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Andrea Kay column: Polite persistence can be test for a job

7:52 PM, May 19, 2013  |  Comments
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When I graduated from college, everyone described it as the worst year of unemployment in decades.

They told me: "No one is hiring. You'll never get a job."

I was no better qualified than any of my classmates for an entry-level job. My writing skills were wobbly at best. My understanding of how the real world worked was doubtful.

But when it came to finding my first job, I had one great thing going for me: It didn't dawn on me not to make a pest of myself.

I had heard that Bob Wilson might have an opening, so I called him Monday and left a message with his secretary. He didn't call back.

I called Bob Wilson on Thursday and left a second message with his secretary. He didn't call back.

I wrote and mailed him a letter the next Monday - this was before email, even before voice mail and faxes. I followed up by phone Wednesday and left another message.

This went on for weeks.

Bob Wilson called me back June 28 and invited me to his office for an interview.

When he hired me two weeks later, he said it wasn't because of my experience. Except for an internship, writing for the college paper and yearbook and other extracurricular activities, I didn't have any.

He said he hired me because I wouldn't give up.

That fearlessness that showed up as persistence and determination was just what the job called for. He could teach me the rest.

And he did.

But things are different today, you say. Yes, they are. Now you have more vehicles by which to be a nice pest: email, LinkedIn and Twitter. And don't forget the telephone and U.S. mail.

What's a nice pest? Someone who finds ways to connect and at regular intervals:

? Remind employers of your existence and help them see that in between their deadlines and crisis of the moment you're worth paying attention to.

? Reinforce what you purport to be - enthusiastic and excited about the industry you want to get into or the job you say you want.

The very act of keeping in contact demonstrates this. But nice pests also find ways to share new experiences that show you're learning or fine-tuning your skills.

A nice pest does all that in language and attitude that's always professional and kind and considers the employer's point of view.

Yes, some fools won't acknowledge your existence even if you were the best worker bee on the planet. But others will appreciate what your persistence says about you.

And eventually the effort can pay off.

Take this employer who gets regular inquiries from job hunters since he placed an ad in a trade publication for an opening.

He replies to every job applicant, explaining that he has hired someone for that particular job. He thanks them for contacting him and says he will keep their information for the future.

But the person gives up. He or she doesn't write back to say, "Thank you. I'd also like to keep in touch," or "Please do keep me in mind for other openings." Nothing.

"Out of all the people I replied to, only one followed up. Only one." the employer says.

What does that tell him?

"The people who don't respond aren't ones I'd be interested in hiring," he says. "For one, they don't understand the importance of building a relationship and value what's important to my business. Two, they aren't effective communicators. Three, they are only thinking about their self-interest, looking for immediate gratification, which is to get a job now. Four, they don't have what the job takes - someone who follows up and has tenacity."

The one person who did follow up demonstrated all of that.

Guess whose resume the employer is keeping for the future?

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