of the concept of using “selfishness” in a positive way. Much like my recent blog, Selfishly Happy ( I agree that we must look out for ourselves and not trust the machine that is our job to have our best interest at heart. Not because the machine is malicious or out to get you, but because it is not the job of the organization to ensure individual success of it’s members. Great article!

  4. Steve Jarvis

    Being selfish can work to some extent however it depends on the situation. We run a lot of team building events ( which stress the benefits of being flexible and working as a team to meet the companies objectives. Every team needs different types of people if everyone is selfish and the company fails then where does that leave everyone promotion prospects? No one likes to see failure on someone’s CV

  5. The S & C Project

    This is so true and not something people often think about. I think one more thing to point out in the “Who do you work for section” is that if who you work for has no influence in the company you need to work to get your name out their to those that do.

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  7. Craig Allen

    This article is quite brave in it’s times. I do agree with it’s content. We often do think that ‘no need to worry, someone else care for us’ but at the business area often we are on our own. To achieve a personal success we need to continously raise our qualifications and care about our own problems. The quicker they are solved, the better. Me too I was in a phase of thinking that ‘everything will be alright, something will solve itself out’. How wrong I was and how much time I’ve lost. To achieve anything – make 10 steps first.


  8. Even if you love your job, you’ll likely find yourself stuck in a rut at
    some point in your career. You may have gotten so good at what you do
    that it has become automatic (and perhaps a bit boring), or maybe you’d
    like to ask for a raise but don’t know how to broach the subject.
    Whatever your goal, we spoke to career experts to learn what techniques
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  9. Thiago

    Boa noite,

    Muito clara essa sua explanação sobre o comportamento dentro de uma empresa, pois acredito que num mundo cada vez mais competitivo devemos ser sim um pouco egoísta, teimosos e claro querer aprender mais.
    Colocar suas idéias numa forma que todos deem valor, torna-se participativo e mostrar atualizado são virtudes que logo será notado pelos chefes da empresa

    Trocyn Bão – Thiago

  10. Dan C

    Job description doesn’t have to do to your daily activities. It’s often just a guide. Saying NO, even in a polite way, may cause your manager to doubt your intentions. So you have to be extra careful when doing so.

    Proudly executing my daily job description @

  11. stevevo

    Good points. Bosses aren’t necessarily evil – don’t think of them that way. However, they have many other responsibilities and can easily lose individual employees’ interests in their list of responsibilities. I agree that you must pursue your boss. Make sure he or she knows what you are doing on a regular basis. I do my best to do this at Track What Matters, but I know I certain employees get my attention more than others. Good luck!

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  13. Lianne@contractor blog

    It doesn’t matter as much whether you go to
    college or not, it matters whether you’re inspired and motivated enough
    to solve the problems that arise each day in your chosen way of life.

    I struggled with accepting this for years, until I finally let go and
    embraced the unknown before me instead of trying to figure it all out at

    By dropping out of college in 2007 for the second time, and
    by taking the risk to let go of everything society was telling me to
    do, I gained the ability of listening to and trusting my heart.

  14. Jess Holmes

    These are some excellent insights. I was definitely a victim of #1 in my last job. There wasn’t much room for me to grow in the position, and I often felt that I would be better suited somewhere where my leadership and organization would make a difference. I found a great new career in truck fleet management last year, and many of these rat-race games are over for me. It takes a long time to find something satisfying that you are also great at, but you can’t give up! Thanks for sharing.

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