One thing that probably makes the biggest impact on career advancement is follow up. Follow up can mean many things, but in career language, it’s all about effort—touching base after a meeting, keeping promises, giving thanks to others and extending the offer to help.
Touching Base. When the face-to-face meeting ends, communication should continue. An interview, conference, networking event and lunch with a colleague all have mutually beneficial, action-focused momentum that will continue after the event if you put forth the effort. These profitable results derive from ongoing communication in telephone conversations, emails and additional meetings. But the ball is in your court to ensure that follow up takes place. This includes the post interview when you call to reinforce your sincere interest and inquire upon the decision making process. Or when a colleague or friend is facing a challenge, touching base with them on their status and needs speaks volumes.
Keeping Promises. Career-minded professionals not only talk the talk, but they walk the walk. In other words, they always follow up on promises made to others. This involves reaching out to those you were referred to and following through on all your meeting commitments. If you promised to arrange a personal introduction, then make the connection that very week. If your plans included project collaboration, then send over your ideas to get the creative process rolling. If you closed a meeting with “let’s get together again soon,” then fire off that meeting request right away. Keeping promises is the only way to ensure others will grant you the same courtesy.
Saying Thank You. Volumes and volumes are written on the importance of these two little words. Coupling that with the simple fact that they speak volumes only drives home the point that sincere gratitude will take you very far. Always follow up a meeting with a “thank you” note within a few days of your time spent together. A spoken “thank you” means a lot, emails are great, hand written notes are even better and a unique thank you—a token or action of appreciation—is unforgettable. If someone took the time out of their busy schedule to meet with you or simply held the door, yes, a “thank you” is warranted.
Offer to Help. Asking how you can be of service to another not only paves the way to reconnect, but this action-infused follow up provides the opportunity to demonstrate your talents and strengths. Through partnerships and contributions, professionals prove their worthiness for promotions and recommendations. Anyone can claim a strength or skill, but backing them up with behavior-based follow up helps you stand apart from the competition. Doing for others is intrinsically rewarding and a meaningful way to demonstrate a strong work ethic and great interpersonal skills.