Learn to control the situation 

by Ricky Law, trainer and consultant

This is the second article in a four-part series on how to make contacts which can lead to success in seven strategic moves.

Knowing how to manage things to your advantage is a skill that can be learned

Last week, we talked about "contact" and the first three strategic moves in making it work well, namely, changing attitude, integrating new concepts and modifying behaviour. This week, we will introduce another technique to change people's attitude which is "framing".

Framing is like advertising. The latter creates an environment to persuade you to part with your money while the former aims to mould the attitude of an audience to give support. In our contacts, we should aim to "frame" the boundaries of a discussion and the minds of an audience, guiding them so as to achieve our goals.

For instance, if you are a graduate with an unimpressive academic record and no work experience, how can you frame an employer to offer you a job? Or, if you are a salesperson who did badly last quarter, how can you frame your management to give you another chance? The strategic moves are: change diction, avoid emotive language and reposition yourself.

Instead of adopting a loser's attitude and thinking about what he cannot offer, the graduate should change frame to: "To find a job, my academic record and work experience will not be my selling point. I need to find a more powerful approach." With a positive outlook, he can adopt different tactics by admitting that his results are not impressive and emphasising instead the leadership, organisational skills and management ability he has shown in extracurricular activities. In this way, attention can be diverted towards strengths.

Once he has a new sales pitch, there needs to be a new approach to the application letter. It must contain something that catches the eye and highlights the projects he has organised, the number of people involved and the successful results achieved. Most interviewers will regard these achievements as just as impressive as anything in a basic academic record. Perhaps he could send something like this:

Dear Interviewer

You must have read hundreds of application letters by now from candidates asking for an interview. I am a different type of candidate. My academic results may not be outstanding and I may have little work experience, but I have many practical skills. As Chairman of the Sports Committee that organised the inter-school sports competition, I led a team of 15 students. In addition, I have conducted street interviews with over 100 people for a survey about opinions on the future of Hong Kong and compiled a 50-page report with charts, figures and analysis. If you agree that leadership, hard work, perseverance and strategic thinking are just as important as an academic record, please allow me ten minutes to show what I can contribute to your company. I have also done something Bill Gates failed to do. I have already graduated!

This approach may not guarantee an interview but it will certainly increase anyone's chances compared to copying a typical textbook letter, like the following:

Dear Sir or Madam

I am writing in response to your advertisement dated xx in yy newspaper.

I am a fresh graduate from abc school with five credits in the zz certificate examination. I was a school prefect and active in extracurricular activities. I am very interested in the job advertised and am confident that I can meet your expectations.

Attached please find my resume.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Put yourself in the interviewer's shoes. If you suddenly find a letter with a different format and approach, which is unlike all the others, you will definitely be interested in meeting the candidate. I once used this eye-catching approach to apply for a position as a copywriter with Reader's Digest. Not only did I get the job but I was later complimented by the personnel manager on my application letter. It started as follows:

Dear Sir or Madam

Nobody would miss it. How could anybody miss a quarter page English advertisement in a Chinese newspaper? (Reader's Digest had placed a recruitment ad in English in Ming Pao.)

Through framing, you can reposition yourself to find a new direction, new energy and new motivation for a better future. It helps to open your mind to new concepts and brings behavioural change. And, once you have framed yourself, you will be ready to frame others to ensure continuing success for yourself.

How, though, can the badly performing sales executive frame things better? He should stop worrying and searching for excuses. Instead of overwhelming himself with negative thoughts like: "I am dead. Management will sack me for my lousy performance last quarter," he should change frame to: "I need to adjust my sales projection for next quarter and prepare a sales plan to demonstrate that the new target can be reached."

With this attitude, he can concentrate on finding ways to improve and, above all, be prepared to suggest remedies, show enthusiasm and take responsibility. He should avoid lies and excuses and not try to find victims. This approach will also impress the management.

The objective is to frame the management upon contact and to guide their various options which include warning or replacing him. If he can prove his value by showing a plan that is workable and makes up for lost sales, he will be helping the company solve its problem. He will get another chance and secure his job, at least for another three months.

I have now explained the first three strategic moves: changing attitude, integrating new concepts and modifying behaviour. They form the conceptual backbone of the "7 Strategic Moves". Next time, I will discuss implementation and the actual skills you need to proceed step by step from contact to success in a cohesive manner.

Ricky Law is a part-time lecturer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and a registered trainer with the Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC). He will conduct a public seminar on 7 August 2004 on the subject. For information and registration, please click here or call 2953 0069 for enquiries.

Taken from Career Times 16 July 2004
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