The Art of Following Up
Anticipation runs high after you’ve made a business connection, applied for a job, internship/fellowship or met an important contact.
But the uncertainty can be tamed if you have a confident follow-up strategy, or as we say: the WAY you follow up.
Common questions we all have:
Should I follow up? (YES!). But – When? How? What is the best way? How do I phrase the follow up? How do I strike a balance of being professional, light-hearted, and showing perseverance, without seeming entitled, impatient, rude, or out of place? Most importantly, how can I make the best out of the connection I have made?
Unfortunately, there is no catch-all or silver bullet. Although, it will be little different every time, here are some important tips and things to remember:
- Be thankful: A day or two after an interview, important meeting or new contact, send a handwritten note AND an email. Be authentic, appreciative and concrete in your note. No need to be too wordy. Just think about how you would like to have someone express their appreciation for your time and expertise.
- Ask THEM how: Ask the person you met with how they best like to be followed up with: by phone, email or even Twitter? Find out the best time of day or day of the week are best for your follow up.
- Find something relevant: A week or two after the initial meeting or conversation, find a relevant or related mutual connection, news article or blog post (maybe write one yourself) and reach out again with that. Say something like, “I came across this thought you would find it interesting.”
- Keep it light, keep it positive: Avoid language that puts pressure on the person you connected with. Use language like, “I look forward to hearing back from you,” “It was a pleasure to meet you,” “I continue to be impressed with your work,” “I look forward to further exploring how I can help advance specific goals or work together.”
- Re-connect in person: Think of a potential opportunity or event where you could see the person again. Focus on THEM – recall things they mentioned in your previous connection (perhaps related to what they are working on, goals, efforts, their focus), and ask about those. End the conversation with something like, “Great to see you again. I will follow up with you in a few days.”
- Seek advice: Don’t hesitate to seek input from a well-seasoned professional you respect – especially a mentor or a sponsor – that can give you good advice on this specific matter. It never hurts to run your email by someone else you trust before you send it. When in doubt, ask.
- BE CONFIDENT: You have a lot to offer to offer too! It’s not just about you asking for something, or looking for a job, but rather, how you can mutually contribute to common interests. This is where your communication should come from.
SET YOURSELF APART
When following up, don’t just go through the motions. Take the time to really think through each follow up and what’s best for each situation. When appropriate, be creative. A great follow-up, and the way you do it, not only shows your personality, but your character, perseverance, drive, and ability to deliver. When well-done, it is a telling sign to a contact or potential employer that can set you apart from everyone else. If fear or uncertainty in the process is giving you pause, don’t hesitate to ask trusted friend, mentor, sponsor, or us! Just don’t let that uncertainty or your other work result in a lack of follow up.
Good luck – you’ll do great! Follow up with us and send us a note or leave a comment below and let us know how it works out.
Other resources: US News – Money “Tips for Following Up on Your Job Application”