March 23, 2011
The lost art of picking up the phone
People in my freelance writing community are still talking about last Friday's New York Times article on how nobody uses the phone anymore.
[Photo by sagriffin305]
Writes journalist Pamela Paul:
It's at the point where when the phone does ring -- and it's not my mom, dad, husband or baby sitter -- my first thought is: "What's happened? What's wrong?"
Surely we can all relate, at least in our personal lives. But what about in our professional ones?
According to Paul's article, picking up the phone is mainly something you do when you can't make heads or tails of a colleague's email. As she tells it:
Even in fields where workers of various stripes (publicists, agents, salespeople) traditionally conducted much of their business by phone, hoping to catch a coveted decision-maker off-guard or in a down moment, the phone stays on the hook.
A handful of cute anecdotes Paul culls from publishing and entertainment professionals who feel jarred if their business line rings support this thesis. So do the Nielsen Media statistics on how for mobile phone users, text messaging has overtaken calling, as well as multiple articles on the death of the landline.
But I'm not entirely buying that in the business world the phone is dead and buried.
Maddening as though it may be to those of us who prefer emails and texts, there are still a number of professional settings in which the telephone remains a vital way to communicate. Think about it. When was the last time you sent a text to make an appointment with your doctor or discuss some disheartening test results? How about to schedule an appointment with your mechanic to have your car serviced? Or to book some time with an attorney you've never met, find out if your dry cleaning's ready, or dispute a claim with your insurance company?
In office settings, sure, email and IM have become the standard. But most preliminary job interviews are still conducted by phone. Likewise, if a vendor you've outsourced a project to botches it royally or doesn't respond to your emails, you're going to pick up the phone to call. On the self-employed side, if a client seems to be ignoring your emails about getting paid, you're also going to dial their number.
Maybe in three years none of us will remember what it feels like to dial a bunch of digits to reach our doctor, plumber, or favorite pizza delivery place, but for now, the phone remains a permanent fixture in more than a handful of business settings.
How about your line of work? How often, if ever, does the telephone come into play?
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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