I admit that the first time I read Lois P. Frankel’s Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, I rolled my eyes a bit and muttered, “Well, duh.” That was three years ago, and since then I’ve grown to understand the author’s wisdom.

Sure, some of her no-nos seem like no-brainers (for example “offering a limp handshake” and “grooming in public”). But many of them are spot on. One that stands out to me especially is Mistake 52: Giving away your ideas.

I am guilty of this several times over. Just a month or so ago I pitched a fantastic idea — if I do say so myself — to a friend at a former employer. Now it’s a weekly series. While I was thrilled that my friend liked the idea enough to run with it, in the end, someone other than me is benefitting from my brain power. A week or so after that, a different former colleague asked for SEO help on behalf of his new employer. I obliged, spending a couple of hours researching his quandary and its solutions, and even though I like the guy and enjoy seeing him succeed, I feel like a bit of a chump in retrospect. As a consultant, I charge good money for work like that.

Frankel frames this mistake in a slightly different context: Women letting their ideas be appropriated by someone else at their own company. That’s gross, for sure, but I think plenty of us dole out our talent to outsiders, too. We do it because we want to be helpful, and we do it because the validation of our ideas, when that comes, feels good. But guess what, broads? Feelings are well and good, but in the business world, money is better.

I’m not talking about real charity here — donating time and energy to a cause you care about, for example, makes the world a better place and can improve your own business, to boot. I’m talking about the “free” advice we tend to give away. Don’t do it. You’re worth more than that.

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