Close but no cigar doesn’t mean that you have to give up the goal of working at your “dream” company. But maintaining a good relationship with the powers-that-be while keeping your reputation intact will be a delicate balancing act. And will require a strategy, patience, judgment and loosening your grip on the object of your affection. Because one wrong move, one pushy email, one call too many…and it will be Game Over. It will also tarnish your reputation. And in this microscopic profession, that’s a result that should be avoided.
So what’s the most effective way to balance this act? It starts with the basics. If you’re fresh off your process – even if you’re not, express your thanks. Like all thank you notes, it should be short and sweet. But it should also include a reference to your continuing interest in opportunities with the company as a way to tee up future communications. Example:
“Alex, thank you for taking the time to consider my candidacy. I really enjoyed meeting everyone and am impressed with the team you have built. While I’m disappointed that this opportunity didn’t work out, I’m happy that your process resulted in success. There are many great qualities about Company X – I would love to stay on your radar should another position arise in your department. Given how busy you are, I’ll take responsibility for keeping in touch. All the best, Sharon”
In addition, try to obtain feedback on why you were not the Chosen One this time around. This information will be valuable to help determine what you can do to make your candidacy more competitive. With this said, most employers will not provide any meaningful feedback regarding the reasons behind your rejection. But it’s worth a try. Now, going forward:
Keep in touch.
The goal of keeping in touch in this situation is to stay on the radar. So the communications need to be thoughtful, but not require much, if any response. The moment execs start feeling “taxed” by their interactions with you, they hit the off switch. So, how much is enough without being too much? Once a month? Every quarter? Once a year? There are no hard and fast rules, but generally speaking once every 5-6 months is a good guide. Finally, What are good reasons to reach out? Examples include: A congrats on a company, legal exec or department award; passing along a relevant article with a brief comment on why you thought to pass it along; providing an interesting industry or profession update; high quality professional courtesy introduction; happy holidays message; and applying for another relevant position.
Use Your Judgment on Future Applications.
Use your judgment regarding future job applications with the company. Don’t apply for every Tom, Dick and Harry legal job that arises. You’ll lose credibility. For example, if you’re a commercial attorney, don’t apply for a securities or litigation position. If you have 14 years of experience, don’t apply for a role that requires 3-5 years.
Build Your Network.
Build your network with more lawyers and execs in the company. The more people in the company who know you…and like you, the better. But don’t run out and send 500 LinkedIn invitations. Start slowly and with people you already know. And build from there.
The Path May Not Be A Straight Line.
You may have to make a move or two in the interim to gain new skills and increase other aspects of your marketability before you reach your goal. So keep your options open and be patient.
It’s not easy to be inspired. And if this company inspires you, you should pursue every avenue you can to be a part of it. But it’s a fine line between genius and insanity. So be extremely mindful of your approach and take the long view. It will be worth the wait.