Provenance the Web Magazine ISSN 1203-8954 - Vol.1, No.2 - March 1996

Finding Good Jobs in Tough Times 1

Author - Teresa Murphy - Director of Research, B.C. Real Estate Association & Public Relations Chair, Special Libraries Association, Western Canadian Chapter 2


Eighteen months ago while enjoying a month long vacation in Vancouver, Calgarian Marilyn Murray decided she wanted to stay. Within three weeks she'd landed a professional job in her field. Surprised? Not when you consider that Murray is an employment counselor who specializes in cold calling. All she did was put into practice what she's been teaching for years.

Do massive corporate retoolings, lay-off notices, few advertisements in local newspapers, and vacant library school job boards get you down? Have you just discovered you're one of fifty qualified librarians who recently applied for a job listed on a local job line?

Don't let any of this bother you, advises Murray, who is convinced that there is plenty of work for librarians even during the worst economic downturn. Where are all of these jobs? There in the hidden job market according to Murray.

Accessing the Hidden Job Market

Most people have the idea that all of the jobs are in the paper, states Murray. But they're not. Research by employment experts indicates that 90 per cent of all jobs are never advertised in newspapers. Of the 10 per percent that are, almost half are already filled by the time your resume lands on the desk of the human resources department.

How do employers fill 90 per cent of their jobs vacancies? The same way all of us should be looking for work: Through word of mouth and networking.

Most unemployed and underemployed people are very reticent about telling others they're looking for work, states Murray. "They're embarrassed and afraid, and they feel awful."

But savvy job seekers must learn to overcome these feelings if they're serious about their job search. And they must systematically get the word out that they're looking for work.

"Tell everyone you know from family and friends to people you meet through professional library associations," advises Murray. "Become a joiner of groups not affiliated with the library profession. Volunteer for groups where you'll be meeting a lot of people and while you're volunteering, tell everyone you're looking for work."

This will result in countless leads - many of which will be dead ends. But it will also result in a few good leads. Sooner or later someone, somewhere will mention you to the right person and you'll land an interview and a job.

Murray also advises librarians to practice their research skills. "Read the business section of the local newspapers to learn which companies are expanding. Then go to the public library and find out everything you can about companies that interest you." Murray, who worked for years at the Edmonton Public Library, recommends using publications produced by Contacts Target Marketing, which are compiled by city, and industry type, and include pertinent job search information such as company size, the number of employees and the name of the CEO.

The Warm Call

A warm call according to Murray, is a call you make when you know someone who knows someone in the company. Carefully prepare before making a warm call.

Remember you're targeting a company that doesn't employ a librarian. You know the company could use your skills. But company executives obviously don't, otherwise a librarian would be on staff. You're going to have to make good use of your marketing skills.

Consider identifying yourself as someone other than a librarian. Many executives still envision librarians as being in charge of libraries - and in their minds that may mean huge, space and money wasting monoliths, filled with books.

Instead Murray recommends capitalizing on the information craze by referring to yourself as an Information Specialist.

When you place a warm call, ask to speak to the person to whom you have been recommended.

You will have about 30 seconds to get this person's attention. Remember companies are in business to make money. If you can tell them you can save them money while increasing company productivity they're more likely to listen to you.

Begin by identifying yourself and what you can do. Murray recommends the following:

Good morning (afternoon). May I speak with Elaine Smith, the Marketing Manager?

Good morning (afternoon) Ms. Smith. My name is Helen Simpson. Laura Brown, the president of the Marketing Manager's Association suggested I call you. I have x (years, months) of experience (training and/or education) in Information Science and I am interested in continuing in this field. I have been reading about your company in Business in B.C. and understand that you don't have an Information Specialist on staff. Did you know that recent studies indicate that it costs each professional employed in a company about $12,200 per year to look for information to meet their goals?1 Well I have a solution you might be interested in.

If Ms. Smith is still listening ask: Did you also know that an Information Specialist saves each staff professional 94 hours per year of time? 2

At this point make sure Ms. Smith understands that you're not selling anything. Then ask if would be possible to come in and meet with her for a few minutes.

If Ms. Smith declines, thank her for her time and hang up. If Ms. Smith asks you to fax your resume, tell her that you will be in her area the next day, and ask what would be a convenient time for her to meet with you.

Then follow up by faxing your resume and by meeting with her at a time she has set. Dress appropriately for the meeting - in other words dress like the people who work there dress. You can scout this out by carefully studying any photographs from articles and annual reports that you have from your research on the company.

When you meet, have with you your resume, covering letter, references and lots of stats on how you can save her company money while increasing productivity. Make sure to mention if the company's competitors have information specialists on staff.

"The first call is always the worst," according to Murray. "If you get a rejection, move on to the next company and make the next call. Do this until you have completed your warm call list."

Cold Calls

Cold calls are calls you make to people you have identified through your research as having the authority to hire you, but whom you don't know, and don't know anyone who knows them.

You may be calling a marketing manager, an MIS manager, a CEO or the owner of the company. Follow the script as outlined above, emphasizing what you can do for them.

When you call, never leave a voice-mail message if the person is not there. Executives get many calls each day and it is unlikely they will return yours if they've never heard of you. Instead build a relationship with the receptionist. Ask that person when the marketing manager is usually in. Then call at that time. Keep calling until you reach them.

Every time someone meets with you, send a brief, hand written thank-you card thanking them for taking the time to meet with you. (Buy them in bulk on sale at department stores and card shops.) It may seem like a lot of work, but it's standard manners in business. The person has, after all, taken the time to meet with you.

If the person you meet with is unsure about hiring you, call them again in a week or so. Market yourself. Remind them of who you are and what you can do for them. Ask them to try you out for a week or two. If they agree, work like heck, impress them and get the contact extended. If they have decided they can't hire you, ask them if they know anyone who can. Don't miss the opportunity to get the word out.

Murray, who teaches cold calling techniques to classrooms of people who range from blue collar workers to professionals, estimates that her students make 15 calls to get one interview and on average have 5 interviews before landing a job.

Murray cautions against time-wasting tactics such as calling major corporations. "Big companies aren't hiring, they're downsizing. Most hiring is done in small to medium sized companies of 200 to 300 people. This is where you'll get your results."

Murray also cautions against sending out hundreds of resumes to human resources departments. "HR departments don't necessarily do the hiring, line managers do. What you need to do is focus your search. That may mean going through the HR department. But you also have to get to the line managers as well."

Despite having taught cold calling for years, Murray is still amazed at how well the strategy works. "But make sure you're prepared before you pick up the phone." Remember, Murray was and she found a job in 3 weeks.

Teresa Murphy

Suggested Reading


This article was published in the fall of 1995, in the Special Libraries Association, Western Canadian Chapter's Chapter 8 with the title "Cold call your way to job success". The article is reprinted with permission of the author under the new title "Finding Good Jobs in Tough Times".

1 Special Libraries Association. Power: Achieving Organizational Goals. Washington, D.C.: SLA, 1993, p. 3.

2 Ibid.

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Last update Feb.27, 1996, Oct. 05, 1997