Don't Forget the Follow-Up

Camille Schenkkan, arts manager with Arts for LA and Circle X Theatre Co.




Great interview?  Awesome coffee date with a colleague?  Don't forget the most important step.




Last week, I met a recent UCLA graduate named Roi Matalon at 6:00pm outside of the Starbucks in my building.  It had been a long day, but our meeting went well; Roi was clearly passionate about arts education and serious about his career development.

The next morning when I got to my desk, Roi had sent me the following email:

Thank you so much for meeting with me yesterday. Your feedback and suggestions were extraordinarily helpful.

I've already signed up for the Emerging Arts Leaders website, but can't find where to apply for the Arts Professionals Advisor Link program. You mentioned you saw a December 7 deadline somewhere?

As promised, here's the list of people I'd like to connect with: (he listed the names & organizations of a handful of people we'd discussed the previous evening, and why he was interested in connecting with each one).

Thanks so much for all your help. I'm looking forward to being in touch.

Roi is not going to have difficulty making a career in arts management.

Every month, I get asked to go to coffee or grab lunch by emerging leaders and others looking for employment or mentorship.

Few send thank-you emails. 

Fewer follow up in the way Roi did.

When you meet someone for coffee or do an informational interview, follow up.   Regardless of whether you think you'll ever see the person again (because you will, even in a city as large as Los Angeles), even if you think it was a waste of your time, send a thank-you. 

I've had some great conversations with people new to town and young arts managers, but if I spend an hour and a half chatting with them after work and never hear from them again, I don't remember the talk we had.  I may not remember what sort of position they're seeking or their qualifications.  I just wonder why they didn't say thank-you. 

Yes, I was raised in a family where thank-you notes were strictly required after birthdays and Christmas, but talking to colleagues told me I'm not alone in this.

Stephanie Evans Hanson, the Leadership Development Program Manager at Americans for the Arts, had this to say regarding follow-up: "I do informational interviews for people all the time. Those that stand out are with individuals who a) show up on time, b) come with a list of questions prepared, c) take notes during our meeting, and d) follow-up within a few days with an emailed note. Some people send handwritten notes also, but email is equally great. I'm always surprised with how many people do not do one of the 4 things above. When I never hear from people after meeting with them, it makes me feel like I just wasted my time."

Couldn't have put it better, Stephanie. 

It benefits your job search or career path to tap into the resources and connections you learn about in your meeting.  Roi demonstrated how to leverage the follow-up email to take the next step in his career development.  Honestly, I wasn't the best person for him to talk to, as his focus is arts education.  He used me (in a positive way!) to get e-introductions to people who can potentially get him a job.

One of the people on Roi's list was the head of the Education Department at one of the largest local arts organizations.  Roi was applying for a job there, and asked if I wouldn't mind putting in a good word for him with this man. 

Normally I would have said I felt uncomfortable doing this.  The man is a highly respected field leader; I know him relatively well, but not nearly enough to send along resumes or make recommendations.  However, I was so impressed with Roi's passion and follow-through that I sent the recommendation.

As a recent graduate or current student, job-seeker, new transplant from a different city, or someone looking to advance in your career, you're busy.  Maybe you're really busy. 

Keep in mind, though, that the person you meet with is taking time out of his or her schedule to talk with you.  Respect that time by acknowledging it, even if you don't plan on meeting with them again.  As Stephanie says, "I make an effort to be available for emerging leaders who are looking to get into the field, by editing resumes/cover letters, giving career advice, and helping them make contacts. It's not an official part of my job and I do it because so many people helped me get into the field. It's my way of paying the favor forward."

Here's a (kind of scary) thought: you never know when that person will be asked about you, or asked to recommend someone with your qualifications.  Recently I got a call from an Executive Director at an awesome local organization.  He had seen my theatre company listed on a job candidate's resume, and wondered if I could talk to him about her involvement.  This was the third time in a few months I'd received a call asking about someone who didn't have me listed as a reference.  One was an emerging leader I'd recently had coffee with.  I don't even know how the person calling knew about that one!  I'm your average mid-level arts manager-- definitely not an ED, and not someone in a high-visibility position.  This ordering-off-the-menu reference-checking must happen often. 

Sending a follow-up may not be the top of your to-do list, but even a simple "Thanks for the meeting!" email goes a long way toward strengthening someone's opinion of you and ensuring that if you ever need to ask them for a job, they're more likely to remember your meeting in a positive light. 

Remember: the arts field is small, and if you're in your 20s or 30s, you're going to be working with the same group of people for the next forty years.  Leave them with a positive impression, and it will pay dividends in the long run.


Here are  responses from people who have been on both sides of the informational interview:

Ebony McKinney is currently attending graduate school at the University of London and served on the National Council of Emerging Leaders through Americans for the Arts.  She says, "I go on a lot of informational interviews. I generally follow up with a nice thank you card. Guess I'm old fashioned that way."

Abe is an Arts Advocacy Manager who takes meeting requests constantly and values follow-ups.  "Beyond professional courtesy, you never know when you might need that contact again.  It's also a reminder of who that person is.  If someone doesn't follow up, I'm not offended-- but I assume there's no need to pursue this relationship and I forget about the meeting."

Kristin, an emerging arts leader, has had several informational interviews.  "I have always followed-up post-meeting with 'thank you' emails. Two informational interviews developed into friendships, and I believe these connections may turn into good insider info when the time is right."

Cindy is a consultant who has been on both sides of the process: "Informational meetings from all sides rock. Referrals or actually meeting someone are always reasons for resumes to end up at the top of the pile to actually interview. I've sometimes not followed up right away, but often will do so even if it's past the 4 days, to make that contact again. I would rather admit I did it too late than make someone think they were not important enough for a response."

Here's how Rachel got her job: "A development manager and I agreed to meet over coffee so I could learn more about development at the museum. As a result of our conversation, she said I was welcome to volunteer in the department to gain experience while I looked for work. I started volunteering at the Museum. Three months later a job opened up and now I get paid to work there!  I think the important points of my story are that 1) I went into the informational interview not expecting a job offer - I knew the girl I was meeting with wouldn't be in a position to offer me a job; 2) I showed that although I didn't have much experience with development (hence the reason for the interview), I was eager to learn; and 3) I took the initiative to set up the meeting, I followed up via email, and took her up on her offer to volunteer."

If you have your own follow-up story, we'd love to hear it in the Comments section!



Camille Schenkkan has been with Arts for LA since 2008, and is now the organization's Development and Communications Manager.  She got that job after an informational interview with the Executive Director; and yes, she sent a thank-you note.  She also serves as the Development Director for Circle X Theatre Co., a small theatre company focusing on new and innovative work. Schenkkan earned a Masters in Arts Management from Claremont Graduate University/The Drucker School, as well as a BA in Honors English/Theatre from Scripps College. She's a proud member of Emerging Arts Leaders/LA and sits on the National Council of Emerging Leaders through Americans for the Arts.  You can contact her with questions at