Q&A Forum: How Do You Get People To Respond To Your Emails & Outreach?

We’ve all been there- THE EMAIL BLACK HOLE (dun dun dun!).

Sometimes you cold email someone and don’t hear back. That isn’t that weird. But what really gets your goat is when you’ve had a conversation with someone (however brief) and they know who you are!

So, how do you get your emails noticed and get a response to what you’re proposing/asking for/offering?

  1. Get off email (a novel idea)! If you’ve followed up and/or asked if they’ve been receiving your emails (the junk folder IS vicious and voracious!) and still nada, give them a quick call or send them a Facebook message or text. Change up the medium. Phone is best because then they’ll get you an answer right then and there if they pick up. And wouldn’t you rather hear ‘no, I’m not interested’ than play this long-winded game of wondering?
  2. Connect with them from the top: If you met someone in person who you want to connect with afterward, send them an email when you said you would. But also, when you’re with them, schedule some time in your calendars right then and there to follow up and actually send them a meeting invite with the dialing instructions. When I’m talking to prospective clients for my own biz and we determine there is a fit and interest on their end, we pick a time together to follow up via phone. I then add that 10-15 minute appointment to their calendar with dialing instructions- ie “I’ll call you at X number!” I make sure I have their buy in and that they’re actually interested in what I’m proposing. With relation to the job hunt, the same thing applies. You’re looking for a coffee or phone chat or an informational interview and then same thing applies. And if they avoid doing that, then maybe it’s a sign they’re not interested. People are generally very skittish at saying ‘no’ in the moment to someone, so this can also help you pick up on non-verbal cues. (That doesn’t mean ‘don’t try’ if you pick up a non-verbal cue that they’re not interested, but it more means maybe the voracious follow up isn’t needed)
  3. Revisit your initial email crafting. Take a look at how you’re approaching the initial outreach and see if there’s anything to change up there. I’m attaching a screenshot of a networking email I’ve used myself and with clients. This one talks about relocating to a new city (which can be removed).  Keep in mind that that first sentence is highly adaptable – just make it something personal/connecty.  A colleague of mine was talking yesterday about the weird disconnect between hyper-connectivity and actual communication and getting actual responses to people (the former is high and the latter is low), and I have thought about this lots when it comes to outreach- for me and my biz and for my clients’ job search and networking strategies. Take a gander and see what else you could try. This approach is by no means a fool proof one because- well, we’re human, but see what might work for you!

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email

Skills Corner: Translating Your Duties to Impact

Alert!: Do NOT have your resume read like you copy-pasted it from the job description your company posted on Indeed.com! At first, translating your skills to impact can be a bit of a pain in the toosh to do what I’m about to tell you to do, but believe me- it’s worth it.

Translate your duties into impact.

skills

Here’s why:

  • It paints a picture for what you actually do: Ever read a resume and have no idea what the person actually DOES all day? Take a look at yours or better yet- ask someone to read it and tell you what they think you work on. If it’s anything less than spot on, it’s time to rejig it up!
  • It shows your mastery of your craft: Many of our jobs are oftentimes ambiguous and hard to explain. If you’re able to clearly explain what you do and the impact you’ve had, it further demonstrates your communication skills, which most every job requires.
  • It shows how you’ve excelled: You are able to show how you and/or your team has impacted the bottom line, top line or other functions of the company. This is translatable to companies everywhere. You’re explaining your value and skills in plain terms so your prospective employer(s) don’t have to.

Here’s how:

  • Translate features (ie your attributes and skills) into benefits: Do you project manage multiple projects from requirements gathering to completion? That’s great! How can you amp that up even further? It takes a bit of legwork up front if you haven’t been keeping track all along, but it’s worth it to see how your work has impacted the company overall. How many of your 10 projects were completed on time and under budget? How much under budget ($-wise or percentage wise)? A resulting bullet point could read, “Manage 10 projects simultaneously at any given time; overall, 85% of projects are completed on-time and under-budget (verus a 70% company-wide rate). Obviously, you need to gauge what is appropriate and what is impressive given other factors like how other projects performed company-wise, industry standards, etc
  • Tell a (brief) story: If you have a banner story that highlights a specific project you worked on, construct a brief bullet point highlighting your impact for that specific client. “Located a $200,000 annual savings for client, resulting in repeat business for the firm.”
  • Make sure the bullets support your narrative: It’s important to ensure that the resulting bullet points under your current job entry map nicely to the narrative you’re telling on LinkedIn, in interviews and in your professional summary. With regard to skills, do you talk about how you’ve solved problems? Make sure the resulting impact-oriented bullets match that assertion. In other words, once you’re done with all of the bullets, read them in tandem to make sure they tell your story powerfully. It’s a 2-D piece of paper; it’s your job to make it come alive!

Any other ways that you’ve translated duties into accomplishments? Share them below!

How You Can Undo Your Career Change Goals Without Even Realizing It

Yea, that’s right. I’m talking to you. You’ve been talking about a career change for awhile, and while you think you’re doing all the right things, nothing happens. You’re really truly in it to win it- you apply to job after job, you’re out there networking and it’s starting to be a real drag, amirite?

I see this all the time, so if this is speaking to you right now, you are not alone. Because it’s important to me that people committed to change actually have it happen, I started compiling notes of anecdotal evidence on this and I’ve noticed a few scenarios where despite our best intentions, we can unwittingly undermine our progress. I want to share a couple, along with some tips on how to avoid it here.

 

career stress

  1. Mutlitasking: It’s well documented that our decision making power and effectiveness wanes as the day goes on. Add multi-tasking into the mix and you’re pretty much waging a losing battle. I know job descriptions galore talk about the need to multitask, but I’d like to propose the notion of monotasking, just focusing on one thing at a time. During your workday, you’ll be more effective and less tired, giving you more energy for an evening job search session. (Or better yet, try to get an hour of job search tasks in before you head to work!) For some help on how to do this, I always refer clients to Better Than Before, a book by Gretchen Rubin on cultivating habits that work for your personality type.
  2. Being Too Available/No Boundaries: Last week, a client mentioned that she had had a horrible week at work and had gotten little of the career change homework done. When we dove into her week, we could really see her role in it. For example, she made the decision to work the rest of the day at home to get things done, but once there, opened up her email and her work instant messenger. Instantly, messages came across all platforms and before she knew it, she was knee jerk reacting to everything at once (see: multitasking too). At the end of it, she was exhausted, irritated and unable to do much of anything besides order takeout and veg in front of the TV. It’s critical to create some boundaries for this and you can start by influencing the behavior in a way that suits you. When those IMs came in, for example, who said she had to answer them instantly? We’ve somehow created a culture for immediate response and it’s detrimental to company output (but I digress) and worker sanity. If you don’t answer instantly (or better yet, turn off your devices for time to get actual work done), then they won’t answer instantly back. You’re influencing the behavior you want. And if your current company is especially rigid on this, it may be time for a frank conversation that frames it in terms of benefits for the company. For some help on how to do this, I always refer clients to the book Essentialism, by Greg McKeown.
  3. Not Developing the Mindfulness Muscle: All of the above planning and strategizing would be for naught if you never pay attention to how you play a role in all of this and how you feel in those dizzying moments at your current job. If you’re just going through the motions, it’s hard to get habits and boundaries and monotasking, etc to stick. At the beginning and end of each work day, I suggest asking yourself how you feel, what you want to accomplish today and why that’s important (or what you accomplished) and what you’d do differently tomorrow. You can of course create your own questions that work for you, but the idea is to keep it simple so you can stick with it until….drumroll please….it becomes habit.

So, these are some ways I’ve seen people unwittingly sabotage themselves in the career change process. For some more riffing on this from another angle, how to stay focused at work when you mind is on your career change, join my online class here.

Narrative: Use It to Answer“Tell Me About Yourself”

Whether you’ve been working for years or this is your first or second job out of college, this one’s enough to keep us up at night. But never fear: we’re going to take the work you did last month on the nuts and bolts of your professional narrative to help you answer this question clearly and confidently.

And in case you’re stumbling across this blog and want to do the work from last month first (recommended) here is the info!

Keep in mind before we get started that there is no ONE way to actually answer this interview, and maybe you’ve seen another perspective elsewhere. That’s great! The main thing to keep in mind is that you check the boxes on the checklist I’ve provided in this post.

 

DOWNLOAD THE TOOLKIT

 

narrative

Some of the items on the checklist are self explanatory (like make sure you tell a chronological story), so I’m going to focus on the three items you will find on page 2 of the resource guide: 1) how your past experience supports the position you’re applying for 2) how do you connect with the company’s mission and 3) your story arc. Let’s take one at a time. Also, note that we’re not putting the story together yet, but instead working on the composite parts. You’ll weave this together at the end once you’ve nailed these.

Let’s take a sample job description. I’m working with a client now on an application for a culinary instruction position. We’ll work from this job description for the three above areas so you can see how it’s done for your narrative.

JOB DESCRIPTION We’ll Use for This Narrative Exercise:

As Base Coach, you will be responsible for the implementation of Culinary Instruction in the Drive Change kitchen-classroom. Our “prep-time” is not just “work-time” €“ it is an opportunity for the culinary curriculum to be implemented to our Fellows. The kitchen experience should be an educational experience geared toward preparing Fellows for their next opportunity; in addition to imparting culinary skills and food-specific education; you are responsible for setting the tone in the kitchen as it reflects the desired assessments of the Drive Change Fellowship. For example, Fellows should be able to work in groups and independently; Fellows should be able to follow instructions/recipes; manage their time and work efficiently; kitchen protocol should be used as a tool to instill specific culinary requirements as well as generate workplace expectations that translate beyond the kitchen and into any future work environment. It is the responsibility of the Base Coach to communicate with Fellows on their progress and output; both verbal and written feedback is required. Base Coach must have a deep understanding of the kitchen (operations, inventory, ingredients, protocol) and must use that knowledge to teach the Fellows. The Base Coach must be able to address issues as they arise holding to the value of Fellowship first and maintaining our commitment to be a high performing operation.

About You:
Your commitment to the understanding that every moment within the Drive Change Fellowship experience is an opportunity for learning/coaching is the most important feature of this role and your success as Base Coach. The kitchen is not merely a time for production; it is a time for active observation, feedback, and teachable moments. You must be acutely aware of surroundings and balance the task of empowering Fellows to deliver outlined objectives in preparation for weekly service. As a chef/instructor, you recognize that the diligence you bring to the Drive Change kitchen will be infused into the minds/hearts of Fellows. You will be directly involved in the hard and essential skill development of Fellows. You must be able to read the environment and propose solutions for improvement; your input on curriculum will be valued greatly by the Culinary Arts Director and Fellowship Experience Designer.
• 3-5 years professional culinary experience
• Passionate about food and food systems
• 3+ years MGMT experience
• Positive energy and enthusiasm €“ your ability to empower Fellows is essential
• You are a hands on person; desk-job seekers need not apply
• You must be observant and able to confront Fellows on areas to work on as well as areas that they are excelling in
• Ability to work well with others €“ you will be working directly with the Fellowship team and your feedback to them is crucial for Fellow’s success
• Organized and outcomes driven

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Narrative Takeaways of Job Description

 

Right off the bat, you can tell there’s a nurturing aspect to this job in addition to the nuts and bolts of cooking instruction. It’s more than just teaching- it’s about instilling confidence, empowering people and making the world a better place. How do we infuse both into our narrative to answer the interview question then?

 

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1. How Your Past Experience Supports the Position. Take a look at the job description. Pull out the core essence of the job. This is usually pretty simple, since the most important parts of a job description are listed first.
For this position, we want to highlight the following:
• Any and all volunteer work surrounding youth outreach and mentoring
• Results surrounding empowering employees and team members. What did you do and how did it turn out? Any metrics in terms of employee retention when it comes to company-based experiences and youth progression when it comes to the community outreach experiences will be useful, but are not always readily available, so be as specific you can regarding the BENEFITS your job duties in these areas – not just what you did, but how it impacted the intended recipients!
• Actual culinary experience- developing recipes, teaching others, etc

2. Tying Company Values to Your Own – Showing complete alignment with the stated company mission and values also has another benefit for your narrative- it is a test to illuminate whether you should even be interviewing with the company to begin with. If you don’t align with the company’s mission in a clear and direct way, then maybe it’s not the right company for you. But I digress. Let’s say you do align – how do you convey that to the company? List out the company’s values by reading the mission statement. (Sometimes companies will show both, but sometimes you have to suss it out from the mission statement or from watching clips from speeches from company representatives, or reading articles about the company. Then, clearly show how you have demonstrated that value in a professional capacity over and over again in your narrative.

Back to the Drive Change description, it’s clear they’re looking for someone who believes in teaching, equal opportunities, mentoring/fostering an environment by which people can grow, etc. When you talk about your experience to date in the ‘tell me about yourself’ question, make sure you’re infusing the company’s mission and values in your answer. You can even say things like, “Throughout my career, teaching others to help them grow has always been an important value to me- and I’ve seen from what I’ve read and seen about Drive Change that you’re all about that too. So from an early point on in my career, I’ve sought out opportunities to teach, so I’m going to take you through my resume with that lens in mind.” So you can almost have a “theme” to your answer to this question to really drive home the value/mission bit without adding it in clunkily at the end. AND because companies are looking for culture fits sometimes above all else, you want to make sure your infusing the values stuff throughout your answer, not as a bolted on, clunky answer at the end.
3. Story Arc: Prospective employers not only want to see how you’ve grown, but they want any perceived changes in direction to be explained clearly to them. Why did you make the change? If something you did doesn’t fit your narrative for this job, but it’s not possible to take it out altogether, talk about what you learned and how you grew from that experience. “It made me realize that,” “Once I learned XYZ, I knew it would have major ramifications for my future career direction- specifically….” Are two good openers you can use to make it super clear to your listener. Try out your arc in the notes portion of the worksheet.

Ok, so the last phase of doing this work is to put it all together in a ‘script’ you can use in the interview. Script is in quotes because we don’t really want you rehearsing this to death so you sound like a robot in the interview. Keep it loose. If this means you just have a series of bullet points, great! Do that. Follow the checklist (page 1) and your notes from the three key components of your story on page 2 and create your story. This process isn’t the same for everyone so we’ve included some space on page 3 of the tool for you to play with it.

When you’re done, send me what you’ve come up with and one specific question you have about your work and I’ll help a sister (or brother, or person) out!

Networking Emails: How to Get a Response

Ok, so you’ve gotten on board with the fact that networking is part of the game plan when it comes to career changes or job jumps. But now when it comes down to it, you actually have to…go out there and network.

If you’re like many of my clients (or me before, say, 2014), this is not exciting news. I get it- when you first get started, it can be pit-in-the-stomach-dreadful, but it DOES get better with time, I swear!

So, for those emails where you’re reaching out to someone in your network, or someone you know has made an introduction for you – what the heck do you say to get the result you want?!

networking

Here are the 4 Key Components to writing a networking email that will get you the response you want:

Outcome: Know what action you want the recipient to take- be super specific. Then include that in your “Ask” in the body of the email. Are you interested in a specific job and want to talk it over? Do you want to meet for a coffee or phone chat? Say that. (And while you’re at it, specify a few times so they can quickly check their calendar, but also say you have availability to be flexible since they’re doing YOU the favor. Make sure you have varying times (pre-work, lunch, post-work for example), keeping their schedule and what might be best for them in mind.

Length: Use the KISS Method, (Keep it Simple, Stupid!). These really shouldn’t be much longer than a paragraph or two. If it’s someone you don’t know and you aren’t being introduced, a brief 4-5 sentence bio, tailored for your ask/outcome is a good idea. Don’t just copy your bio from LinkedIn- relate it to your specific ask. It will probably be similar but you don’t want to sound static.

Do Your Homework: Know something about the person, what they do, and/or their company to immediately connect with the recipient in the first sentence or two. Maybe they recently published an article. Maybe you saw them speak or heard a good thing about their work. Include that! It shows you’re paying attention and are looking for more than a quick do-me-a-favor fix. Make sure the language you use in the networking email indicates that you want to build a relationship, rather than take-take-take!

Do Their Homework: If you’re emailing about a specific position, make sure you quickly connect how your experience is a fit for the specific role in the networking email. Do the work so they don’t have to! If you just can’t quite seem to stick to the KISS method, the other option is to bold/underline a couple of headings within the email, so people can skim and jump around. So “A little about me:” or “How I can help in this role”….but I always opt for KISS when possible :)

This is just a little down and dirty in terms of a fool-proof method to get responses from people you really want to hear from. If you want more of this, sign up directly below to get tips and tools direct to your inbox that can help you jumpstart a new career!