Be Professionally Persistent
From Career Tips, 2019 Volume 3, March 2019
I’m often asked questions that start "When should I?" or "Is it too soon / too late to …?"
Most often, this means a serious mistake was already made.
- When you email or leave a voice mail seeking a networking meeting, do you find yourself the next week wondering what to do about the lack of response?
- When you send in an application to an opening, do you worry about when, if ever, you will hear back?
- If you have what you thought was a good interview, are you left hanging, concerned about whether it will somehow count against you if you initiate contact?
The solution to all three dilemmas is to practice Professional Persistence.
When you leave a message, or submit an application, or are heading towards the end of an interview, you should always leave yourself a concrete action step with a specific date, perhaps even a time. Then you can simply mark your calendar and move on to other activities. If you haven’t received the response you are seeking by then, follow-up.
If you don’t succeed in reaching the other party, leave an upbeat, professional message that betrays no frustration, anxiety or other negativity, expressing how and when you will next follow-up. If you don’t succeed on the next follow-up, rinse and repeat.
This is your search, or your networking initiative. It’s not the other person’s responsibility to automatically respond, nor to make it easy for you. It’s your duty to push for what you want, but in a professional manner.
If the other party says “No, don’t call”, then respect that. If they say, “I don’t really have time to meet”, OK, don’t pursue the meeting further at that time. But until you hear that, keep pressing for what you need.
You might say, “but won’t the other person see this as pushy?” No.
As long as you don’t follow up after such a short window that it feels like stalking (like Harvey did here), or do it in a demanding manner, they will see it as being persistent. And persistence is a quality they may appreciate, which then can give you a greater chance of achieving your goal.
This also gives you a chance to show that you are organized and do what you said, when you said you would do it. That’s another quality that, when demonstrated, may make you a more attractive contact or candidate.
The trickiest of the above is the application. Often that can seem like a black hole, and the application process may not provide a contact person or number to use for follow-up.
However, as long as you have a company name, what stops you from looking them up and calling the switchboard? Ask for the HR department, and do your best to track down the person who is responsible for that job. You will almost certainly distinguish yourself from other candidates, since very few take that step.
Oh, and if the application says ‘no phone calls’, or the interviewer said “don’t call us, we’ll call you”, and you don’t hear anything after a reasonable time, I’d call anyway. If they aren’t responding, what do you have to lose? Just make it short and professional, along the lines of “I’m calling to check on the status of…”