By: BJ Engelhardt, Director of Operations
Thought exercise: think back to some of your favorite movies or TV shows about powerful people, especially powerful people in a modern context. Think about movies about world leaders, Presidents, big business tycoons/leaders of industry, Wall Street types, etc. Now, ask the question: how do they communicate with others, especially via electronic means? Are they dashing off texts? Sending emails?
My guess, if you think about it, is more than likely they get on the phone to talk to someone – to persuade, to cajole, to sell, to debate, to win over enemies, and assuage allies.
Thus is the power of conversation, and it’s a power that is losing prominence in our text-based, social media world. Younger people prefer texting over phone calls, especially with people they don’t know. This power, though, is not just limited to the sphere of politics and/or debate, but holds sway in most areas where relationship-building equals POWER. Therefore, it could be said that “those who get on the phone control the conversation.”
When meeting with students about their job search, I often ask if they have reached out to any working professionals or had any conversations. Typically, I hear “yeah, I’ve exchanged a few emails with alumni, but they didn’t have any way to help me right now.’ My follow-up question is always, “what about your text-based questions got across the fact that you are a uniquely talented person with traits that would make you a valuable member of this person’s organization?”
The reaction to this question usually starts with blank confusion, but then I can see the light bulbs light up.
Look, I get the fact that some people are more natural oral communicators than others. I also get the fact that it’s assumed that these skills are less of a necessity for some, especially for STEM professionals. While both are somewhat true, it’s also true that a) the act of requesting and following through on the phone-based conversation IS a strong signal for specific virtues in and of itself, namely confidence, persistence, passion, etc. and b) practice does lead to improvement, more than anything else that you can do. So, you may have an awkward conversation or two or three, but you will get better with time. And, Career Services is here to have those early awkward conversations with zero judgement :-).
In today’s world with so much uncertainty and a tough job market, get out there, make some connections, and get them on the phone or a video chat!