Career Resources

The Keys to Career Management Effectiveness: Part III

This third, and final, posting in our series on career management effectiveness explores the paired behaviors of follow-through and follow-up, and integrity.

Key #5: Follow-Through and Follow-Up

No doubt, you are familiar with the term follow-through—it is a well-known expression applicable in many popular recreational pastimes. Follow-through is that crucial concluding physical act that enables players in sports such as baseball, basketball, golf, or tennis to direct a ball where it needs to go. Without follow-through in the shot, swing, or stroke, the result will be misdirected. The same is true for managing your career. Ignore follow-through in your job search, and your career plans may fall off course.

In career management, follow-through is really a complement to the earlier effectiveness key, preparation. Preparation helps ensure a good delivery, but there are typical moments when executives fail on their follow-through. For example, creating a resume is good preparation for your job search. Some executives work with exhaustive diligence to create a masterpiece—the margins, headings, spelling, and content are all perfect. Unfortunately, during the single-minded pursuit of a perfect document, the executive has failed to develop a network. This lack of follow-through renders the resume ineffective. Relying on only your resume to land the job is a common rookie mistake. It is not fatal, but overlooking networking is almost certain to extend the period of time involved in finding the right job.

Another typical point where lack of follow-through frequently occurs is when one makes an initial networking contact as a prelude to a subsequent and more significant contact. An executive recruiter illustrated this point during a panel presentation. She recounted receiving a resume in the mail with a cover letter indicating that the writer would phone her next week. “So,” the recruiter told the audience, “I noted on my calendar to expect a call from Mr. Networker. Well, for whatever reason, he didn’t call. I didn’t have to write that down to remember him as someone who doesn’t follow through.”

Follow-up is a close companion to follow-through. It is the portion of the job search that establishes an executive as someone who is serious about obtaining a position. For example, the recruiter mentioned above recalled a candidate who did not send a thank-you letter after an interview. “I used to think it goes without saying that a person interviewing automatically sends a thank-you card for the opportunity to meet and discuss employment opportunities. Apparently not.” By not sending a timely “thank you,” that candidate had distinguished himself negatively from the other candidates. His initial positive impression was erased by the negative impression he created when he did not follow up with a thank-you letter. The lesson: It never hurts to follow-up, but it may hurt if you don’t.

Follow-up is not only the responsibility of the job seeker, but also the employer. It is frustrating for a job seeker to submit a resume and not receive acknowledgement from the employer that the resume was received. It is reported that the acknowledgment rate for resumes received across industries has fallen to below 10 percent. Given the number of unsolicited resumes that circulate, it is understandable that they often go unacknowledged. However, employers should realize that by not following up with applicants, they are creating a negative public impression and risk alienating talented workers they may wish to hire in the future.

Key #6: Integrity

The final effectiveness key to consider in career management is integrity. In all aspects of your life, and in career management especially, the most important characteristic is integrity. During the job search process, blatant misrepresentation of qualifications is a transparent and foolish way to compromise one’s integrity. Employers do check references, credentials, and degrees. Increasingly, employers seek transcripts and past employment references as part of an application process.

A less obvious compromise of one’s integrity occurs when a person accepts a position despite harboring reservations that it may not really be a good match. Here, the risk is that the executive will assume personal unhappiness and ineffectiveness in the short run and decreased employment opportunities in the long run. Poor performance and a less than cordial separation may make landing the next position much more challenging.

The postings in this series explored the six keys integral to effective career management: self-awareness, preparation, tailoring your presentation, handling rejection, follow-through and follow-up, and integrity. Paying attention to these job search fundamentals will unlock the potential for a successful job search and help you further your career.