As a career coach, a lot of my clients have come to me for…well, career-related issues. Some are starting their own businesses (yay, entrepreneurs!), some are looking for a new job and some are transitioning into a new career that is more in line with who they really are.
Here’s the thing about all of those cases: they take work. They take persistence and tenacity (which coincidentally are the same thing) and they take a very unique degree of dedication to the task at hand. And they take follow up.
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People sometimes cringe at the word, and that’s understandable considering how we often equate follow up with pestering. But what if I told you there was another way to look at follow up to make progress in your business, transition more quickly and more painlessly into a new career or secure that new job of your dreams?
For The Biz Owners: It can be intimidating to go out there in the big bad world and do your own thang- believe me, I know! I’ve worked out a few strategic partnerships for my business and some of the no brainers I’ve seen work in this process are as follows:
- Offer something new with each communication: Sounds simple, yet many people just simply write, “I’m writing to follow up on X and was wondering what you thought….” No! A great general rule here is to offer something new each time you follow up. When I was working on a partnership with a local business to hold health and wellness workshops, my follow up was varied. One communication, for example, was a forwarded email of workshops another neighborhood business was doing. In other words, people want this kind of workshop and others are starting to catch on.
- Build The Relationship: These things take time, and every time you see the person or owners of a company with whom you want to partner, do yourself a solid and don’t talk about what you’re waiting to hear about from them. I saw said person at a pilates class and we talked about upcoming vacations, her new hair style- basically anything but what you so desperately want to secure an answer about!
- To Reiterate, These Things Take Time: Just knowing that can help take some of the pressure off yourself. One of the partnerships that is still not finalized has been in the works since the holidays. You don’t know all the ducks they have to get in a row, and that’s ok. A little patience (as I’ve found out) can go a long way.
- Make the Last Time You Follow Up Count: Ok, let’s face it. Not everything you think should be a partnership will necessarily be felt the same way by the company or group you are courting, and as a result, you might not be getting a response. That’s ok. But if you’re like me and want to effectively close the door (while keeping it a little ajar), a solid final follow up could be, “I’m really excited about the prospect of doing XYZ, as a I think there is a need for something like this. I’d be delighted to partner with you for the reasons ABC. I did want to let you know I plan to approach other businesses with this idea since it’s so important to me, so please let me know if this might work.” You’re being straightforward, sharing why it’s important to you to pursue this (aligning your values in other words) and being clear about next steps, while keeping the door open!
For The Job Seekers: I get a lot of questions regarding appropriate follow up following the submission of an application or following the actual interview. While I don’t believe there is any rule of thumb, per se, here are some of the techniques that have worked well for me and clients:
- Be Up Front: About your desire to receive feedback or a response to the outcome of the interview process. Ask for an appropriate timeframe for when you should follow up or if they will be responding to you.
- Build a Relationship with the Hiring Manager: When I was in the hiring manager position, I encouraged people to follow up directly with specific questions and often gave interviewees my business card. If you gauge that the interview is going well, ask for it. Speaking from the perspective of someone who was running around from meeting to meeting all day, the interviewer might not remember because they’re thinking about their next meeting. Then you have the deets and the implicit permission to follow up with your would-be boss directly! Voila!
- Stick with the Follow Up Plan: Nothing says you mean biznass more than sticking with what you said you were gonna do. If the conversation ended with the company saying something to the effect of “If you don’t hear from us in a week, feel free to follow up,” then do that! Again, you’ve been given permission to do this. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people not follow up because they were fearful of sounding like a pest. If you really think you’re a good fit for the role and would add value, you’re doing the right thing by checking in- you and the company would be a great fit for one another, so go for it! Also, while you may be waiting with baited breath for a response, keep in mind that they’re not.
For The Career Changers: Changing to a whole new career takes a lot of legwork, man. I get it. There will be a significant investment of time making connections with people already in that career and sometimes, those people might not respond to your requests to connect. Some ideas for you awesomely brave Career Changists out there:
- Offer Something in Return: Check out their LinkedIn profile or web presence ahead of time and see if there’s some skill you have that can potentially help make their job easier. For example, if you’re a social media guru and they have a presence on the web for their business, offer that up at the meeting if appropriate.
- Suggest Something Specific: At the end of my emails when I was looking to change careers was always something like this, “As a next step, I suggest setting up a X minute call to discuss A, B and C. If that’s something you’re able to do, please let me know a few times in the next 2-3 weeks that work for you, and I’ll make it happen!” In other words, they know exactly what to expect and they also know that you will be flexible in your schedule to accommodate theirs.
- Make it as Easy as Possible for The Other Party: If meeting for coffee, go to their neighborhood. If a phone convo is in order, a lot of the above can apply.
These are just a couple of tips under some of the various career issues with which I work with my clients. There are many others, of course, and I help them figure out what follow up path works best for them and for their situation. But I’m interested in hearing your follow up success stories! Please include one in the comments section below to share!