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Career Survival Skills: We Don’t Talk Anymore
by Michael Mayher


Business, the business that matters to us on a personal level – that related to finding and interviewing for a job, is conducted by direct communication, there is no substitute. But in order to do so, you’ve got to identify who to speak with and then you must establish contact. Anyone who’s read my blog knows what I think of woefully inadequate online pseudo-activities, so much of which never involves speaking with a real person and is largely a waste of time. Increasingly, those activities are about as productive as seeking wealth by purchasing a lottery ticket and crossing your fingers. In my experienced opinion, until such time as you can speak with a decision maker, nothing real can happen.

Email has become the initiating step and pre-requisite protocol. Even if you can establish contact by phone email is the next step. But that in and of itself is not and never enough if you are waiting for and relying upon someone who doesn’t know you nor are they invested in your effort. As such, relying upon email to initiate and establish a business relationship is necessary but it is only productive if you receive a reply. Otherwise, it is a BIG time waster. Sure, it’s convenient but it is not very effective and, increasingly during the last decade, it is more often used as a tool of deflection, procrastination and avoidance.

And the gate-keepers – in this case receptionists, administrative support and human resources appropriately stand as a firewall to shield managers from unnecessary distractions – like you, until you’ve demonstrated you’re not a distraction. But until you can speak with someone – you’ll be instructed to send an email.

Okay, send it but if you stop there you’re not serious. Develop the habit of dutifully marking your calendar to always follow-up after a reasonable period of time, especially if you consider what you have to say as being important. The point of this blog is that you will get nowhere if you dutifully follow the reflexive instructions of someone who hasn’t an ounce of interest in your purpose; in most cases they aren’t even thinking when they re-direct you.

I hear it all the time; I’m old school and my first option is to pick up the phone and speak with whomever I aim to contact. Let me share with you a follow-up call I conducted just last week. To set this up, I’d called with an inquiry to a managing partner of a law firm, about a candidate I was representing.

Me: Hello I’d like to speak with Mr. (insert name here)?
Receptionist: He’s not available.
Me: Can you tell me when he will be available?
Receptionist: Send him an email.
Me: Thank you, but I did that as you suggested last week.
Receptionist: Well, he’s busy.
(Note: for anyone possessing an IQ higher than 70, the “busy” excuse is insulting and is a response offered by a lazy person who does not represent their company well. It is my opinion that people like this should be reprimanded and if it continues the person should be fired and replaced by another who actually cares about their job and the organization for which they work)
Me: I’m sorry Miss, but I am also busy and I am sure you are very busy, we’re all busy. That doesn’t answer my question.
Receptionist: Well I don’t know what to tell you, you should send him another email.
Me: Thanks well how about this, can you connect me with his administrative assistant, is she available?
Receptionist: I will see.
(Long pause)
Admin Assistant: Hello, Mr. (insert name here) isn’t available, he’s busy.
Me: Yes, so am I.
Admin Assistant: Perhaps you could send him an email.
Me: Thank you but I did that last week at 11:08 on Thursday so I am not going to waste time sending another. Can I suggest, let’s do this - can you ask Mr. (insert name here) if he can check the email I invested my busy time into, composing and sending to him - can you do that, please?
Admin Assistant: Yes, I can do that.
Me: Thank you very much and if I don’t hear from him, I will call you back the day after tomorrow, is that okay?
Admin Assistant: Yes
Me: Thank you, goodbye.

Sadly, the simple task of trying to reach someone by phone is something like splitting the atom, it seems. I was polite, but firm and persistent - never nasty, but unwilling to accept the time-wasting parroted and rote suggestion offered without any apparent forethought. However, the following morning, I received an emailed reply from the intended recipient and we spoke later the same day. Mission accomplished but not without effort.

What I have just described and encountered is the same thing most of us experience when we make the most basic of inquiries. However, had I followed the brain-dead, hollow suggestions I was given, how long would it have taken me to reach my point-of-contact; another week, two … ever? Furthermore, with this as an example of the status quo, is it any wonder that so many companies are stagnant.

Business can only truly be conducted when we speak with each other and until you are able to establish real contact everything else is just a waste of time and effort. Don’t take “no” for an answer by those who stand between you and the person you aim to communicate with – and as long as you are polite yet persistent, don’t listen to a bureaucrat who’s eager to tell you about ‘the rules’.

It’s important to note that when the time arrives and you have your opportunity, you’d better have something to say that is worthy of their time to discuss. Here are a couple of golden nuggets I’ll share with you as a result of 25 years as a headhunter and speaking daily with people I’ve never talked to before:

• The more senior the person, if you can reach them, the easier they are to talk to.
• Some of my best clients were those who were the most difficult to initially reach and speak with.

Persistence and tenacity pays-off. The technologies we rely upon for convenience are helpful but nothing, nothing can take the place of a direct conversation or better yet a handshake, in-person. Anything and anyone standing between you and your goal is an obstacle to be overcome and swept aside.


About the Author: Michael Mayher has been an international direct search recruiter on two continents for over 22 years. A consultant, published author, lecturer and blogger, he re-introduces professionals to critical Soft Skills lost in our digital age and necessary to effectively navigate their careers. You can find more information by visiting his blog and website.)

 
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