Another Broken Promise. Or, Were They Lying?
The nerve of them. You ask a simple favor. Send your resume to one of their contacts. Forward you the name and number or at least the email address of their friend, or colleague, or somebody they thought could use your skills or talent. It was even their idea. They promised they would follow through! The meeting you had with them was so collegial, they even paid for the latte and muffin after you trekked halfway across town through rush hour to meet at the Starbucks (the one on the north side of the street, not the one on the south side of the street) and you were almost late. But you made it.
Of course you sent the email thanking them for their time and their advice and now you are waiting for some action. You just want to get in the door, to get a fair shake in this painful job search and they said they would help but it has been almost two weeks since you met. It makes you irritated, frustrated, sad and then just plain mad. What is wrong here? Why do people behave this way? What can you do about it?
In business, the failure to follow-up on promises happens all the time. Yes I know it is bad for customer service, and it is bad for professional reputation and even someone’s career if they blow off the boss’s request to get the paperwork in but it does happen and you know it because it happens to you and maybe you have been guilty of it yourself. It might be annoying when you are working but it feels really personal when you are looking for a job.
Remember these tips to help people keep their promises:
It might be personal, but it probably is not. People want to help and they may promise more than they can deliver, but it’s most likely that they walked into the office after your meeting and pressing problems pressed on them and their promise to you was displaced by other demands. So yes you can follow-up with the meeting. A quick email or message, “Just following up on our conversations, I know people are really swamped nowadays but I am still quite interested in following up on your suggestion to contact Bob. If you have a moment, could you forward his email…”
Use the ABC meeting summary technique for every meeting. “ABC” is sales lingo for “Always Be Closing”. Seek to gain agreement and clarity for each step and each promise. The simple and low key summary approach is best. “So you suggest you send me the contact information for Sue Smith and you will also forward my resume to Mary Wallace. That would be great, thank you.” This sharpens vague “maybe I could” promises to “yes I will”.
Look behind the curtain. Every organization has its way of doing things procedurally and politically. Ask your contact how it works and who are the players. Even the simple exercise of having them draw out an organizational chart will clarify who you should talk to and where someone like you would fit in.
Build in permission to follow-up. Always wrap up meetings with, “This has been very helpful. Would it be OK if I follow-up on our discussion to keep you posted on my progress with your suggestions and in the event if I have a specific follow-up question?” Nine times out of ten the answer will be, “Sure”. For the tenth person…well , at least you know where they stand. For the rest, you now have permission to follow-up when they fail to follow-through.
Make it easy, do the work for them. Think about what you can do to make it easy for them to follow up with you. Say to them, “I will send an email to you to assure you have my contact information and when you reply, just add Bob and Susan’s contact information.” Or, “I will send an email and you forward it with a cc. to me to Bob to introduce us. I can take it from there.”
And then, keep your promises.