Reaching out to contacts to ask for help can be intimidating, particularly when you don’t get a response. Unfortunately, the job search process is filled with “rejection”, which is a lousy feeling that most try to avoid at all costs.
However, the most successful people will tell you that taking rejection in stride and moving forward is what leads to positive outcomes. A favorite quote is: “The road to success is paved with failures” (Mike Jacobs).
Anyone who has accomplished a significant goal has a lengthy history of overcoming obstacles. In Sales, a commonly quoted metric is: 80% of sales are made on the 5th – 12th contact. Appropriate persistence is necessary to close the deal in sales, and in a job search.
Knowing this can make all the difference in your approach. Many find it hard enough to reach out in the first place, never mind reaching out a second time. Since it’s likely that a follow-up will be needed, here’s a strategy to make it easier:
Keep the ball in your court.
When writing a cover letter…
Close the letter in a respectfully assertive manner, letting the reader know you’ll be following up. For example, “I will plan to contact you in the next few days to answer any questions you might have about the materials I have submitted.”
When emailing a networking contact…
Asking contacts for their time can be intimidating. People are busy, so the more clarity you provide increases your odds of getting a positive response. Be specific about what you want and that you’ll limit the call to 20-minutes (lunch or coffee can take more time than a contact has to give). End your request with, “I know you’re extremely busy. If I don’t hear from you, I will follow up next week to check in.”
When closing the interview…
Before ending an interview, ask about next steps in the hiring process. A typical response is that you’ll hear something in the next week. Respond with, “That sounds great. I’m very interested in this role and look forward to next steps. If I don’t hear from you by next Friday, I’ll give you a call to check in.”
Keeping the ball in your court takes a little assertiveness, but you’ll be glad you did. It beats waiting for the phone to ring and agonizing over whether your email address got lost or if the position was filled with another candidate. Further, this shows you’re confident and interested.
If you’re struggling with taking this step, look at it this way – everyone is juggling a dozen demands at once. Knowing that you’ll follow-up if they forget is giving them one less item on their “to-do” list.