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The Art of Following Up — It’s Not Just For Interviewees

A great idea is nothing if no one follows up on it

A great idea is nothing if no one follows up on it; it’s the same for important conversations and business dealings. In the business world, following up is often talked about in regard interviews, but its necessity does not end what you get up and work your way the corporate ladder. In fact, I believe that following up is one of the most important skills a leader can refine.

In general, a timely follow-up shows that you are still interested in the task at hand. Imagine you are pursuing a date. You go out together for the first time, and you personally believe that a great time was had by all. But does your date reciprocate these feelings? By following up with him or her, you can find that out how it went for them and let them know that you had a great time. Although the business world isn’t necessarily Tinder, you can still take a lot of the social practices from dating and apply them to your professional career.

Far West Capital, a company who funds the goals of high-growth business owners, offers further insight to the connotations that a follow-up email or phone call can provide to your client. This entity believes following up makes a person feel valued and sets you apart from the competition.

Working in eldercare, I find this evaluation to be quite valid. Taking the extra time to converse with residents, for instance, makes them feel valued. They are not just another patient in my records. In some businesses, following up may serve to set you aside from the competition, but in my business following up on someone’s health issues could be the difference between life and death. Although you may not find yourself in my specific industry, you can still use these insights to your benefit as well.

Assuming the stakes are high

Following up is not, in most lines of work, the difference between life and death. But assuming the stakes are high (as they can be in my industry) will help you make this a routine habit and never leave opportunities on the table.

I noted before that following up is an interview necessity. To understand how it transcends this context it’s useful to examine the role it plays in the interview process. Say, for instance, you are applying for a job and you have ten competitors. If you are one of the five people to follow up after the interview, you are now in a separate pool than the rest of the contenders for the desired position. Let’s even be as bold as to say that every person that is being interviewed for the position follows up. Wouldn’t it make you happier knowing that you were not the only person who failed to do so?

In addition, the blog post, sourced from Far West Capital, explains that sending a follow up of any kind reveals that you are serious and reliable.

“By sending a follow up, you will prove that you take their time and work very sincerely and want to get the ball rolling as soon as possible,” the blog states. “Following up also shows them that they can rely on you to take the initiative if they choose to move forward with you.” This is true of any business correspondence.

Putting the ball in a new court

Although all of these outcomes of following up sound nice and beneficial, the last insight offered by the article is most important. The article states that by following up, you are putting the ball in the other party’s court, and in doing so keep it in motion.

“Since you’ve done your part, the next step is up to them.” It is at this point that a conversation is catalyzed. By following-up you have initiated what is a hopefully a long-line of communication to work towards a common goal.

This idea is relevant in many relationships, whether it be with a potential boss or associates. By following up, you are taking an idea to the next level. If something goes wrong in the grand scheme of a plan, then that simply means it is time to follow up with a potential solution. Creating the conversation is the first step in moving forward. The worst thing that could happen is the ball get dropped, that you’re the one to drop it, and the consequences reverberate throughout the entire court.

Practice empathy, but don’t overswing

Also, it is vital to be empathetic to the people that you are doing business with. It doesn’t matter if it is a potential employer or a potential business partner. You have to realize, that just like you, they probably have their own meetings and their own matters that they need to attend to. In a perfect world, someone would get back to you the second they had an answer. Unfortunately this is not the case. Things come up. So it is important to be patient in awaiting a response. Recognize this truth and keep yourself busy with other productive projects.

Not following-up is equivalent to not swinging the bat during an at bat. You’re not even giving yourself a chance to put the ball into play. Likewise, following-up to the point of annoyance is like swinging the bat two more times after the umpire has already exclaimed, “Strike three, you’re out.” That’s just embarrassing.

Expanding the idea

Using follow-up emails is a great way to make yourself more known to a company when you are applying to jobs, but everyone should apply this practice to everything they do in their lives, especially when it comes to leaders of past, present, and future. But why limit it to email? A follow up call or in person meeting, in many cases, can be twice as effective.

As COO of a company with various locations, following-up is something I need to be consistent about to communicate effectively and consistently. I advocate the same for all of our employees, whether they are following up with our residents on their issues or with their colleagues on joint tasks.

That idea of taking the extra step to evaluate the work that I have done is invaluable to my success. The answers that I receive from my residents, as well as my colleagues provide me with insights to make corrections and ultimately better my company as a whole.

The same goes for important conversations with your associates. Following up makes them feel heard and ensures a good idea won’t fall by the wayside because you failed to take it to the next level.

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up,” Thomas Edison said, in regards to the number of failures behind inventing the light bulb. Imagine if one day he decided to not follow up with his practices. The world would certainly be a lot darker for it. 

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