Voice mail is viewed by many as an annoying obstacle to job search (and other) networking. Many of my clients ask, “What should I do when I get the voice mail of someone I don’t know well or normally call?”
When you talk to job search experts, you’ll find differing advice. Some feel you should never leave a message for someone you don’t know well – and particularly, to ask someone to return your call. Others see nothing wrong with leaving a message and your number, as long as you’re transparent about your reason for calling.
I tend towards the latter perspective, with one caveat. Don’t ever leave your name and number, along with a request for a callback, without any clue as to why you’re calling. This is a tactic used by credit collection agencies and aggressive solicitors. While it may be an effective way to reach people who might not otherwise want to talk to you, it’s rude. You’re asking this someone you don’t know for help. Why on earth would you be rude?
So, what do you do when you call someone you have no personal connection with? When you call, try the following:
- Identify yourself to the contact and then immediately state your telephone number.
- Explain how you received his or her name.
- Let the person know why you are calling.
- Explain that you will follow up at a later time.
- Thank the person in advance for his or her time.
Here’s an example of this approach:
“Lana, my name is Mark Swann, and my number is (612) 555-1234. You and I have a mutual friend, Gary Brown, who suggested I contact you. The reason I’m calling is that I’m researching corporate wellness in the Minneapolis area, and hoping to get the names of some people I might reach out to. I’ll plan to call you back tomorrow afternoon. Thanks so much for your time, Lana!”
If you get the voice mail the second time you call, you can shorten the message, again mentioning the connection and reminding the person that you called yesterday, last week, or whenever.
It’s typical to make several attempts to get in touch without getting past voice mail. If you’ve hit the wall with several attempts, try this: Get the person’s address from the individual who is your common connection. Write a short note spelling out what help you need. Snail mail it to your target person with a self-addressed, stamped postcard on which the person can write the names and numbers for you.
You have nothing to lose in using voice mail with respect and transparency. On the other hand, the positive possibilities are there for the reaching!