Tag Archives: networking

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

Tips For Adulthood: Join A Board

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Amid the many changes in my life of late, I’ve recently joined the advisory board of a company.

It’s a small company in the education/journalism field, one that I came across during my job hunt. And although they didn’t have a job for me, I really got on with the Director and stayed in touch with him after we met. Then one day, when I told him about my new job, he invited me to be on the advisory board of his outfit.

I went to my first board meeting a few weeks ago and it immediately struck me what a great move – professionally and personally – it is to join the board of an organization you believe in. Here’s why:

1. You give  back. Most of us want to give something back to the community in which we live. (OK, having just seen Inside Job, I suppose some of us don’t.) So let me qualify that statement: many of us want to give something back. But as you get older and busier, spending all day Saturday at the local soup kitchen is no longer a viable option. Joining a board is one way to give back. The whole purpose of setting up an advisory/governance board of a company or non-profit is to pool together a diverse group of people who can give you input and connections from their respective industries. In my case, I will be helping out this particular company with its social media strategy. But as we went around the table, people sitting there were offering help in all manner of areas: from networking with teachers to helping set out a “moral purpose” for the company’s mission. And it struck me what a wonderful opportunity it was – for all of us – to feel that we were contributing to something larger than our pocketbooks.

2. You learn something. As we age, it’s vital that we continue to learn. Joining the board of an organization immerses you not only in what that company is doing, but in the broader sector in which it sits. And so you begin to learn about a new field. It’s likely one that you already knew something about (or you wouldn’t be there in the first place.) But it’s also likely that you are now thinking about that field from a new perspective, as you help the company navigate its own place in that space.In my case, I know a fair bit about journalism and I know something about the British education system, having done some teaching last year. But I don’t know anything about how those two things join up in the National Curriculum and I’m finding it absolutely fascinating to learn.

3. You network. It goes without saying that joining a board represents a great opportunity to network, both with people inside your field and with those way outside it. There is a bottom line aspect to such networking:  you might actually land yourself a job. But there’s also a purely social aspect: it’s fun to meet new people! I’m now fast-friends on Twitter with a gentleman I met through this Board who, late in life, has decided to master social media and re-purpose himself as an educational consultant. He’s a great guy with lots of energy and ideas and it’s been a real pleasure to get to know him Online and in real life.

4. It looks good. If having fun, meeting people and expanding your professional connections aren’t reason enough to join a board, then do it for this very simple reason:  it looks good. Being on a board lends a certain gravitas to your CV. It is also a potential signaling device when/as/if you end up on the job market because you never know who else might know other people who work at this company (or serve on the board!) and will use this in evaluating you. So if you’re on a professional social networking site like Linked In (and if you aren’t, why aren’t you?) by all means, be sure to flag your board membership.

5. It will feed into your day job. In addition to learning more about a substantive area of interest (#2), being on a board will also give you ideas about your own job and professional sector. And that’s because when you sit down and analyze closely how another organization staffs itself, allocates its resources, makes decisions etc., it will invariably get you thinking about your own workplace and the pros/cons of its own internal structure/process. You might get new ideas for how to fund-raise. Or what to call a position you are currently recruiting for. Or how to streamline decision-making. Whatever it is, you will be learning. And I guarantee that you’ll take that with you to your own job.

So if there’s an organization that intrigues you, approach them and see if they’d be willing to have you on their board. They’ll get something out of it…and so will you.

Try it!

Image: SBN board meeting by mlovitt via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

 

Tips For Adulthood: Five (More) Tips For Job Hunting

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

As I intimated a few weeks back, I’m shortly to curtail my freelance career and go back to work full-time.

I’ve been looking for a job for a while now, so this turn of events is a huge weight off of my shoulders financially, emotionally and logistically.

Back when I was towards the beginning of this process, I shared some job-hunting tips. But now that I’m on the other side – offer in hand (albeit not signed, sealed and delivered which is why I’ll wait just a tiny bit longer to share the good news!) – I have a bit more advice to impart from the trenches.

To wit, five more useful tips for job hunting:

1. Networking matters. Not long ago, a friend of mine who’s about to start looking for work asked me to have a coffee one morning. I told her that I couldn’t because I was having an “informational interview” that day connected to my job-hunt. “What’s that?” she asked, unfamiliar with the term. “Oh, you know. It’s when you network with people in the sector you’re interested in so that they can give you leads and advice.” “Oh,” she answered. “I’d never thought about doing that.” I’ve said it before but it bears saying again: networking – with friends, with former colleagues, with friends of former colleagues, with former colleagues of friends and just about anyone who will open their door to you – is probably the most expedient way to land yourself a job. I was offered three terrific (short-term) projects during my job hunt right in the area I was looking to move into, all by virtue of networking with strangers.

2. Don’t ignore job listings. When I started my job hunt, one friend told me that I shouldn’t even bother to respond to ads in the newspaper and assorted job-related list serves because I’d never find work that way. “It’s all about who you know,” she said dismissively. She was wrong. The two interviews I had for full-time jobs in the last six weeks both came about because I answered an advertisement. No contacts. No special pleading. Just me and my CV. So as soon as you know what it is you’d like to do, get yourself signed up for as many job alerts as possible. Among other things, it gives you a great sense of the range of possible jobs out there in your field as well as what they pay. Here are some tips for answering a job ad which I found to be spot on for my own job-hunting (and interviewing) process.

3. Be persistent. Much like blogging, I think the number one thing that you need in order to get you through the ups and downs of a job-hunt is perseverance. I have another friend who told me that she feels like she *ought* to be looking for work but hasn’t gotten around to doing much about it yet.  To which I responded: “Then you’re not ready.” Looking for a job is an an exhausting process, one that entails scanning of job alerts, following up with contacts (see #1), writing cover letters, adjusting your CV, scheduling (and then re-scheduling) informational interviews and – if you’re lucky – actually doing a few formal job interviews (which themselves take a lot of time to prepare.) So if you don’t have the fire in your belly (or your wallet!) to take this on, wait until you do. You’ll be much more effective. And that energy will carry you through the days when it feels like it’s just one rejection letter after the next.

4. Be honest with yourself. Once you do have a job offer, be really honest with yourself about what you need. Not just salary – though that matters too. Be honest about what you’re looking for in terms of  hours, commute time, benefits, working from home, flex-time, dress code, office culture etc. And be sure to ask lots of questions about these things. (But only once you have the offer!) In my own case, I realized that in light of childcare concerns, impending summer holidays and imminent move, it would be really hard for me to start full-time right away in my new job, even though that’s what I’d applied to do. When I relayed this to my (new) boss – wondering aloud whether I should just postpone my start date until I could sort some of that out – he immediately suggested that I start part-time. So that’s what I’m going to do for the first couple of months, scaling up to full-time thereafter. And as soon as he said that, I felt a tremendous wave of relief. Remember, you’ll never know if you don’t ask!

5. Evaluate three things. When I was trying to make some hard choices over the past month, I consulted with a lot of friends about my options. One friend wisely counseled me to think about the following three things when deciding whether or not to take a job: a. Are you passionate about what you’ll be doing or do you at least find it sufficiently interesting? b. Does the job fit your lifestyle vis travel/hours/commute etc. (see #4) and c. Will you be working with smart, interesting and/or likable people? The closer you can get to answering all three of these questions when evaluating an employment opportunity, the less likely you are to make a mistake.

What am I missing?

 

Image: 2011/02/03 by jazzijava via Flickr under a Creative Commons license