Careers

The 'F-word' you must use every day in your career

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Let me start this column with the main point front and center.

If you're not willing to employ the "F-word" in business every single day (no exceptions), then you won't find success. It's impossible.

See, the "F-word" is the secret ingredient that drives projects forward and ensures you will, in time, realize your career goals.

By the same token, the "F-word" is the most grueling, painstaking and demanding aspect of building something special from the ground up. When you wake up in the morning, it's right there at the top of the to-do list. It never goes away.

But every time you "follow up," you bring yourself ... (Oh, wait. You thought I meant the *other* "F-word?" Get your mind out of the gutter!)

As I was saying, every time you "follow up," you bring yourself one step closer to the prize.

Why? With any new business or initiative, the outside world is skeptical. People are content with the product or service they already have, why should they care what you offer? You couldn't possibly make the situation any better, right? Or so they think.

That's why, like clockwork, potential customers ignore your emails, screen your phone calls and generally keep their distance. Over. And over. And over.

"Leave me alone," they silently scream. "I'm not interested."

Then, you have two choices: Walk away, or drop the "F-bomb."

If you stop trying, the project stalls, and you lose. Game over. Another headstone in the cemetery of failed businesses because you weren't willing to "follow up." Another "wantrepreneur" who crumbled at the first sight of hard work. Dime a dozen.

To me, the need to try, try and try again is as germane to business as paying taxes and having a website. It's part of the game, and there's no escape.

That's why, down below, I have included templates for three common follow-up scenarios in business. You will find opportunities to use the guides every day. "F-word" chances are never far.

1. How to follow up if someone ignores your first email

Reply to the previous email you sent:

Hi _____,

I'm following up to make sure you saw the email I sent [earlier this week/late last week] about [quick info about the issue at hand; for instance, "the Collins proposal"].

Please let me know.

Thanks again,
Your first name

Recap: Short and sweet — plus, you remind the person what the email is about (ex: "Collins proposal").

2. How to follow up if someone said they'd do a favor/task for you but never did

Reply to the previous email you sent:

Hi _____,

I'm following up to make sure you're still able to [the favor/task; for instance, "introduce me to Gloria Rodriguez via email"].

Please let me know if that's possible.

Thanks so much,
Your first name

Recap: Again, details matter with the follow-up message. Gently remind the person what they promised to do. When people offer to open a big door for you, don't let them off the hook. All of your future success could be at stake. Don't walk away.

3. How to follow up when it's clear the person is avoiding you

OK, it feels an awful lot like the person doesn't want to deal with you. I get it — no fun following up. But again, you have no choice but to keep trying because your project depends on a response.

Hi _____,

I know you've received several messages from me, but I would still appreciate if you could [whatever you need the person to do; for instance, "take a look at the first draft of my short story and give me your honest feedback."]

[Then, explain in one line why you would appreciate the help; for instance, "You have a keen eye, and I know you can take my work from good to great."]

Thanks again for the help,
Your first name

Recap: First, you speak to the fact you already sent "several messages." Put it out there and move on. Then, remind the person what you need and explain why you respect their opinion.

Ok, huddle up. If you care about the work you're doing and believe it's your true calling in this world, then you have no choice but to follow up with all your heart and soul.

Eat, drink, follow up, sleep, repeat. That's who you are from now on.

And if emails won't do the trick, pick up the phone and stay in pursuit.

Just make sure you don't drop the "F-word" during your call. Oh, you know what I mean.

Danny Rubin is the author of "Wait, How Do I Write This Email?" and "Wait, How Do I Promote My Business?" For more communication tips, follow him on Twitter at @DannyHRubin.

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