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Mar 6 2016

Don’t Choke on the Follow-Through!

Shaquille O’Neal is arguably one of the greatest basketball players of all-time. Even if you don’t know all of his stats, you probably know his name. With almost 20 years in the NBA, endorsement contracts, and three championship rings, it’s surprising to know that he was such a terrible free throw shooter. He was so bad, his opponents had a name for it…”Hack-aShaq.” Apparently most professional basketball players make about 70% of all free throws. Shaq made a little over 52%.

Free throws are just that – free. You have an opportunity to shoot, with no barriers. The key is follow-through. Basically, that means having a clean, well-formed release of the ball at the end of your shot. If you have a strong close with a free throw, most likely it will go into the basket. You can do everything right before the follow-through, but if you mess up at the end, let’s just say…#fail.

So, what does this have to do with your career? I’m glad that you asked. You will meet many people throughout your career journey. In fact anyone who cares about your professional growth will encourage you to seek out people who are doing things you’re interested in pursuing. Let’s say you are interested in marketing. While researching, you find an alum on LinkedIn. Then, you send a good message, and set up some time to talk to her one-on-one to learn more about her path. These conversations are traditionally called informational interviews. Creating and maintaining relationships with professionals after informational interviews is critical to finding a path that fits you best and getting a job you want.

To make that happen, you can’t be like Shaq, you have to follow-through. After you connect with a professional, in-person or over the phone, try these three simple things to make sure you have a strong close and don’t miss an opportunity to “score”:

1. After your conversation, send an e-mail message by the end of the day (24 hours at the latest).

2. Mail an actual hand-written thank you note by the next day. That’s right, an actual card and envelope. It’s so rare that people send handwritten notes these days, they won’t believe their eyes when they see it. Mention something specific that resonated with you during the conversation. You can buy a relatively affordable pack of thank you cards from most department stores, but consider investing in a nice box of personalized note cards. Since this will not be your last follow up message, they will be put to good use.

3. Mark you calendar a couple times over the next month or two to connect with them and see how they’re doing. A quick e-mail mentioning your progress on your career path and how they’ve helped goes a long way.

Remember, follow through indicates a level of professionalism and demonstrates how serious you are about your career goals and aspirations. By doing the small things, you can win big!

What steps are you taking to ensure you have solid follow-through with your career connections? YOUniversity Drive wants to know!  #TeamYOUDrive