One aspect of networking that is often overlooked is relationship building. You don’t just want a connection to someone, you want a relationship with them.

Building a relationship can seem like hard work, but this is nothing like working on your relationship with your significant other. Your network connections don’t need flowers or chocolates, but they do need a little professional attention.

This is where ‘The 5-minute Favor’ can help you.

The 5-minute Favor is something that you can do for someone else that doesn’t require more than 5 minutes of your time. We’re all busy, but surely we all have 5 minutes during the day to help someone else out.

These favors are super simple things that you can do for someone to help them move ahead in a project, make a new connection, prepare a presentation, etc.

Here are some examples of 5-minute Favors:

1) Write an email on someone’s behalf.

Let’s say you’re talking to a colleague who expresses an interest in learning more about a field or wants to specifically target Company X for a new job. And let’s say you’ve previously met someone in that field or know someone who works for Company X (possibly a former classmate or coworker who left academia for that company, or maybe it’s a friend or family member, whatever it may be).

Mention to your colleague that you have a connection in that very field/company and offer to write an email on their behalf introducing them to your connection. It really won’t take you more than 5 minutes to put together a quick email, copy your colleague, and send it to your network connection.

Just be sure to mention something in your email to rekindle your dialogue with that network connection by mentioning something from your last interaction to help remind them who you are. It would also help to pose the introduction as a favor to them as well.

For example:

“Hi Dr. Whoever, 

It was great seeing you at the XYZ Conference back in September, and I hope you had a great holiday season. I’m writing today to introduce you to a colleague of mine who may be able to help you move your company forward. He’s interested in pursuing a career in your field and would like more information about Company X. I’ve copied him here, and I hope you two find that you are a great match for each other!

Let me know if I can help in any other way. Cheers!”

This does EVERYONE a favor, including you, because you can foster a better relationship and reinvigorate a dialogue with Dr. Whoever, which may end up being helpful for you later. You never know…

2) Offer to make a call on someone’s behalf.

Imagine that a colleague of yours is working on a hosting a departmental event and they can’t find a caterer that will fit within a specific budget. Let’s say you recently planned a wedding and know a caterer with reasonable rates who may also offer a discount because of your referral to them. Make a call for them, work some “prior client” magic if you can, and get a quote for your friend’s event.

3) Offer to help someone in the lab.

Let’s say a colleague of yours is trying to do something that requires assistance from a core facility, one that you happen to be stopping by to do something for your own project. Offer to ask the technicians a few questions on their behalf while you’re there, or offer to drop off that sequencing submission on your way to pick yours up. This will give you a chance to learn a little more about what the core facilities and services have to offer, you’ll make connections with the technicians there (who may then help you or prioritize your samples if/when you’re in a bind later), and your colleague is then grateful to you for your help and thus more willing to help you in return in the future.

4) Do a small chore that benefits everyone.

Are you taking out your own trash bin, but notice that others’ have full trash bins? Offer to take their out with yours. Again, doing small favors here and there will help you build a good working relationship with your colleagues, and they may, in turn, be more willing to help you with something in the future.

5) Offer technological help.

Do you have a computer program that someone else needs, but doesn’t have? Offer them an hour or two to use the program on your computer to finish analyzing that data set or making that figure. Or, if you know how to use a particular program that would greatly benefit them and their data analysis, introduce them to the new program and offer to give them a short tutorial so that they can operate the program without your assistance in the future. Alternatively, if someone is having printer issues, offer to print out that journal article for them so they can have a hard copy. A number of different technology hiccups can occur in research, and for most, some sort of relief from these endless glitches is greatly appreciated. If you have a solution, share the wealth!


There are many other types of 5-minute favors out there. These are just a few to get you started, but anything you can think of that doesn’t require much of a time investment on your part is an opportunity-in-disguise to potentially build a stronger relationship with people. So, offer to help out!

By offering our help, we foster an appreciation. The recipient of the favor is often very thankful and much more willing to help you out in the future. Think of this as a way of paying-it-forward for a future favor in your direction. You never know when you’ll be in a tough situation and need some help. Set the groundwork now so that when your time of need comes, others are offering YOU their help before you even need to ask for it.

Additionally, in many cases, doing a small favor for someone else indirectly benefits you at the time of the favor itself. For example, when you put a colleague in touch with one of your network connections, you also get the opportunity to refresh and strengthen your own relationship with that network connection as well. Always looks for opportunities to continue a dialogue with those you don’t interact with often. Any excuse you can find to strike up conversation will help your network connections know you better, and this may come in handy when it comes time to apply for jobs (potentially in their industry!).

As demonstrated, there are many benefits (for you) associated with doing a small favor for someone else. So take the ‘selfless’ approach, help someone else, and see how your good deed comes full circle for you!


** Think of a simple 5-minute favor you can do for someone, go do it, and tell us how it goes! We want to hear all about it! **

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