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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

How to Ask Someone for Multiple Favors—Without Being Annoying

Not to be immodest, but you’re a pretty stellar networker. In fact, when you asked your connection if she’d be able to introduce you to a powerful friend, she agreed almost immediately.

And you were feeling pretty good about it. After all, you included a recent resume in your request; you said “thank you”; and you even offered to return the favor.

But now—crickets. It’s been nearly a month, and there’s been no introduction.

Asking for a favor more than once, be it a request to follow through on a promise or something entirely different, is one of those difficult networking scenarios that can fluster even those with exceptional people skills.

Read on for what you can do in two common situations.

1. If You Want to Remind Someone of an (Already Promised) Favor

People are busy. Sometimes they prioritize work duties over promises to a friend. It may not be intentional—but it’s also not totally outside the realm of possibility—that someone would forget that he said he’d read your resume or make an introduction on your behalf.

So, how you can you tell if your contact is swamped and has back-burnered personal correspondence (including your request), or if she forgot and could use a reminder?

Start by waiting a reasonable amount of time (i.e., at least seven days), to avoid being a pest. Then, send a brief follow-up note asking if you can answer any questions. It would look something like this, “Hi Steve, I very much appreciate your offer to introduce me to Phyllis and am looking forward to connecting. In the meantime, would it be helpful for me to send on any additional information, such as why I’m interested in changing careers?” This way, you’re veiling your nudge with a nod toward being helpful, which will either remind Steve to get moving or open the door for him to say why he punted.

If you need a response sooner (think: You asked for venue suggestions and you need a to get a location booked ASAP), say so in the first line of your follow-up email. You should still wait a minimum of 48-72 hours, but then you can forward the previous email, and say, “I’m sorry to follow up so quickly, but I have to present all event options to my boss by EOD tomorrow. If you could send me any ideas at your earliest convenience, I’d be grateful.” Including your deadline suggests you’re not squeezing your contact out of sheer impatience.

2. If You Want to Ask for a Repeat Favor

You have a co-worker who has incredible instincts when it comes to dealing with tricky client situations. For example, she helped you put out a fire last week when her advice helped calm an angry stakeholder.

This week, you have another dilemma that could benefit from her expertise. But she’s not your manager—and she’s not even assigned to this project. How can you “pick her brain”—repeatedly—without being annoying or asking for too much?

When you’re asking someone for help outside of his job description, he wants to know two things—that it’s because you think he’s top-notch and that you understand this is an “extra” and will be respectful of his time. If you keep these two ideas in mind when you make your ask, your contact will (usually) oblige your request for additional assistance unless he’s insanely busy, it happens to be something he’s good at but doesn’t enjoy, or you didn’t thank him the last time.

The same is true when you’re asking for assistance with your job search. I spent years looking for steady editorial work and had one contact who was more connected in the sector than anyone else I knew. I didn’t want to overwhelm her, but I also didn’t want to ask her to pass along any potential opportunities (and then never mention it again). In this situation—or in a parallel situation, say if you have one person you always list as a reference and you’re applying to multiple jobs over a six-month period—utilize best practices for staying in touch with your network. Specifically, find newsworthy reasons to reach out to your contact (e.g., you’ve updated your personal website or resume, you’ve expanded your job hunt to include new cities or industries, or you’ve made it to the final rounds of interviewing), offer to return the favor, and always say thank you.

Requesting a favor more than once can be daunting. You don’t want to be seen as someone who’s always asking for something. But persistence is also important. So, keep these tips in mind—and balance things out by being responsive when this contact and others request your assistance.

Photo of help courtesy of Shutterstock.