Career Transition: Making Friends with the Telephone

Anne Bryant, MA, LPC
Anne has thirty years of experience offering practical skills and support to people experiencing transitions in their careers and personal lives. Openings available for individual and group sessions.

Career Transition: Making Friends with the Telephone

If you are someone who has no difficulty either answering the phone or initiating calls, then read no further. However, many people can’t stand the telephone. Some may have a form of social anxiety, others may have an introverted personality or find phone calls draining or intrusive. They may feel reluctant to intrude on another person.

If you are looking for work or investigating a new career or educational opportunities, at some point you will have to call a stranger. Sometimes there is no other way to get or give important information or set up an appointment. It may not be possible to get someone’s email address. If you do have an email contact, it is appropriate to write to indicate the nature of your call and ask for a telephone or in-person appointment. But you will still need to follow up by phone. One day, you may be on the receiving end of a telephone interview, and if you have become used to talking with employers for information, it will go much more smoothly.

These prospects terrify many of my clients. According to a website devoted to phobia fear release ( symptoms of fear of the telephone include “breathlessness, excessive sweating, nausea, dry mouth, shaking, heart palpitations, inability to speak or think clearly, a sensation of detachment from reality or a full blown anxiety attack.” Avoiding unpleasant thoughts, feelings and experiences is understandable, as explained by Steven Hayes in his book, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: An Experiential Approach to Behavior Change.

When you avoid the discomfort of using the telephone, you may feel temporary short-term relief, but it reinforces the idea that discomfort or distress is dangerous. Avoiding anxiety at all cost may narrow down your life in general, and opportunities to learn of hidden job opportunities in particular. Addressing your anxiety about meeting or talking with strangers on the phone dramatically increases the chances that you will reach your goals and gain valuable work experiences. In addition to Commitment and Acceptance Therapy, other treatments for overcoming telephobia include Hypnotherapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), or Energy Psychology.

Maybe you don’t have a phobia about the phone, but you identify with being an introvert, and find that small talk, especially by telephone, is a huge energy drain. In a March 2011 blog posted on Psychology Today’s website called “The Introvert’s Corner: How to live a quiet life in a noisy world”, Sophia Dembling shares ideas about re-writing telephone rules.

She has told people she knows or works with about her preference for either using email or scheduling necessary, but brief phone calls. She writes, “Interestingly, I’ve found that taking control over my relationship with the telephone has made it less abhorrent to me. I answer it more often, and initiate calls more often. (Still rarely, but more often.)”

If you dread using the phone, practicing in low-risk situations will help you become more at ease. Ask a friend to pick a time when it would be OK to call her at work, in order to have the experience of going through a receptionist. Write out a script, practice with a tape recorder, or role-play with someone you trust.

I often ask, “Is this a good time to talk?” I would much rather hear “no” and set up a better time than to proceed when the other person is not receptive. IT IS NOT PERSONAL if you hear “no, it’s not a good time.” You have a right to seek information or assistance. A good decision cannot be made without all the information available and sometimes the telephone is the only way to get it. The person on the other end has a right to protect his or her time, route your call to someone else, or put you through to voice mail. If that happens, you have not failed. You have done your part by placing the call.

Although the best type of contact with potential employers is face to face, an initial phone conversation may be the only way to set this up. Conducting an entire informational interview by telephone or through email exchanges isn’t nearly as effective. If conducted in a targeted manner and in person, research shows that information interviews yield the highest success rate for finding employment, more than any other job search strategy. Arranging an in-person meeting will give you much more information by observation than you could ever gain otherwise. Also, a face to face meeting gives you a chance to make a positive impression on the other person, who will then be more likely to keep you in mind when future opportunities open up. This is especially true if you follow up.

Have you noticed that other people don’t return your calls? It’s all too common. Be persistent, be courteous, but call back. Becoming comfortable with using the telephone as a job search tool will greatly increase your odds of finding a job worth having.


One Comment on “Career Transition: Making Friends with the Telephone”

  1. ExecutiveX Says:

    Anne, Thanks for your article. I find the same to be true that information interviews yield the highest for finding a new gig, and its best to do it in person than over the phone. It’s a great way to get your foot in the door because the person on the other end of the line is not feeling they are just being hit up for a job. The key is identifying the right person to have the information interview…lots more strategies there!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: