Of the many people I have worked with over the years, I’d say it’s a safe bet to assert that almost all of them find the, ‘cold call’ the hardest and most hated aspect of conducting a job search. Cold calling is when you pick up the phone and ring up someone who you have no personal or assumed invitation to contact.
Cold-calling is falling out of favour these days with many Employment Specialists and Job Coaches but definitely not all. I suppose it really depends on how narrow or broadly you interpret what is meant by a cold call. Calling up a company who has no advertised position and saying, “Yeah hi. Are you guys hiring?” won’t usually get you very far and seems crude and unprofessional. I doubt many white-collar job seekers are likely to try being this blunt. Oddly enough, I hear exactly those words delivered by some older out-of-work job seekers looking for construction jobs or general labour jobs at least a few times a week in the Resource Centre where I work when I overhear phone calls nearby. Odder still is that often a conversation ensues beyond, “Not at this time”.
When you make an unsolicited phone call, it doesn’t have to only be thought of as targeted to an employer. A cold call could just as easily be to a LinkedIn connection you want to speak with personally for the first time with the intent of getting together over lunch or a drink to network. After all, maybe you’ve connected with people but haven’t done much more than that. You could send more emails back and forth, or you could pick up a phone. Not a true cold call you argue? I think that first call is pretty much a cold call even if you have briefly looked at someone’s profile and connected. You really know so very little, that first call can be intimidating.
And that leads to the fear of the cold call. Why is it such a hard thing to do anyhow? After all, you can hide any misgivings about your personal appearance when on the phone, and the receiver has no idea what insecurities you may have. And best of all, if it goes badly, you can terminate the call and it’s done. Do better next time. Make another call and learn from the first disaster and avoid making the same error by asking the same question, not having a pen and paper ready, or your resume at hand.
A lot can go wrong with a cold call, but a lot can also go right, and the chance of a positive outcome makes the cold call a useful tool. When you are looking for an edge and others are advising against cold calling, that’s the very time I think you may have just found your edge. Those fellows I was talking about who are blunting asking if the employer is hiring, often end up in a conversation. The cold call worked, and they have a dialogue going. Yes many are old school, wanting to then show up at an arranged meeting with the employer and show them what they can do, usually without a professional resume it should be noted.
Now for the majority of job seekers who plan on being less direct and just want to set up a face-to-face meeting, quite often advice from the past would be to try to set up an informational interview. This might be where you become the interviewer and ask for twenty minutes of their time. Your intent being to leave your resume behind, get some feedback on how effective it would be if there was a job opening, and to find out more about the person, how they got started, who else they might suggest you speak with re. employment in the field in general etc.
The above situation is not a waste of time and energy. You’re developing and improving your assertiveness, conversation and networking skills, listening skills; you’re out there being proactive and speaking with people instead of hiding behind a monitor. Sometimes hiding behind a monitor I see people with fabulous computer skills and very poor interpersonal skills. Sooner or later you have to drop the electronic gadgets and revert to face-to-face dialogue. I fear there’s a whole generation coming with poorly developed people skills and they are all going to feel terribly awkward and insecure when it comes to face-to-face interviews.
Start with people who are willing to stand as your references. Make a phone call and suggest a meeting. Sit down and talk about what you are looking for, the skills you want to use in your next job. Tell them how much you appreciate their support and if you have a specific job or company you want to work for, impress upon them how vital a solid reference will mean, and the desired attributes or skills the company requires and that you bring. Leave them with a copy of your resume and the job posting if you have one. Now if it’s close at hand when they call, your reference is highlighting the exact skills required.
Cold calling is old school and has been done for years and years. Sometimes old tried and true methods should be thrown out and updated. Other times, there’s a very good reason tried and true methods were used; they work.