A few weeks ago, I received an email from a friend (names have been changed to protect privacy):
“I would like to introduce you to my friend Jane. She’s interested in learning more about your career mentoring services and had sent a note through your ‘Contact Us’ form but never heard back.”
Never heard back. I was horrified. I never ignore people who take the time to fill out a contact form on my website, not intentionally. What had happened? How had I missed this notification? I logged into the back end of my website and discovered a few other contact forms I’d never received. Something was broken in the notification process. Sitting in queue were three potential clients who’d been waiting to hear back from me, one for nearly a month. What stories had they created about me in the absence of communication? Perhaps they thought:
- I was too busy with other clients.
- I wasn’t interested in their story.
- Or worse, that they weren’t worthy of help.
I quickly contacted and apologized to all three and went about remedying the technical glitch.
Later the same week, I had a wonderful conversation with a prospective client. He was going to discuss the cost of coaching with his wife over the weekend and we planned to reconnect the following Monday. I was surprised to not hear from Tim on Monday but assumed he had gotten busy, as we all do. Tuesday morning, I received an email from the former client who’d referred Tim informing me that he had passed away unexpectedly that weekend. After the surprise of the note wore off, I felt gratitude for my client who took the time to notify me. How long would I have tried to contact Tim? Eventually, I would have written him off as not interested and lacking the manners to let me know.
When we are expecting a reply and don’t receive one, we make assumptions. And job seekers with shaky confidence take assuming to a whole other level. Sometimes you don’t receive a reply because:
- Emails get lost. Just yesterday, after waiting for a replacement day-timer for longer than expected, I emailed an inquiry and learned that they’d been waiting on me for final confirmation. I’d sent that email but it never made it to the company.
- Technology fails. Often. My phone died last week. It literally wouldn’t power on. How many texts and calls did I receive between that failure and when I was able to power up my replacement phone? I have one confirmed missed text from my Dad but perhaps there are others. And maybe missed messages from prospective clients.
- Life gets very full. The intention to respond to a voicemail can quickly become buried by unexpected work, family emergencies, illness, and myriad interruptions.
Our systems of communication are far from flawless. Technology is helpful but we shouldn’t rely on it to confirm anything. If you’re waiting for a reply to an email, follow up. Leave a voicemail. Connect on LinkedIn. Try several different modes before deciding that the person on the other end isn’t interested in talking to you. Feel like you’re nagging or stalking? Try something like this:
“Sorry if this message has reached you multiple times. I’m trying to make sure my note didn’t get lost in cyberspace. Looking forward to hearing from you as your schedule permits.”
Our lives are ridiculously busy. It’s the number one complaint I hear from everyone I know. What if your email, voicemail, or text is buried in their busyness? Maybe they don’t know it’s there. Or maybe they did receive it but one too many interruptions have caused it to be forgotten.
Here’s how I receive communication:
- Email: greyzone, author account, personal Outlook address, gmail connected to greyzone, gmail connected to partner alliance with Creative Alignments.
- Social media: Instagram Messenger, Facebook Messenger, Facebook general notifications (tagged in a thread), LinkedIn Messenger, LinkedIn tagged in thread. Does Twitter have messenger? Gosh, I hope not. I rarely check that account.
- Phone: text, What’s App, voicemail
- Mail: home mailbox, work mailbox
- Face to face
Until you’ve been told by a company that it’s not interested in you, don’t give up. And if you’re interviewing with a company such as Amazon, don’t give up after a single rejection. Amazon’s a behemoth. Try other departments and work on getting more “ins.” A “No” may really mean “Not now.”
If you’re wondering if you can you ask is a “No” forever or just right now, yes, you can ask but it’s unlikely that you’ll get an honest answer. If you’re not a fit based on personality, they’re not going to tell you. But if you’re not a fit based on skills related to the job, they may encourage you to network with them and try again.
Confidence is so fragile during the job-search process that we immediately jump to the worst conclusion. But always test your assumptions. The absence of a response isn’t necessarily a “No.” In our busy lives, we have to be persistent.