Shortlist: Legal Week Innovation Awards
From Legal Week
It’s that time again… Blog time! So, sticking with the theme of my previous posts – this one follows my experience in a previous role and some lessons learned.
The first job I had as a student in Manchester was working for a charity company, a door to door job pitching charity subscriptions. This role required me to relentlessly knock from door-to-door from 4 – 9pm (more often than not in the not so good areas of Manchester), with a smile on my face and pre-rehearsed pitch up my sleeve ready to rattle off for the wider benefit of humanity.
This was a very target oriented environment with an incredibly large staff turnover rate. Being asked to knock on a total of 200 doors a night, with an initial 85% immediate rejection rate and 0.05% signup rate was incredibly draining and by the end of a night you could be left feeling pretty deflated.
What had struck me was that whilst I was trying to succeed for an incredibly worthwhile cause, sometimes it was nigh on impossible to get potential households to sign up. Whilst this certainly was one of the best jobs I’ve had from a karma perspective, it certainly didn’t appear to be appreciated by the potential donors whose door I was knocking at. Granted, who can blame someone when you knock on their door at 9pm (once they have put the kids to bed), for asking me to “leave their premises” (to put it politely).
The first few weeks of the job were incredibly hard and a massive learning curve. But after coming out at the other side, the opportunity offered a number of advantages from a personal development perspective: communication skills, the ability to create an impact and resilience – these were the key enablers to eventual success. Although these are skills honed at the time, they have stayed with me and allowed me to benefit still to this day.
One of the most important skills the role taught me was communication. Being able to articulate your case effectively in any role or situation is critical to success. From pitching charity donations, debating with a colleague or arguing with a stranger; if you can’t clearly state your side or reasoning, you won’t be able to get very far. Whilst articulation is a large part, a lot of the time, success came from remembering that communication is always two way; by simply listening to the other person’s point and addressing it, can not only help you, but also ensure that the other person’s objections are not falling on deaf ears. Anyone could have spouted out the same speech that was fed to us and have minimal success, but by taking in to account someone else’s opinion and effectively offering a resolution or counter argument definitely helped to sway peoples opinion.
You could be an amazing communicator and be able to argue the case for years, but one of the most common problems I had when I first started was not being able to get more then a sentence in. The problem of not having an immediate impact ran the risk of an immediate “No thanks” and a door slam in the face and the problem of not having a lasting impact meant that the potential donor wasn’t going to change their behaviour and donate at all.
When interacting with someone in any context, unless you’re truly droll, you will always make an impact. Whether it’s a positive or negative, and chances are this can come back to help or hinder you. An example of this was when I had taken some extra time to talk to a lady on her doorstep for 15 minutes, we had spoken about her husband and his battle with cancer at the time. She didn’t sign up at this point, however, the conversation still had an impact on both myself and her.
3 months later we were around the same area and I was able to knock on her door again, we remembered the conversation we had and whilst most unfortunately things didn’t go well with her husband, she had remembered the conversation, thanked me for the work I was doing and signed up for a subscription.
As a fan of video games, I had seen a great phrase that really resonated with me, which is: “If you ever encounter enemies, you know you’re going the right way”, and looking back this is something that rang true with this particular role. For every 30 or so immediate door slams, you would get, there would always be one interesting story to be had, whether it was a conversation, funny situation or eventually a sign up.
Although there were certainly times I could have thrown in the towel, whether it was the consistent rejection by potential donors, missing targets, working in the bitterly cold and rainy weather or even having to miss a lecture to get to the office on time. By persevering with it all, knowing what was going on was the right thing, before leaving for the year and heading back home I had gained some amazing stories, and even had a chance to catch up with the lady I had mentioned.
I’m sure there have been a number of times in everyone’s working life where it seems like you’ve been fighting an uphill battle. However, when you truly believe in something and give it your all, you can make some amazing things happen.
Whilst this has all been identified in an old setting, the same principles still stay true to this day. Be clear with what you’re trying to achieve, listen to what others have to say and make sure you leave with a positive impact.
Just like any role there will be good days and bad days, but eventually, when you can look back and realise you have achieved something great, either through self development or helping an amazing cause; You can then take solace in the fact that you know you’ve done an amazing thing, maybe not for yourself but others.
So, I suppose the moral of the story is pretty simple… when you feel like you’re getting nowhere but know you’re heading in the right direction… just keep on knocking.
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