The Art of the Follow Up

I recently moved into a role where I now have a say and influence in the hiring process.  After being on the hiring side of several interviews, I’m surprised at the lack of follow up from those that I’ve interviewed.  The post-interview follow up helps remind the interviewer who you are and offers the chance for you to reinforce your strengths.  Simply put, the follow-up email should be a norm – typical behavior that goes together like peanut butter and jam, thank yous and you’re welcomes, left and right, interview and follow up email.

Think of the follow up email as a way to

  • Highlight the strengths you mentioned
  • Address any hesitations or weaknesses the interviewer may have brought up during the interview
  • Reinforce why you are the perfect fit for the role and the company

And personally for me, the follow-up email provides an opportunity for me to see your communication skills.  If you can’t write a decent email to a first time manager, then there’s no way you can convince me to be comfortable with you writing an email to my manager, to my manager’s manager, or to my manager’s manager’s manager.

For those who raise the point that you may not always have the interviewer’s email address… I call bull.  We live in a day and age of internet creeping.  An easy Google search will pop up the company’s standard email address or you can always guesstimate (john.smith@google.com, johnsmith@google.com, jsmith@google.com, j.smith@google.com, etc.).  If that doesn’t work, try your interviewer’s social networks.  While I prefer not to be messaged via Facebook or Twitter, a nice follow up message on LinkedIn is appropriate.

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“Image is power. Image is superficial”

I came across this TEDTalk by model Cameron Russell.  Absolutely loved her message and how open and honest she was about her experience and the fact that her modeling career is a result of genetics and legacy.

A short 5 minute video that’s well worth watching.

How to build a social community in a new city

Moving to a new city is hard.  You leave behind family, friends, familiar places, and a whole ecosystem of support.  I moved to San Francisco last year.  For me, it was a new city in a new country, all the way across the other end of the continent, and five hours away from what I know and what I am comfortable with.  I moved in with one of my colleagues and spent a lot of time with a group of work friends both in and out of the office. Outside of work, I knew no one.  It was around my first few months that I knew if I was to develop connections outside of work, I would have to put a lot of effort into it.  My friends suggested joining intramural or some sort of league  If you’re like me and hopeless at organized sports, then that suggestion doesn’t pan out well.

Starting from scratch, I reached out to my established community back home and worked with that to build a new one.  Here are some methods that worked for me.

  1. 2nd Degree Connections.  I emailed my family and friends and asked if they had a friend or a friend of a friend in my new city.  This resulted in four friend dates with one individual becoming a close friend of mine now.
  2. Facebook Creep.  Being a first generation Facebook college user, I had no shortage of friends on my list.  Mark Zuckerberg has made it incredibly easy to look up your friends and filter them by city.  Through my excessive creeping and research, I discovered a few people I knew that were in the city.
  3. LinkedIn.  LinkedIn has this brilliant feature under Contacts in the menu bar where you can search for high school and college alumni by what they studied, where they work, and where they live.  It was through this tool that I discovered that one of my college classmate and who also happened to be a former roommate of one of my best friends lives in the city.  I’ve also connected with two other alumni through LinkedIn.  It never fails to amaze me how open alumni are to meeting other alumni and chatting with them.
  4. Meetup.com.  Meetup is one of those misses for me but partially due to the fact I only ever went to one.  Many of my friends, however, have met and created strong friendships from people they’ve connected with through Meetup.
  5. Eventbrite.  Luckily for me, San Francisco is a vibrant, bustling city that offers tons of free events, workshops, lectures, etc.  Right away, I took advantage of the environment around me and searched for events under $20 on Eventbrite that suited my interest.  While I haven’t found a friend through Eventbrite yet, I have met some really cool and interesting individuals in my passing.

These are some of my tried and true methods.  As I continue to build my community here, I would love to hear some ideas of other meet and greets that have worked.  Feel free to share them with me in the comments section.

Out with networks, in with communities

There are so many articles and tips on how to network. From how to effectively network to how to get over network-phobia to winning at networking, the internet is full of good tricks of mastering the art.  But I personally find networking to be rather impersonal – more so transactional if you will.  Networking is very much what you can do for me and what I can do for you.  It is such an old school mentality of building connections.

The world has become increasingly connected and information and stories are shared instantaneous.  With the rise of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Path, it’s time to revisit how we network and shift it to building a community.  Focus on creating authentic connections through knowledge sharing, idea transfer, and story-telling.  People are genuinely more intrigued and willing to maintain a long-term connection with you if the initial touch point is authentic.  That you want to learn something from them, not gain something that would benefit you or help them with a future string attached.  Let’s focus less on networking and more on building an authentic community. 

Motivational Quote

“If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.”

Sheryl Sandberg recalls advice from then Google CEO, Eric Schmidt

I pre-ordered Sheryl Sandberg’s book on Amazon and cannot wait to get my hands on it and yellow highlight the heck out of the book.

Your 20s is like being a baby: Why mentors are important.

One of my colleague’s wife recently said something that really stuck with me.  We were chatting about marriages and people in their early 20s getting married and she said something along the lines of not understanding that because she felt like your 20s is like being a baby, you’re relearning so much about life and growing so much.

I was struck by her comment because I never thought of it that way, but her words felt true to what I’m facing.  Your 20s, especially during the post-college/pre-successful career phase, is like an infant.  You’re essentially learning how to be an adult – one with loans, real bills to pay, figuring out your own next steps.  It was easy in high school.  You were expected to go to college.  It was easy after college, you were expected to get a job.  But what happens between the time you land your first job and the rest of life?  We no longer have a set four year plan and a clear road ahead of us.  Who is there to guide us and be our backseat driver?

When you’re a baby, your teachers are automatically given to you.  Your parents are there to feed you, change you, teach you how to walk and talk.  As an adult, teachers aren’t automatically assigned.  Instead, you have to actively go look for them.  Many career development blogs, business books, inspirational speeches talk about the importance of finding mentors in your career to help provide guidance and advice as you navigate through your path.

Mentors come from so many walks of life.  Some might be handed to you.  If you’re in a more corporate, formal environment, you may find yourself assigned a coach to help you develop through the organization.  At other places, mentors might be ones that find you or you stumble upon.

Mentors come from all walks of life.  I, myself, have been fortunate to have found solid mentors so early in my career whose advice, encouragement, and criticism have helped shape me during what I consider one of the most pivotal years of my career.  There’s one that I look to for guidance on day to day events and has been a great female role model as well; a colleague who’s senior to me and is always my biggest fan but never afraid to call me out on my BS; a former manager who has some of the best quotes and is not afraid to bring me back down to earth when I’m getting ahead of myself; a career coach from university who has been a great third party listener since my junior year; and my group of friends who while aren’t mentors in the traditional sense, have been nothing but the best sounding board over the last two years.

If you’ve just entered the workforce or haven’t found a mentor that works with your style, fear not, because over time you’ll start to build those relationships and find someone willing to invest in you.  In the meantime, there are so many great books that can provide inspiration.  Levo Lounge, a website community for young women, has a great list of career books they recommend to read.  I’ve ordered half the list and am in the middle of Cathie Black’s Basic Black.  If you’re reading some great books that aren’t on Levo Lounge’s list, share them with me.  I would love to add them to my collection.

Do this really, really well.

I posted earlier a quote from Terry J. Lundgren, CEO of Macy’s on doing something really, really well.  It’s a quote that really resonated with me when I first read it.  There are going to be some time in your life  when you’re handed a project or task that may be unfavorable and unglamorous.  It’s easy to cast it aside and hurry through it to focus on something else.  But the fact of the matter is that your actions, your attitude, the work that you produce is always up for scrutiny whether you like it or not.  Whether it’s being evaluated by your manager, peers, or direct report, your action become a direct reflection of your character which builds your reputation and personal brand. Your personal brand will eventually lead to future wins such as getting that promotion, working on a unique and desired project, or an opportunity to be developed and mentored by someone you look up to.  On this note, I leave you with another quote.

“Mind your thoughts for they become your words; mind your words for they become your actions; mind your actions for they become your habits; mind your habits for they become your character; watch your character for they become your destiny.”

Adaption of Charles Reade’s original quote