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BOB LANKARD: Paying your dues

by on June 29, 2014 1:49 AM

Financial columnist Bruce Williams called a radio station several times a day about a job — he thinks he made 3,000 phone calls.

Bruce also sent the station 500 letters. Friends told him he would tick them off. Williams reasoned, “How could I be worse off than I am now?” I may not recommend calling an employer 3,000 times, but over 37 years I observed a lack of persistence in unsuccessful job seekers.

Persistence is one of basketball coach Rick Pitino’s qualities of success. He advises people to be “furiously persistent.” He also advocates people paying their dues.

How does a job seeker pay their dues? By being diligent in visiting employers to put in applications or follow up an application.

As an employment counselor I was constantly asking employers why they hired one applicant rather than another. One employer told me he never looked at an application until the person stopped back at least twice. I talked to many job seekers who thought their job was done as soon as they submitted their application. The job seeker “pays their dues” by maintaining contact with the companies where they apply.

As a minimum, the job seeker visiting a place of employment to submit an application should ask how long their application will be in their active file. They should at least check back in person on that date. The “one and done” job seeker will submit a company application, then cross that employer off their list, saying, “It’s their move now.”

Sometimes job seekers visiting a place of employment to put in an application will be told, “We are not hiring!” The “one and done” will get out of there as quickly as possible and never return. The persistent job seeker will at least ask, “When is it possible you might be hiring?” and if given a date will note it on a calendar and come back then.

I once was told by an employer that a certain job seeker never applied. The applicant said, “I called and left a message. I figured I have done my part.”

From the employer’s viewpoint, they expect the applicant to keep calling until they get through.

A job seeker has an interview and waits and waits. Nothing from the employer. So that employer is crossed off the list. The “pay their dues” job seeker will follow up with that employer not once but several times.

After all, your qualifications had been good enough to get an interview.

I have often asked job seekers about their experiences with civil service. “I tried that once, never got an interview, not doing that again” is a typical response.

The civil service experience is one that success comes with experience. My first civil service score was a 65, the lowest passing score possible. But I kept trying and had a career in civil service employment.

President Calvin Coolidge once said, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.”

This certainly applies to job seeking. Success comes with continuing to try even though the job seeker will make mistakes and suffers rejection in the beginning.

George Harrison echoed Coolidge. He used to joke that The Beatles’ “overnight” success took five years.

Bob Lankard, a retired employment specialist at the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry's Indiana Job Center, is a job-search columnist for the Indiana Gazette. Read his columns on Sundays.
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