In an age of texting and messaging, one of the few hold-outs for actual pick-up-the-phone, real-time conversations is the informational career call. Whether it’s a general chat about career advice or an informational interview, scheduling your call correctly can be the difference between scoring a career-changing conversation…and radio silence.
So what do I mean by the right way to schedule a call? You know how to pick up and dial a phone, so how hard can it be? Actually, most people who are starting their careers are doing it wrong and they probably don’t even know it!
An alumna from my college recently reached out to me for career advice. She is moving to the city where I live and wanted to talk about how to break into her desired industry. I love helping students and recent graduates find their passions and craft a resume and LinkedIn profile to reflect their best qualities. But, scheduling this call was so painful, I was ready to give up on it!
Here’s how it went:*
Kara: Hey Megan! How have you been? I’m moving to your city and would love to hear about the marketing job opportunities there! I was a theater major and am just feeling a bit stuck as to how to move into different fields and would love some advice!
[Great idea to reach out an alum in her network with questions about a specific field. Be careful when asking for “general career advice” to have specific questions you want answered. Don’t make the other person scramble to figure out what advice you need.]
Me: Hey Kara, I’m doing well! I’d be happy to talk to you about marketing positions and any general career questions you have. Do you want to chat one day next week? I’m available around lunch or in the evening on Wednesday or Thursday.
[I gave her a couple of days I’m free and the time of day. Ideally, she could have provided a couple of options for me in the original message.]
Kara: Thanks so much! Let’s do lunch on Thursday.
[Uh oh! She wraps up our conversation, but doesn’t address a specific time.]
Me: Thursday works great. Are you in town or does a call work better?
[The way her response was worded made things confusing. “Let’s do lunch” sounded like she asking for an in-person meeting.]
Kara: Oh sorry for confusion. I’m not moving until June. So a call definitely works better.
[It took way too many messages for us to get this sorted out!]
Me: Okay, what’s your phone number? I’ll give you a call at 12:30 Thursday, if that time works for you.
[Basic information like phone number, time, and who is calling whom should have been addressed early on.]
Now that you know what NOT to do, here’s an example of the right way to schedule a call.
Kara: Hey Megan! How have you been? I’m moving to your city in June and would love to hear about the marketing job opportunities there. I was a theater major and would appreciate your advice on how to best transition into the marketing industry. Are you available for a brief 20 minute call next Wednesday evening or Thursday afternoon?
[Awesome! She provided me with some specific ideas to talk about so I can be prepared for the call. She also reached out with two different days and times. In fact, more specific time frames (like “between “1pm and 3pm”) would work, too. Bonus points: telling me up front how long the call will be makes me more likely to agree since I know it won’t end up taking my whole day.]
Megan: Hey Kara, I’m doing well! I’d be happy to talk to you about marketing positions and how to leverage your theater experience in that field. I’m free from 1pm to 2pm on Thursday.
Kara: Thanks so much! What’s your phone number? I’ll give you a call at 1:30pm on Thursday. Here’s my number, so you have it as well.
Perfect! This only took three messages and addressed all of the important points right away. It also took the hassle of scheduling off of the person she was asking advice from.
- Open with a specific topic or question you want to discuss
- Offer two to three options for days/times
- Bonus points if you provide an estimate of how long the call should take
- Establish a specific time and who will call whom
- Provide your phone number and get theirs, too
- Call on time and don’t cancel at the last minute!
Next time you have the opportunity to schedule an informational call, remember these few points and score that career-changing conversation.