Are you planning a transition “from college to career?” You won’t want to miss out on advice from Lindsey Pollak, a recognized expert on next-generation career trends. She recently released a new edition of her terrific book, Getting from College to Career. In this second of a two-part Q & A with Lindsey, she outlines some best practices for networking, following up, and transitioning to your first job. (Don’t miss part I of our interview.)
In addition to LinkedIn, what online tools do you think are most helpful for new grads to improve their networking potential?
Lindsey: I think people misjudge Twitter as a career and networking tool. It is a phenomenal research tool for following companies, people and industries that interest you and learning what they want you to know about them. We never had such direct access to such information before. Twitter gives you a million topics to learn and think about – which can then be used in a variety of networking situations from informational interviews to career fairs to informal conversations.
What are your best tips for following up after an informational meeting? How about how to follow up after an interview?
Lindsey: I recommend that people start the follow-up process during the actual meeting or interview by asking the other person how he or she likes to receive follow-up. For instance, at the end of a great chat at a networking event, you can say to the other person, “I really enjoyed speaking with you. What’s the best way to keep in touch?” Then you can find out if the person prefers email, phone or perhaps connecting on LinkedIn or another social network.
If you haven’t had this conversation, follow up is still extremely important. I suggest following up with a concise email that has a really descriptive subject line, such as “Nice to meet you at Thursday’s NYC Networking Night” or “Thank you for the interview – online marketing assistant position.” This helps your email stand out from all of the bland follow-up emails that say “thanks” or “interview.” Next, thank the person for his or her time and mention something from the meeting that stood out to you or a topic that you could tell the interviewer was particularly interested in. Finally, end with some sort of added value – another thought you had from the meeting or an idea that it sparked. Show that you are someone who always gives a little bit extra.
In your book, you write about being persistent – without being a pest. Can you share a tip or two for how a job seeker should know how to identify that fine line between following up enough and too much?
Lindsey: There really is a fine line. The right kind of persistence is always polite, positive and appropriately timed. You should send a thank you email within 12 to 24 hours of a formal job interview using the tips in the previous answer. Then mark in your calendar to wait one full week before attempting any other follow up. I know a week feels like a long time when you want a job, but it’s a short time to the person who interviewed you.
If you don’t hear back after a full week (or even 10 days), it’s okay to send a second email. Now here’s the fine line: it’s pestering to write, “I haven’t heard back from you and I wanted to know if you’re still interested in hiring me.” It’s polite and appropriate to say, “I wanted to thank you again for our interview last week. In the meantime, I’ve read more on [something you discussed] and [then say something you learned or an idea this research sparked]. Would you be able to let me know any next steps at this point?”
If you don’t hear back from the second email, it’s probably not a great sign. If you’d like to give it one more try, a third follow up action is the last I would take. You can try another polite email, leave a voice mail message after hours (with a similar, positive follow-up comment) or reach out to the person on LinkedIn or Twitter if you know he or she is active there.
In my opinion, three attempts is the maximum. You’ve given it your best shot and, unfortunately, not everyone is responsive. I believe employers should let you know if you are not getting a job you’ve interviewed for, but that doesn’t always happen. Hopefully you have a lot of irons in the fire and your persistence for other positions will pay off!
What do you think is the most difficult thing for new college grads to manage in their transition to a first job?
Lindsey: Communication skills are very different between college and the “real world” and that’s where I tend to see new grads make the most mistakes. In a professional environment, you have to remember that everything you write or say is contributing to your professional reputation.
This means that emails need to be written in a professional style and tone (limit text message speak, limit or eliminate emoticons, avoid using “Hey” as a greeting, etc.) and you have to carefully choose your communication methods. Texting and IM are generally not appropriate for the workplace (unless you’ve specifically discussed using these methods with your boss or your company has an internal IM system) and you need to learn to speak well in meetings and professional presentations.
Be sure to check out her book: Getting from College to Career.
This post originally appeared on Salary.com, where I am a contributing writer.