How To Follow Up After An Informational Conversation 

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”–Robert Louis Stevenson 

This particularly wise advice from the great Robert Louis Stevenson has rather appropriate application to the actuarial journey, especially when it comes to following up after an informational conversation. You need to be able to plant enough seeds of good relationship in order to reap what you’ve sown. 

Destination of this Journey 

The destination of this particular journey includes five specific things to think about and watch out for. You’ll learn to: 

  • Avoid pitfalls of bad follow-up practices
  • Structure effective follow-ups
  • Take advantage of long-term benefits
  • Implement a follow-up system today
  • Identify value-add opportunities

Consequences of Reaping Before Sowing 

You can plant as many seeds  as you want, but there is a danger to reaping before truly sowing when it comes to building relationships and credibility on your journey to being an actuary.

 Some of the dangers and consequences are: 

  • Misunderstanding the motivations of the one you’re having the conversation with. You need to have a good understanding of why they agreed to have the conversation with you, and how far they’re willing to take the relationship.
  • Setting “taker” expectations: it is far too easy to think that because they’ve had the informational conversation with you, you can just keep asking more of them.
  • Jeopardizing both your credibility and theirs.
  • Limiting future opportunities: if you ask more of them than they’re willing to give, especially if you haven’t given the relationship enough time to solidify, they will likely back off from you, and this can limit your opportunities to get your foot in the door. 

All this being said, there is no real hard and fast rule to all this—just be aware of it and use this information wisely. You can be aware of how the conversation went. Don’t just play it by ear, but simply be attuned to how things went.

If they tell you to send them your resume, by all means, go ahead. But again, let them make that call. 

Goals of Follow-up Communications 

Prompt communication is always an excellent thing to practice, but here are some specific goals to keep in mind when following up your informational conversations: 

  • Building long-term relationships:
    • This is not about the conversation being a transaction where you deal with each other one time and you go your separate ways. It’s about building longer-term relationships where someone always has you in the back of their mind.
  • Increasing your confidence:
    • You end up building your brand when you follow up on conversations, and it shows you have good communication skills.
  • Gaining an advocate:
    • Through appointment follow-up, you end up gaining an advocate you might not have otherwise had, especially when you’re job hunting. They could easily help you get you in the door for interviews.
  • Strengthening overall personal brand:
    • Follow-ups can only help you build your personal brand as an aspiring actuary, and set you apart from others. People are more likely to assist when you have full professional integrity.
  • Being in the top of someone’s mind:
    • Again, this goes back to the whole point of building relationships and not merely having a one-off transaction. 

What Does Good Follow-up Look Like? 

Now that we’ve been through the list of pitfalls of not following up, and run through the goals of follow-up communication, just what does good follow-up look like? 

It’s a give and take relationship, and it doesn’t impose. Good follow-up practice does not immediately do or say things like “Hey, I need this done, and I need it soon. Can it be done?” Good follow-up practice also demonstrates the benefit of the relationship, like so:
“As a result of our having a conversation, I was able to line up three other people to talk with and ended up getting an interview.” 

This allows the person—or people—you’ve contacted to feel that the time they spent with you was worth it. 

You’ll also want to follow up with periodic touch points. It doesn’t need to be every day, but perhaps give them a once-in-a-while update of how you’re doing. In addition to all this, add value to the relationship by offering to do something for the person or people you’ve talked with. Say, “You’ve helped me out so much, is there anything you need done that I can do for you?” The other person may not actually need assistance, but the fact that you offered your assistance and services is going to stick out in their mind. 

Post-Conversation Road Map 

If you need help figuring out just how to successfully navigating the art of post-conversation follow-up, here’s a handy road map to get you started: 

  • Be prompt: send a thank-you email within 24 hours of having the conversation.
  • Send corresponding emails to those that helped you arrange the conversation in the first place. This builds additional credibility.
  • Set a reminder in your conversation tracker to follow-up with everyone after wrapping up all interviews or informational conversations.
  • Send emails after all wrapped-up conversations

 Let the people you’ve spoken with know about a specific actuarial role or company that interests you, and inform specific pertinent people that you’re looking into a specific position at their company. This is where you can ask if they have connections to anyone in that department, and if so, you can ask if they would either drop your resume in the specific office, or pass along your resume to the responsible one in charge. 

Simple Ways to Add Value 

There are many ways to add value to a relationship, and value takes many shapes and forms but here are the main three: 

  1. The number one way is to just ask if there’s something you can do for the other person, since they helped you out. 
  2. Send relevant updates about their field or whatever’s in the news based on the discussion. Mind you, this doesn’t always have to be about business. If you connected with someone based on a common favorite show, then pass along any relevant information related to that interest. But you might want to put it in a P.S. at the bottom of an email, just to keep the email mostly professional.
  3. Understand their motivation for helping you. They could have been doing it because they like to help others, or it was a favor to a friend, or they could also be looking for top talent. Once you understand this, you can find ways to add value to the relationship based on that motivation. 

You Have Reached Your Destination 

To recap today’s lesson destination: 

  • Avoid pitfalls of bad follow-up practices—be able to see where you might be reaping before sowing.
  • Structure effective follow-ups—what should the follow-ups include?
  • Take advantage of long-term benefits—benefits that you will likely get as a result of your follow-ups.
  • Implement a follow-up system today: following up effectively and creating a system to help you do this.
  • Identify value-add opportunities. 

Having good follow-up practices isn’t just good manners, it’s absolutely essential to making sure you know how to build strong relationships with others while on your actuarial journey.

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Let us know in the comments below – Which one of these principles do you think would be the best for you to focus on for the next month?