I was recently contacted by a stranger who was interested in having me sponsor her. The experience was the perfect example of what not to do when you are cold prospecting for employment. I share this experience to alert others on how to lose friends and alienate prospects. Here’s what you do.
Assume that a prospective employer who doesn’t know you will to ask for the standard stuff: work experience, references, demos, photos, and any other supporting information that can verify that you are who you say you are and can do the things you say you can. Annoy your prospect by being unprepared to provide these things in a nicely packaged, easy to navigate way.
It’s okay to be vague in an introduction. You don’t want to tell your life story to someone who isn’t interested, but once the prospect says, “Tell me more,” most want specific information. Ignore that! Especially if there are repeated requests.
Just say you can teach “everything.” Don’t have a list of classes offered with titles, descriptions, materials required, pre-requisites required, target audience, and the length of each class. Make the prospect guess what you are good at and how long it will take to teach the subject of your choice.
Tell her that you have taught “everywhere.” Don’t give names of people who have sponsored you. Don’t supply dates and locations. Since you assume everyone has heard of you, she will take your word for it.
Make your prospect wait for follow-up. This will really make you look like you want the job and can go a great job!
If you are trying to get a job teaching Middle Eastern dance, talk about your experience as an actor, your academic credentials, your modern dance experience or how much you love belly dance. The prospect is sure to see why that makes you qualified to teach belly dance. While you are at it, drop names of people you know in common who have nothing to do with belly dance. That is sure to help you make a connection.
Provided Out-dated Information
The best way to document your twenty-five year old career is to give twenty-five year old references. What you did twenty-five years ago demonstrates no growth or where your current strengths lie, but don’t worry. Remember, she will take your word for it.
Give References That Can’t Be Checked
While you are providing old references, make sure that at least one of them is for someone illustrious who is no longer with us. The rest should be for big name people for whom you have no contact information. If your luck holds out, she won’t have contact information for them either and the names you drop will be so impressive that she won’t even check to see if they know you.
Provide Misleading Information
If you performed in a workshop show, go ahead and list the teacher as a reference. After all, it’s true that the teacher was there when you danced at the show. Don’t worry that that the teacher may not have actually seen you perform or that performance has nothing to do with your ability to teach. With luck, that the connection will never be made.
If You Are Offered Less Than You Wanted, Be Insulted
Why accept a slot in a show if the prospect feels you are not worthy of a teaching slot? While it could mean that the sponsor is trying to get to know you and leave the door open for future opportunity, forget that. Small time offers are beneath you. It’s all or nothing!
When You Are Not Offered the Job, Be Rude to the Sponsor
If you are not offered a job, your talent is obviously being overlooked. Character obviously means nothing to this lady. It’s natural that your feelings are hurt, so you’re perfectly justified in blasting the sponsor for leading you on. Lecture her on how to behave professionally. Berate her for being suspicious because she actually checked your references. Read sinister things into her behavior, then burn your bridges. She’s not ever going to hire you anyway. The chances are slim that she will ever tell anyone about what happened or that anyone will ever ask her if they know you, so what the heck?
If you don’t want to lose friends and alienate prospects, the solution is easy. Just do the opposite of everything listed above: be prepared, be specific, be timely, keep it relevant, current, and factual. Provide references that can be contacted, are current, and can vouch for the abilities that you are advertising.
Remain upbeat and professional throughout the contact. Getting an offer to do something is a sign that the contact wants to work with you in some capacity. This could lead to better offers later.
Don’t be a mind-reader. There are many reasons why you might not get a job right then. The lack of an offer may have nothing to do with you or the material you submitted. If you are polite and professional, that leaves the door open for that sponsor to contact you later or recommend you to someone else who may be able to use your services.
The belly dance community is very small. Tales of ugly deeds are frequently spread among friends. When you alienate one person, it’s quite likely that you are alienating more. To keep your career healthy and long, behave professionally and give others the benefit of the doubt. If your credentials are indeed impressive, and your attitude professional, you won’t unnoticed.