The words we use when referring to others are important in that they affect our thinking and ability to problem solve.
I don’t know if any of you have noticed, but I usually refer to “members of the search community” or to “search professionals.” I sometimes refer to them as “recruiters.” Although even they refer to themselves as “headhunters,” I find that term less than professional.
Another potential trap we might fall into is the use of the word “gatekeeper.” It brings up visions in my mind of my being on the outside looking in and needing the permission of some imposing individual with a spear or something even more threatening blocking my path. While in many cases our ability to network properly requires our getting our message to a decision maker, the “gatekeeper” (it appears to us), or someone more properly described as the Executive Assistant or Executive Secretary of someone who is very important is blocking our path to success.
It is for this reason that in our thinking we begin to refer to these individuals in a derisive manner. Surely they must know the importance of our getting through and it is just out of sheer meanness that they are preventing it. What other explanation could there be?
Nothing could, of course, be further from the truth. The time of important people is a valuable asset to not only the person in question, but also to the organizations by which they are employed. It is for this reason that the role of “professional road blocker,” oops, Executive Secretary was created. In some organizations, the one who controls the calendar of the “boss” is even called “Chief of Staff.”
Once you accept the importance of these individuals, I hope you will find it easier to “break through.” When you call for example, it is not a good idea to try to “trick” them. Why? Because if you are successful, “they” might be punished. Since your success in networking most likely will require more than one communication, I think you can understand why this would be a mistake.
When asked if he is expecting your call, be honest. (Not that you have to actually answer the question asked.) An honest answer might be that you sent him an email and promised to call. Or, mention the person who suggested you contact “Mr. Big” and assure his “gatekeeper” (oops, there I go again) … Executive Assistant, that this mutual friend of his was sure he would have an interest in speaking with you.
If none of this works in getting you put through, ask if there is a better time to call back or in the ultimate stroke of genius, acknowledging the very important role played by this individual, ask if he/she could get you on his/her calendar for a brief phone call at his/her convenience.
Once you accept that the words you choose to refer others affects YOUR thinking and YOUR ability to be effective, you will be well on your way to solving the problem.