When I was just starting out in my career, I wish somebody had told me to think long and hard before asking for any professional favors. I was asking for them pretty freely, back in the day. I thought it was a good thing—I thought it showed that I had moxie and that I advocated for myself. But the truth is that neither of those traits is very useful if you’re just blindly asking for favors that you don’t know what to do with, and if you’re going after opportunities that you aren’t ready for. You don’t want to become the person who has a reputation for always wanting something from others. We all know those people. Every time we see their name pop up on our phones or in our emails we think, “Oh god—what does this person want now?” Nobody gets far without a little help, but you need to be careful about when and how you ask for it. Here are things to consider before asking for a professional favor.
How many will you get?
In your professional lifetime, how many favors can you ask of this person? Think long and hard about this. There are those individuals who are so busy and high up that, we know we can only ask them to pull some strings for us just once. And that’ll be it. But we also have those wonderfully reciprocal relationships in which both people are giving favors and asking for favors, back and forth, on a regular basis.