You just hung up the phone, or just left the office, of a networking contact…what next? Too often in networking, we end a meeting without a clear vision of the next steps in the process. Are you supposed to reach out to Mr. Executive’s contacts and are you allowed use his name or is he going to broker introductions? Is Ms. Executive going to pass along your resume or are you supposed to apply through the company site first? Don’t let the momentum gained from a positive networking meeting fizzle because of unclear expectations and missed follow-ups.
Set Expectations: Who is going to do what. Take the last three minutes of a networking meeting or call to recap the next steps in the process. Outline what you will do and what the contact has offered to do. This is not the time to be squeamish about asking for help – communicating clear follow-up steps will be appreciated by the contact as he/she will know what is expected.
I have been in meetings where a contact has said something like “You should talk with Bob over in HR, I know him very well and he is a perfect guy to talk with about this job.” Is my contact going to broker an introduction? Am I allowed to use my contact’s name as a referral when reaching out to Bob? Don’t miss opportunities because you did not define what the next steps were and who was responsible.
“Thank you for the idea to reach out to Bob, is it okay to mention your name and our meeting when I reach out to Bob or would you prefer to give Bob a heads up first prior to my outreach?”
Set Time Deadlines: “Shoot me a copy of your resume and I’ll see what I can do.” You dutifully send your resume within 24 hours and a week goes by; two weeks go by and still no news. When is it appropriate to follow-up? When did your contact say you should expect news?
Set time frames for your follow-up:
“Thank you Mr. Johnson for this meeting – your advice has been very helpful. Just a quick recap, I will send you my resume by the end of business today and you said you would forward to Bob in HR. I will follow-up with you by the end of next week to circle back on what I have heard/not heard from Bob. Does that sound reasonable?”
Assume Responsibility: Don’t expect or ask your contact to do any more work that what he/she has already promised. Remember, are the one who is asking for help and thus the bulk of the workload should fall on your shoulders. In my example above, I did not ask Mr. Johnson when I should follow-up (placing the decision on his shoulders), I say when I will follow-up. If he thinks my timeframe is too slow/fast, he can suggest an alternative – but at least I take responsibility for the action and the timing.
Be sure to summarize the post-meeting action items, decide on who is doing what, and when the tasks should be completed. This may seem pushy, but your contacts will appreciate having clear expectations about the next steps in the process. Then, when you follow through with your commitments in a timely fashion, your contacts will be even more impressed….and this could lead to additional referrals and job leads.