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The Crucial Step of Following Up

The Crucial Step of Following Up

I speak to so many people who honestly believe they are networking well by sending an email or leaving a single voicemail. When they don’t get a response, they abandon the contact. The follow-up is the most crucial part of building and maintaining any professional relationship.

My first suggestion is to distinguish yourself by calling instead of emailing. Everybody is inundated with multiple emails but we are drawn to the human voice in a more compelling way. Compose a script and practice your call before you make it. Your content should be clear, concise, and enticing to the listener. If you get voicemail be ready to leave a well thought out message that includes your contact information.

[Related: How to Write an Email That Will Actually be Read]

Speaking slowly and clearly is imperative since you don’t have the benefit of eye contact. If you repeat your name and phone number at the end of the message you get extra points since the listener won’t have to replay the message to jot down your info.

If you’ve left a voicemail and perhaps even an email and still have not heard back from your contact – wait 2 weeks and ping them again. People are busy and you want to give them the benefit of the doubt without becoming a stalker. If they have not responded after the 2 week retry then move on. No doesn’t mean no forever, but it does mean no for now. You can try back in a few months to see if you get a different response.

By being an active follow-upper you are also able to steward relationships in your current pipeline. Let’s say you’ve met with an individual for coffee and conducted an informational interview about their career because it is of interest to you. In addition to the hand-written thank you note, you should circle back in a few weeks to check-in and update this person about your progress.

[Related: 5 tips to Build a Powerful Network]

Falling off the radar screen makes you a passive follow-upper and easily forgettable. It’s a competitive marketplace out there and out of sight is out of mind. There is great fortune in the follow-up and you don’t have to ask for something each time you make contact. A wonderful reason to follow-up is to share your additional thanks or to keep the individual informed about your current status.

Always remember, the rule of good networking is to consider how you can reciprocate by paying-it-forward. An ideal reason to follow-up up with your contact is to ask - How can I help you?

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Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" now in the 2nd edition, and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is Executive Director of Career & Professional Development at the Indiana University Alumni Association and contributes to Huffington Post, AOL Jobs, Ellevate Network, and The Chronicle newspaper in Indiana. She hosts and produces an online show called:Thrive! about career & life empowerment for women on YouTube. Caroline also hosts the international podcast series Your Working Life- on iTunes. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter.

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