Some Questions Answered
June 19, 2009 by Joyce Richman
Here are two “role-play” responses to questions you’re asking…
Q: “In one of your recent columns you said that we shouldn’t initiate networking calls to prospective employers on company time. When are we supposed to make them? After we get fired? We should be able to make calls on the clock as long as we don’t make a big deal about it. Please comment.”
A: Rather than battle the pros and cons of the subject, I’ll focus on the nub of the question: When are the best times to make networking calls? When you and the person you want to reach are both at work but off the clock.
Your target audience is working hard, balancing competing demands, trying to get as much done as daylight hours will allow. Like you, many have gotten into a habit of extending those hours, going to the office early, staying late, and working through lunch to keep within sight of what’s most pressing. That’s why you can reach them between seven and eight in the morning, during the noon hour, and between six and seven in the evening.
Keep your objective in mind. The people you’re calling have potential as prospective employers or networking leads. Your goal is to create sufficient interest so that they’ll agree to meet with you.
They answer their own phones because they’re there and their telephone screeners aren’t. Acknowledge that you are an interruption. If you’re lucky, you’ll have 20 seconds to turn your interruption into an opportunity.
“Mr. Jones, this is Sam Seeker. I’m calling at the suggestion of our mutual friend, Bill Smith of the XYZ Company. Bill said you’re a great problem solver, relationship manager, and a wise counselor. Would you be willing to meet with me, briefly, to brainstorm about my job search and critique some possibilities I’m currently considering? I’ll be very respectful of your time. (Pause for response. If positive, continue.) Great, when are you available?”
Q: “I’m sick and tired of my employers always asking me to work all hours of the day (and night) to get their work done. I obviously need another job and a boss who won’t take advantage of my dedication and work ethic. What job should I be looking for?”
A: Rewind. This sounds more like a communication problem than a job problem, and a classic example of the proverbial chicken or the egg question. What comes first, the employer who asks too much of an employee or an employee who takes on more than she can handle? There are unspoken expectations, misplaced intentions, and mixed results, on both sides.
Your boss gives you the impression that she’s insensitive to or unaware of your need for work/life balance, limits or boundaries. In turn, you may be giving her the impression that implies your willingness to do “whatever it takes”. You end up feeling used and unappreciated. Nothing will change until each of you communicate your meaning to the other and recognize the impact of what’s left unsaid. Since you posed this question and not your boss, I suggest that you begin the dialogue. It might go something like this…
“Helen, I enjoy my job, and hope I’ve been successful in demonstrating my dedication and work ethic by the quantity of work I complete and the accuracy of the work that I produce. (Pause for a reaction. If her response surprises you, clarify its meaning before resuming the conversation).
I’ve come to realize that I’ve not done a good job of communicating my need to establish a balance between what I’m asked to do and what I am capable of managing, in the time frame you’ve allowed. I’d like to have that conversation with you, at your earliest convenience.”
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Joyce Richman (www.richmanresources.com) has been specializing in executive and career coaching since she started he own practice in 1982. She works in a variety of environments including: higher education, manufacturing, sales, marketing, media, technology, pharmaceuticals, medicine, banking and finance, service, IT, and non-profit sectors. A member of the adjunct faculty at the Center for Creative Leadership, Joyce is certified to administer a number of feedback and psychological instruments. Joyce is a weekly guest on WFMY-TV and the career columnist for The Greensboro News & Record. She is the author of Roads, Routes and Ruts: A Guidebook to Career Success and co-author of Getting Your Kid Out of the House and Into a Job. A popular speaker, Richman conducts seminars and workshops throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. Her coaching profile can be found at TheCoachingAssociation.com.