How often does it happen when you’re on the job hunt, looking for a recommendation, or asking for a referral that you feel like you’re reaching out to your professional contacts and “fans,” sending multiple emails, texts, and follow-ups only to receive minimal, if any, response?
This is a common frustration, but scientific research may explain why digital silence is normal, and how you can be incredibly more effective in getting positive responses to your requests simply by asking someone face-to-face.
According to a new study, face-to-face requests are 34 times more likely to be successful than text or email requests. Asking a request of 6 people in person is the equivalent of making the same request to 200 people via email.
The study states that most people still believe that an email request will be as effective as an in-person ask because their intention is just as genuine in each instance, but when making the request people don’t take into account the feelings or reactions of the recipient, who might call into question the authenticity of the individual or the request.
There is no doubt that building a strong network of professional relationships and “making fans” is hard work, and requires a lot of time, effort, and patience to see those relationships pay off in a beneficial way for your career. Simply making a connection isn’t enough to solidify a useful contact, and the most advantageous professional relationships come from genuine and consistent efforts amongst both parties.
One frustration that I often hear from clients about their relationship building efforts is, “I connected with (alumnus, executive, friend), and we had a great conversation. I reached out a few months later to ask if they knew of any job openings, but I never heard back from them.” This is fairly common, and leads to guessing why their efforts to build a strong network of fans doesn’t seem to be paying off, yet.
If you are feeling frustrated by a similar scenario, here are five reasons why you may not be seeing a benefit from your professional relationships:
“If you were to ask one question of a famous or historical person, living or dead, what would it be?”
At some point you were probably asked this hypothetical question by a friend, at a party, or as part of an icebreaker or game, and the answer can be fun (and challenging) to think about and discuss.
Although most people answer this question with the name of a person that they are not likely to meet, identifying one question you’re burning to ask a person of interest is a great tool to use with people you meet everyday, including your teachers, mentors, role models, heroes, and even friends. Think of this as your “golden question”- the one question you are most curious to know the answer to from people you meet, particularly your budding professional relationships.
Asking your “golden question” will help build rapport with others, expand your possible career insights and options, and learn what has helped others achieve success in their careers.
Find your “golden question” from a place of genuine curiosity. It doesn’t need to be particularly unique or special, but a question that answers what you are most curious to know about a particular job, career or life path that provides useful insight for your own career path.
For example, if you’re an aspiring writer or director meeting with a more established professional, you may want to know the answers to questions like “How did they get to where they are now?” “What was the biggest challenge in their career?” “Who were their biggest mentors and how did they develop a relationship with them?” “What advice would they give their younger self?”
While the question doesn’t necessarily need to be exactly the same for every individual, look for the themes that emerge from their answers. The destination may have been similar for each person, but the circumstances that led them there were certainly unique. Knowing that there are many roads to success can be a comforting and empowering thought. What you learn from asking your “golden question” will help you make more informed, inspired, and confident choices in your career.
Before your next meeting or interview with someone new, take a moment to think about your “golden question,” the question you most want to ask to get their thoughts, feedback and insight on before you end your conversation. The answer you receive might be the very thing that inspires you to make a life-changing career choice.
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