Post by Frances Cole Jones, contributing Women On Business writer
The phrase, “Don’t go there” has entered common usage and become the shorthand way of telling people to abandon their current line of reasoning or questioning. I’m here to tell you that, more often than not, you should go there — in this case the “there” in question being the decision-maker in charge of your inquiry, your request, your future.
For example, say you find a posting for your dream job on the web. While it’s important to post your resume and information according to the guidelines presented, I would also recommend writing a note to the CEO/CFO/VP to whom you would ultimately report noting that you’ve done so, but also including the specifics of the value you plan to add to the company on your arrival, then dropping that note in the mail, or at the office itself. Please note, however, that this just means dropping the note at the office. This does not mean attempting to get past the gatekeepers to plead your case. I can’t emphasize enough how important this: leaping out of the woodwork at people is incredibly off-putting.
That said, physically putting yourself in the person’s sightline can be a great thing to do, provided it’s accomplished with finesse. As attempting to outwit callers like yourself is likely one of the many reasons gatekeepers get their jobs, far better to work on establishing camaraderie with them by introducing yourself, finding out their name, and asking their advice about the best way to move forward. The key word there is advice. When they feel like you’re attempting to circumnavigate them, they will block you on principle; when you defer to their experience/expertise and enlist their aid by giving them the “because” behind why you are making your request, they are much more likely to accede. (As was discussed in HOW TO WOW, giving people the ‘because’ behind why a request is being made increases the possibility of their cooperation from 60 to 94%.)
When you do ask their advice, I would put it in both the most proactive, and the most low-stakes, way imaginable: “I’m planning to be in your neighborhood/in town next week. Do you think there is five minutes at either the beginning or the end of any day that he would be able to see me? I wanted to ask you because….” Tacking it onto another trip you are ostensibly making to the area keeps you from seeming too much like a stalker. Putting a five-minute time limit on it demonstrates that you recognize this is an imposition. As noted, the ‘because” helps them feel they are part of the decision-making process.
Should you be rebuffed, you want to take it with good humor, “Of course. I just thought I’d suggest it. I’m in and out of your part of town quite a bit, however, so I may give you a call again in a week or so.” When you do call back, remember, it’s a fresh start: yes, you know the gatekeeper’s name, but what’s been going on in their world? Find out. They have a rich and full life outside your phone calls. Making the time to get to know something about that helps strengthen your connection. Then explain you’re again going to be in their neighborhood, give them the ‘because’ behind why you’d like five minutes with their boss, and ask for a specific five minutes of his or her time. Whether it’s granted this time or not, I’d suggest writing the gatekeeper a thank you not for their trouble. Because if they’re still keeping you at bay, this is just the kind of personal touch that might have them put in a favorable word for you, which means the next call could be their boss looking for you. Once you’ve gotten the face-to-face time you’ve been seeking with the C-level executive—in addition to demonstrating all the ways you will add value to the firm once you’ve been hired—be sure to take a moment to acknowledge their assistant’s value, too.
Woody Allen claims that 80% of success is just showing up. Taking the time to put yourself, either on paper or in person, in the sightline of the person pulling the trigger on the decision is one more way you can help to guarantee your success.