JOB SEARCH / APR. 05, 2014
version 3, draft 3

Always Follow Up: Don’t Count Yourself Out Too Soon

Some time ago, I found myself without a job. I was a casualty of "corporate restructuring." My marketing position was eliminated, only to be refilled a year later.  

Frustrating as that was, it didn't change the fact that I needed a job before my three-month severance package ran out. I started applying for anything and everything that I felt remotely qualified to do. I sat through numerous interviews, and though I was getting rather desperate, I knew quickly I just didn't want some of the jobs for which I interviewed. In at least one case, I withdrew from consideration before I even left the building.  

Then I had "the" interview. I clicked with the manager, I was well-qualified for the job and the salary was on par with what I had been earning. I left the interview optimistic and extremely hopeful that I would get a call within a few days for a second interview. I followed up with a handwritten thank you note and emailed the list of references the manager had requested.

Ten days later, a call hadn't come. While I was reluctant to give up hope, I felt I needed to be realistic. If I hadn't heard from the manager by then, it probably didn't mean good news was headed my way.

In the meantime, I was extended an offer for another job at a small non-profit agency. I was extremely overqualified for the position, and it paid considerably less than I had been making. But I was scared. I had to have something soon, and this job would allow me to pay the bills and it offered health insurance. I feared I'd live to regret the decision if I passed on the opportunity.

So, without so much as even calling the employer I really wanted to work for, I accepted the other position. I accepted on a Wednesday and agreed to start the following Monday. 

After my first day, I realized the agency really needed my expertise. I liked the people I would be working with, and though it paid less than I felt I could make elsewhere, the job would be personally gratifying.

I headed home that first day at peace with my decision. At least until my cell phone rang. It was the other employer. The job I really, really wanted. Turns out they really, really wanted me, too.

Talk about a conundrum. Should I walk away from the agency that truly needed my skill set to further its cause, or should I honor the commitment I made when I accepted the position? Doing so would mean I would forego a more challenging, lucrative job.

In the end, I stuck with the non-profit. My conscience just wouldn't let me quit. But I quickly realized my mistake in failing to contact my preferred employer before accepting the other job.

The moral of the story? Never assume you are out of contention for a job until you know for certain. Don't make the same mistake I did by not following up. 

Since that time, when I've interviewed but not been contacted by the employer within a few days, I've always made a phone call or sent an email to determine my status as a candidate. True, it's sometimes an awkward conversation, especially if I had been removed from consideration. 

But trust me, it's absolutely worth it. You'll never have to regret missing an opportunity simply because you failed to ask.

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