Career Resources

The Job Search and the Unsolicited Phone Call

Sometimes the only real solution to an effective executive job search is to find a job the old-fashioned way, to earn it with an unsolicited—albeit formidable—phone call.

Mike Rooney

“Revolutionary New Drug Helps You Lose Weight the Easy Way! Watch the Pounds Disappear without Dieting or Time-Consuming Exercise!” You’ve seen those advertisements. You wonder why it is that some people believe them, how some people can be so gullible. The answer is simple: They want a quick fix. They want the prize, but they don’t want to work for it.

Intelligent executives often fall into the same trap when they find themselves looking for a job. They hope a recruiter will call and offer them an ideal position. When this doesn’t happen, they buy books that cry, “Effective Resumes that Get Results!” Or job-seeking executives start sophisticated mail campaigns. Using PCs and laser printers, they mail out resumes and covers letters with state-of-the art perfection.

The Phone is the Key

But the quick fix just doesn’t work. The “perfect” cover letter and resume are in competition with hundreds of other “perfect” cover letters and resumes. Virtually all have the same fate—filed and forgotten or destroyed by shredders. The only real solution to an effective job search is to follow the paraphrased advice of John Houseman: “We find jobs the old-fashioned way. We earn them.”

The effective way to find a new job is to pick up the phone and call the people you would like to work for. Tell them who you are, how good you are, and that you want to work for them. But it’s not that simple, you say. And you’re right. Picking up the phone and making the cold call is uncomfortable. But it works. Unlike a cover letter and a resume, the phone call is two-way communication. When a phone rings, someone is bound to answer it, and a conversation is bound to ensue. That’s your chance to present yourself to the receptionist or secretary at the other end of the line.

At this point, if you’re like most executive job seekers, you’re faced with two major hurdles: 1) Finding the right thing to say; and 2) controlling the butterflies in your stomach and the lump in your throat so you are able to say the right thing.

Hurdle number one is easy to overcome. If you want to find out what to say to receptionist or secretaries, and you want to know how to handle the numerous ways they will try to get rid of you, beat them at their own game. Buy a copy of self-help books on cold-call sales. (These books actually do work.) Read them. Study them. Practice the recommended techniques on organizations you are not all that interested in. After a dozen practice calls, start calling people you really are interested in.

Hurdle number two—the butterflies in your stomach and the lump in your throat—is a demon exorcised with cognitive self-therapy. Rid yourself of negative thoughts. It’s easy to imaging the worst cold-calling scenario. You’re thinking: “I can’t do it. This is terrible.” “Replace those negative thoughts with positive ones: “Yes, this is uncomfortable. But it’s not the end of the world. Maybe I won’t get through at the beginning. But eventually I will get through. This is not a catastrophe.” You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how soon the butterflies, lumps, and other demons disappear. The more you practice, the easier it becomes. The payoff is that you make connections with decision makers much more quickly than do the letter-writers.

Who was it who said: “The pen is mightier than the sword?” That’s good advice when faced with mortal combat. But in a job search, the phone is mightier than the pen. What have you got to lose? A little anxiety. What have you got to gain? A new job.

Mike Rooney, Psy.D., is president of Rooney & Associates LLC Consulting Psychologists in Chicago.

This article is reprinted from Healthcare Executive.