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Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Thing About Picking Up the Phone

Here's the thing about picking up the phone: no one does it anymore. Everyone has smartphones that text and ichat and snapchat and email. And when we do pick up the phone to make a call, nine times out of ten we wind up talking to an automated system instead of a real person.

Therefore, when we are finally forced to talk to a real person--never mind a real person we don't know--on the phone, well . . . I for one find it terrifying!

I bring all of this up because for the first time in my life, I am forced to face this very task on an almost-daily basis. And I can't avoid it or put it off or write a letter instead. It's part of my job.

For anyone not in the know, after six-plus years of service at Wiley, I left last November and joined CenterForce, a five-person conference company based in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Although I've been there for nearly three months already, I've put off writing anything about my new job because, honestly, I wasn't sure what to say.

Essentially, I didn't want to judge the experience prematurely. Change is hard, new jobs are hard, new coworkers all sitting five feet apart is hard . . . so I didn't want my emotions to cloud my judgement when I finally sat down to write about the experience. Even now I cannot really say that I'm writing emotion-free. When anyone asks "how I like my new job," all I can really say is, "Wait and ask me again in 6 months." Because maybe by then I'll feel like I know what I'm doing. Maybe.

But now I know I can at least say with confidence: my new job involves making phone calls. Lots of phone calls. To literal strangers.

And it. Is. Terrifying.

My job is to recruit high-level executives who handle intellectual property at companies to come and speak at our conferences. (Imagine Susie Q:  a corporate lawyer who deals with IBM technology patents--when they're filed, who's trying to use the technology illegally, etc. That's who we want.) Basically, I comb the internet for these people and then email them an invitation. If they don't respond, I might email them another invitation. And if they still don't respond, I start calling.

Every time I pick up the phone, my heart rate speeds up. Yet I know it's an irrational fear. My head tells me, "Allison, what's the worst that can happen? That you'll stutter and sound like an idiot? That they'll yell at you? Hang up on you? Who cares! You'll never see them again!" And based on my--albeit limited--experience, none of these things are likely to happen. Everyone I've spoken with so far has been very polite and oftentimes even nice. No one seems angry or annoyed.

So what am I so afraid of?

Honestly, I am not sure. What I do know is that I'm out of practice with talking to complete strangers (especially strangers who seem much more "important" than me), and I'm out of practice calling people who aren't my friends or family, and all this lack of practice makes me very very nervous when it comes time to dial a new number.

However, if nothing else, I'm getting lots of practice these days. So now it's just a matter of getting that heart rate down and banishing the feeling of dread that always climbs into my gut when I pick up the receiver. Fingers crossed that such a day comes soon. In the meantime, you'll have to excuse me, but I have a phone call to make.

1 comment:

Jerome Sawyer said...

You got this! You're a rockstar(i.e. America's next top model :-P )