I like staying within my comfort zone. It’s…well…comfortable! But this is the stage in our lives where we have to step out of our comfort zone when we are asked, or it is necessary for our success. This last week at my internship definitely challenged me to go beyond the zone I prefer to stay in, and develop new skills I never thought I could have.
The new plan for the courses I’ve been writing for the last five months is to include interviews with professionals in the corresponding field. Unfortunately, we don’t have a Rolodex of dental assistants, medical coders, and web developers who are waiting to be interviewed by us. Instead, we have to reach out to professionals in the community and ask them to participate. This entails making phone calls. I absolutely loathe talking on the phone, especially to people I don’t know. I get nervous and I stumble over words…assuming I don’t completely draw a blank on what I was going to say first. I make a point to order pizza online just so I don’t have to call the pizza shop. Regardless of my ridiculous phobia, I spent three hours on Wednesday calling local businesses and giving them all the same spiel about who I am, who I work for, and what I want from them. Ninety percent of the calls ended up in me being transferred to at least two different people, and ultimately leaving voicemail messages asking these busy people to call back to set up an interview. And it was really awkward at the beginning. I am not a sales person, and these phone calls felt like sales calls—they essentially were. I was calling people to ask for their support of our organization in the form of sitting down with us for an interview. When someone answers the phone and asks who I would like to be transferred to, I don’t have an answer. I just need someone with this or that job title to talk to me about coming in for an interview.
Luckily, I do have some connections in the professional world, and I was able to tap into those to set up interviews for a few courses. Mostly, though, I’ve been reaching out to total strangers. It was definitely a sink or swim moment. I wasn’t going to say to my boss “well, I don’t really like talking on the phone so I’d really just rather not complete this task.” Instead, I met the request with enthusiasm, even knowing it would be a challenge for me. Lo and behold, I’ve set up three interviews. Granted, so far, they are only with people I know personally. By hour three of phone calls, though, I had my pitch perfected. After making about 30 cold calls, you don’t really have a choice but to become confident in what you’re doing or you’ll just be miserable the entire time. So, I was leaned back in my desk chair with the phone up to my ear, talking to total stranger like it’s my job…since it pretty much is. Lesson of this column: fake it ‘til you make it. It really works! Just pretend you’re a master of every task you’re given and before you know it, you will be. Hey, it only took me three hours to figure it out.