Professional Persistence

by Kori Renn, UCS Director of Coaching

Let’s talk for a moment about pursuing something you’re interested in. When you were a kid and wanted to learn how to ride a bike, did you hop on two wheels and start doing massive BMX style X game worthy jumps? No! You cautiously balanced, perhaps with some training wheels and feet on the ground. You took a few scary pedals then put your feet down again. You also fell down a bunch of times. Then someone probably gave you some pointers, perhaps said, “Keep your eyes up!” or “Pedal! Pedal! Pedal!” 10 more sessions of falling and you’re gliding (at least that’s how you remember it). Then you decide that you want to pop a wheelie, a friend says, “Watch me!” Another older friend says, “Do this.” With another series of tumbles and hopefully no broken bones, you power through and now you ride like the wind.

The job search is no different. When you start out, you may not know exactly what to do. You’ll likely reach out to a number of people who don’t respond. A good response rate is 20%, but that’s a good rate. If you don’t craft a good request or reach out to the right people, that rate can be lower. You’ll get no feedback, you’ll get no’s, you’ll feel like you did when you were 8 and fell flat on your face in front of your cool middle school neighbor who was doing jumps off a bike ramp in the street, but you have to keep at it. Just like learning how to ride a bike for the first time, you’ll get more comfortable. You’ll learn the lingo of the industry or field you’re pursuing; you’ll talk to friends who encourage you to approach a call or an interview in a certain way, someone else will tell you something slightly different and you’ll have to figure out what works for you.

I often talk to students about their job pursuit and find they’ve only reached out to 1 person from a company, or 1 person from an industry and then stop if they don’t get a response. The job search, just like so many other things in life, takes persistence. Commitment to learning about your field and commitment to spending time driving for a goal is the only path to success. 1 application, 1 reach-out on LinkedIn, 1 interview is not going to get you gliding. You have to spend the time, take the falls, listen to colleagues who have been through it before you, listen to people who are in the industry now. If you want to be successful at something, you have to commit yourself and commit time, but you also have to be open to the aspect that you’re going to fall along the way. That’s a part of it. It’s the ones who fall, recognize the beauty and growth that came from the fall, get back up and try again, who are successful in a search.

Here are some tips on how to be professionally persistent.

  • Make time every day to reach out to contacts.
  • Give a reasonable amount of time for someone to follow up with you before following back up with them. Remember, you’re not their priority and they’re going to use their limited free time to talk to you. 5-7 days is reasonable.
  • Follow the 3 try rule. If you reach out to someone 3 different times within a month and they haven’t responded give it 3-4 months before reaching out again and only reach out again if this person is paramount to your search or to your knowledge base.
  • Acknowledge that the person is likely busy. Never imply that someone should have already followed up with you.
  • Provide value, if possible. Out of the goodness of their heart is not enough to motivate most people to spend time with you. Is there a connection point that you can speak to? Have you recently done a case, had a class, studied something that you’d like their perspective on?
  • Remember you’re trying to form a connection; a long-standing relationship with a professional in the industry or field you’re pursuing. This isn’t just about a job for you.

Final thoughts, this isn’t a numbers game or box checking. It’s the pursuit of knowledge in an industry or field that will get you to an end goal of a job within said industry. In the same way, getting on a bike and doing the same exact thing over and over with no intent to improve will not make you Olympic Training Center ready, contacting people without intention, preparation or a strategy will not make you a consultant, investment banker, research analyst, marketing professional or any other career starter. Be purposeful, be professionally persistent, be ready to dust yourself off after some bumps and bruises, and get after it!

By Kori Renn
Kori Renn Director of Career Advising