Friday, June 23, 2017

Your best cold contact tips?

That's cold.
Credit: GE
I'll be honest, I dislike cold calling people and I hate receiving cold calls. I have a terrible habit of being very short with salespeople who call me (looking at you, Phenomenex) during my day.

That said, it can be an effective way of getting a request in front of a relevant person who can help me. I can't think of a cold call story that's job-related (because I can be timid like that), but I can think of a crazy cold call story that had a good ending:

A long time ago, I found myself in charge of a hazardous waste program that had found itself quite a ways out of compliance. Not knowing what to do, I ended up calling our hazardous waste company's legal department, and I ended up being transferred to the VP of Legal, who answered the phone because her secretary was out for the day. I explained our situation to her, and after a very, very long pause, she suggested a few things that she could do, including connecting us to a very helpful and reasonably-priced consultant. It all worked itself out.

By now (some 5-10 years later), I am bolder with cold e-mails by far - but I am still VERY careful with them, thinking long and hard about who I should contact and how I should present my requests.

Readers, I am sure that you have better cold calling stories - let's have them. 

11 comments:

  1. I got my last two employments through cold e-mails. (The first one was actually cold comment -contact in blog post that developed into a collaboration, that later turned into a job).

    I have to say - it is very flattering to be invited in this way. And the jobs were not boring, but they also turned out not to be very good - in both cases it was in a relatively small group, with rather dysfunctional management style and funding problems that eventually killed it

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    1. Do you think there may have been a connection between the dysfunctional management/funding problems and the fact that the employers were responsive to cold emails?

      ...and when you say "killed it," do you mean you moved on voluntarily because of dysfunctional management?

      No worries if you need to decline to answer. :-)

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    2. "a connection between the dysfunctional management/funding problems and the fact that the employers were responsive to cold emails?"

      Yes, quite likely, anyone who knew that bunch wouldn't have touched them with a 100-foot stick.

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    3. Yikes. So much for the enthusiastic email request that's been sitting in my drafts folder while I wishy-wash back and forth about hitting "send."

      Anyone have any experience with companies that place ads for chemists for "prospective future openings" doing chemistry that looks, as milkshake puts it "not boring"? Do they expect to have an opening? Is someone about to get fired as soon as they can find a suitable replacement?



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    4. I should mention that both groups seemed pretty attractive, doing interesting research, associated with good academic institutions. One was academic medical research, the second a small biotech located at university incubator. Only after I joined them and begun to understood more how they operated, and what the management was doing/not doing (some unethical and amateurish things), I wished I were at a more conventional company instead. In both cases my job ended due to funding difficulties, and maybe for some other shady reasons too, even if the project continued...

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  2. Although not a fan of receiving cold calls I do try to be courteous while I find out what they are promoting. If I determine absolutely no interest I will politely indicate that and most will end the call however occasionally if they keep talking or pressuring I will again let them know not useful for me and if after the third attempt I simply tell them not interested and have to go back to work then if they do not end conversation I will hang up. On the rare occasion I might have some sense of possible value now or in future I will listen longer and get main message however always request they send an e-mail with additional info in order to evaluate at my leisure rather than over a sales call. I then keep a file of such services/contacts and you'd be surprized how many times I have gone back to contacts when a new project or issue occurs that has alignment with what's in these cold files.

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  3. I once got a cold call (or maybe it was an email) from a postdoc who was interested in science writing and wanted to learn more about what I do. She was working in the D.C. area, so I took her out to lunch. A few weeks later a job opened up at the magazine, and I passed her resume along. She got the job. And now she is my boss.

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  4. "I explained our situation to her, and after a very, very long pause, she suggested a few things that she could do, including connecting us to a very helpful and reasonably-priced consultant."

    During that pause, I imagine her head was echoing with the voice of one of the Magliozzis yelling "DOESN'T ANYBODY SCREEN THESE CALLS?!?!".

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  5. Perhaps true! Also, that morning, their corporation had been visited by USEPA at the same time at three different facilities.

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  6. My best friend in graduate school was a mediocre undergrad student; typical partied too hard in the early years and his GPA suffered. As a consequence, he could not get any undergrad research possibilities with any of the established profs, so he cold-emailed a newly hired but not on campus/still at postdoc prof and said prof accepted him immediately. My friend stayed at this school for a PhD, then got a fantastic postdoc and works at a very well-known, materials-based company who hired him at 6 figures in a moderate midwest city.

    All because of a cold email.

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  7. For me, LinkedIn has worked pretty well in terms of finding connections and asking them to connect me to the job poster or someone in the company. Then I just go from there. Still looking for work but had a couple of good interview at this point.

    -Patrick

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