After a networking event, the purpose of a follow-up email is to turn your conversations into actions, so your email should include an “action item.”
Here’s what this means…
Simply saying, “Thank you for speaking with me the other night. I enjoyed learning about your company, and I found your work very interesting,” doesn’t require much, if any, response at all from your potential network connection. All that would be expected from that sort of email is a reply of, “You’re welcome.”
If “You’re welcome. It was my pleasure,” is the only possible response they could send back, then you’ve sent a very poorly constructed follow-up email.
You need to include an action item in your email – this is something that requires an action from them. For example:
“It was great meeting you the other night. Thank you for letting me know about the internship program at your company. Please send me the application packet; I’m interested in applying.”
This means they HAVE to respond because they need to give you something, and they probably won’t just send you a blank email with an attachment or a link in it. The application materials will likely be accompanied by a short communication in the body of the email, which can serve to continue your conversation with the professional.
Action Items can take many forms:
- “If you could direct me to the contact person for the internship program, that would be greatly appreciated.”
- “Thank you for agreeing to an informal interview. Please let me know when you are available this week for a phone call.”
- “I’m following up on the information you requested (attached). Could you please confirm my eligibility for the XYZ Award.”
One thing to keep in mind is that you want to make sure your action item holds them accountable TO YOU, not just themselves.
Here’s an example of a bad action item:
“Thank you for letting me know about the new position at your firm. Please forward my CV/Resume to the search committee.”
This is indeed an action item because it requires the recipient of the email to do something. HOWEVER, you will never know if the task gets completed. In the above example, if they never forward your information along, that would be equivalent to never learning about the job opening in the first place, turning this network connection into a dead end.
Alternatively, they may indeed forward your information, but doing so doesn’t require them to send you an additional email letting you know they did it. Some people might let you know as a courtesy, but if you don’t hear back from them, there’s no way of knowing if your information was forwarded or not.
When people know you are waiting on them or relying on them for something, they feel a responsibility to get back to you because if they didn’t, it would reflect poorly on them. In contrast, if they only have themselves to answer to, they may not be as quick to act because doing so would only satisfy their own conscience. Playing into the natural guilt trip that occurs when people know others are depending on them will work in your favor in the realm of networking.
Now… Let’s take it up a notch.
Here’s how to combine strategies…
Remember in last week’s blog when Sarah mentioned to the professional that she knew someone who could help improve his company’s difficult-to-navigate website? Did you notice how she worded her follow-up email?
“Thank you for taking the time to speak with me… I’d be happy to put you in touch with my [Uncle, Friend, etc., INSERT relation here]… Let me know if you’d like me to pass your contact information along.”
Sarah offered to give something to the professional (in hopes that he would help her in return) – this is using the “Give & Take” approach to networking.
She has also strategically worded her “Give” portion of this equation…
It’s always courteous to ask before doling out someone’s contact information, but she could have very easily included her Uncle/Friend’s contact information in her email. Instead of volunteering this information, she phrased it as an action item, and since this is something the professional wants/needs, she has pretty much guaranteed that he will write her back.
Combining the “Give & Take” and “Action Item” strategies will increase the chances of A) getting a response to your email, and B) continuing the conversation/building a relationship with your network connection.
So, always think about how you can include an action item or rephrase something into the form of an action item for your follow-up emails!
** Try it out, and let us know how this strategy worked for you! **
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