Tag Archives: job hunting advice

Tips For Adulthood: The Art of the Cold Call

networking

networkingOn occasional Wednesdays, I offer tips for adulthood.

We all know the gospel of job-hunting. You don’t get jobs by applying for them; you get them by knowing someone. Some put the number of jobs obtained through networking — as opposed to answering an ad — at as high as 85%.

The corollary to this truism of the job market is that job-hunting is all about connections. Once you decide on a direction for your career, you need to start by talking to people in your immediate network — even if they aren’t all that close to what you want to do — and gradually work outwards, through them, into people working in the sector of your choice.

It’s true. People are more likely to answer your email/phone call if you’ve been referred by someone they know.

But does that mean that you should abandon the cold call entirely? Should you never just get in touch with someone doing work that interests you and see if they’ll let you speak to them?

It takes a lot of chutzpah, but it can work if done properly. I recently did it, and was offered part-time work. Here’s how:

Don’t assume you need to be an extrovert

Sure, extroverts have an easier time approaching strangers out of the blue. But that doesn’t mean they are necessarily better at talking to them.

Quartz recently ran an interesting article arguing that introverts might actually be much better at networking than extroverts because they can focus and listen. And people appreciate that.

(Click here for a list of networking tips if you self-identify as an introvert.)

Do your homework about the company

You should obviously go to any interview — cold call or not — knowing a fair bit about both the person you’re interviewing and the company they work for. But when you’re doing a cold call, this preparation has to come before you even draft your initial email approach.

When I did this recently, I made a point of telling the person I targeted (truthfully) that I’d been following her newsletter and her blog for a years. I also made reference to something specific on her website. Sure, a bit of flattery is always a good thing. But I also really wanted her to know that I hadn’t just wandered in off of the street.

You’re contacting them because you’ve decided you want to work there and/or think they could help you get closer to your dream job. You want them to talk to you, but they have plenty of reasons not to. You need to be sure it’s clear from the get-go that they won’t be wasting their time.

Identify a problem to be solved

People are much more likely to respond positively to a cold call if you can convince them that you can help them solve a problem. That doesn’t mean that you should suggest that they hire you in your initial email because you are God’s Gift to X. Far from it. Humility goes a long way.

For example, if you notice that the company is doing a lot of marketing in trade magazines, but nothing online, ask about that. If it’s a business school, perhaps note: “I see that you offer a lot of courses on management training, but there’s nothing on team-building. Why is that?”

I’ve found that questions about gaps often prompt the person being interviewed to reflect on their own blind spots, and might even get them thinking about hiring someone to pilot an investigation into a new area. That person could be you.

Reveal your USP

You never want to go into a meeting — unless it’s a job interview! — and tell someone why they should hire you. Instead, you want to ask smart questions that impress them.

In particular, you want to pose those questions in a way that reveals what is unique about you that could really add to the team. (Some call this your Unique Selling Point, or USP.)

Lately, I’ve been targeting the higher education sector in my job search, offering communication training. I explain to everyone I meet that I “think like a social scientist, but communicate like a journalist.” This is shorthand for saying that I have a PhD, but don’t sound like I do. That’s an unusual skill set, at least in this sector. I play it up because I know it’s what makes me distinctive.

Be willing to hear the word “no”

You can’t cold call people if you’re not willing to hear the word “no.” When I first moved to the UK twelve years ago, I volunteered to run the Christmas Raffle at my then-five-year-old’s new school. This amounted to walking around the local village and asking every single shop person I met if they’d be willing to donate a prize to the raffle.

Guess what? A lot of people said some version of “no.” But a surprising number said “yes.” What I learned from that experience was that I didn’t really care if people said “no” to me.

Develop this skill and you’ll find the whole process a lot easier. (Here’s an inspirational story of one woman’s perseverance to get the job she wanted.)

How about you? Have you ever done a successful cold call? Why did it work?

Note: This article was originally posted on the Ellevate Medium page.

Image: Ghozt Tramp – Business Communication Duplicat Model via Wikimedia Commons

When Looking For A Job, Trust Your Gut

I’m in full-on job hunt mode.

I’m pouring over listings, sending out cover letters and networking wildly (in person and Online).

As I mentioned last week, I love looking for work. So I find this process energizing rather than enervating. But even as a veteran of two career changes (with a possible third in the works), I still find myself making rookie mistakes.

I realized this the other night when I was out for drinks with a group of parents from my daughter’s class. I got to chatting with one of the Dads, a journalist who works for a financial news outlet. I told him that I was looking for work and asked him to keep an eye out for any positions that might open up at his company.

“Do you like finance?” he asked.

“Not really,” I said. “But I know something about it and could definitely do it.”

He frowned. Only moments earlier, I’d confessed to the entire group that I’d almost stayed home that night to watch the first episode of the season on Glee. And as we all know, that’s normally the sort of thing I leave social engagements to do.

“You should write about musical theatre,” he observed. “It’s always best to do what you love.”

How right he was. In fact, it’s precisely the same advice I always give to others when they consult me on career change: figure out what you like and what you’re good at and where those intersect. Harder than it sounds, but well worth the effort.

While I don’t think a career as a West End musical critic is in the cards for me right now (much as I would adore it), this fellow did remind me that it’s really important to keep my eye on the prize: not the jobs – like financial journalism – that I *should* apply to because I’m qualified for them. But the jobs that I want to apply to because I’m passionate about them.

In other words, as with so many things in life, beware the dreaded SHOULDs.

How fortuitous then, that the following video popped into my Inbox this morning (sent to me by the very same journalist-friend in question.) It’s from a new company based here in London called Escape The City, a self-described community of “talented professionals who ‘want to do something different.'”

On its About page, Escape The City features a motivational video called Start Something You Love. I must have watched it about three times this morning and sent it on to a few friends as well. (You gotta love the guy who dumped his job as a hedge fund manager in London to become a Galudo Beach Lodge manager in Mozambique.)

Sounds great but how do you start? If you’re one of the millions of people out there who’s having trouble figuring out what it is that you really want to do with your life, here are four tips for determining your dream job, courtesy of Susan Cain over on Quiet: The Power of Introverts. I’d seen some variation on the first three ideas before. But I’d never seen the last one – which is to pay attention to what makes you cry.

I’ve been thinking about it all morning.

Sniff.

 

Image: vacancy by digitalpimp via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

 

 

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