“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
Calvin Coolidge, our 30th President of the U.S., may have known a thing or two about job search because without persistence (and its corollary patience) many a job hunter would have fallen by the wayside. In fact, when Five O’Clock Club members report on their success in landing a new position, along with mentioning how the 5OCC methodology helped them along the way, they almost inevitably mention how much of their success was a result of their persistent follow-up calls, letters and e-mails to the key decision makers.
Recently, one of our branch members, whom I will call Jill, referred to making those difficult follow-up calls as “swallowing the frog,” by which she meant there is no way around making a difficult call than to just make it! Admittedly, as good a conversationalist as many of our members see themselves, and not ones to shy away from approaching people, some still find it difficult to reach out to people in authority. For example, through Jill’s contacts, she was able to meet the Vice President of a major not-for-profit organization that fell right within one of her targeted areas. Despite meeting this same person on another occasion at a professional association meeting, Jill was still reluctant to follow up with the VP regarding their initial meeting for fear she would be making a pest of herself. However, with some prompting from her small group members, Jill made the call and, to her relief, was warmly greeted by the V.P. Jill has now established a valuable contact within her field of interest.
In an earlier blog, I had written that persistence in job search does not imply that you hound and badger someone until they grant you a meeting or whatever favor you may be asking for. It’s important to come up with a strategy for meeting people who can be helpful to you. In job search that may mean reaching out to someone eight or nine times before they even acknowledge your existence. But a good strategy isn’t only found in how many times you do something, it’s how and when you do it, and the possible effect it can have on people. Another member who was having difficulty getting through to people he wanted to meet summed up his edge in the words “competitive intelligence.” In other words, if you have something of value to share with the person you are contacting, your increase your chances of having that person taking time out of his or her busy schedule to meet with you. So, to get a person’s help in advancing your search, know as much as you can about the people you want to meet, and the value can you bring to them.
Because we all know how nerve racking it can be to try to reach someone who is key to our job search, we frequently strategize in the small group sessions ways to make those calls count. For example, Michael found himself becoming increasingly frustrated after he estimated reaching out to approximately 250 contacts in a targeted mail effort. The result was 15 informational meetings, but no actual job interviews. However, since this process had taken several weeks, he realized he was losing touch with some of those he had contacted earlier on in his search. To revitalize his search, Michael started to circle back to these earlier contacts. Their circumstances might have changed, they may have more interest in meeting him, and his continued interest in calling them indicated that they were important to him. He still struggles with the thought of having to make the calls for fear he may be annoying people, but if he knows his contacts are at the right level in the right companies he needs to “swallow the frog” and make those calls.
Of course, if you do get people on the phone and no one wants to meet with you, you may be targeting the “wrong” people at the “wrong” level or simply presenting yourself incorrectly. Vanessa, in pursuing a consulting assignment, made repeated attempts to reach the hiring manager of a major media company. Vanessa could not get the hiring manager to commit to a hiring decision. However, her initial introduction was to the president of the company who repeatedly told Vanessa how badly she was needed to create a new business direction for the company. Yet, Vanessa has been reluctant to call the president for fear of alienating the hiring manager. What a bind! The hiring manager is incapable of making a decision but, like the president, keeps saying how badly the company needs Vanessa’s services.
After Vanessa shared her frustration with her small group. The reply from the group was unanimous. Vanessa would have to “swallow the frog” and contact the president directly. More times than not, job hunters can influence a hiring decision by, in so many words, making up the minds of the decision makers for themselves. So, if we take our cue from Calvin Coolidge, the words “Press On” could not ring more true than in job search. Yet an attitude of persistence will not necessarily land you that next job. You just may need to “swallow the frog” to make progress.