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Career Coach: Avoiding Time Vampires

While the phone is a necessary way to connect, make sure it doesnt drain away your precious time and leave you with little results. Pamela Kleibrink Thompson outlines some etiquette.

In October, we celebrate Halloween a time when we can masquerade as vampires. But one kind of vampire is out all year the time vampire. What is a time vampire? It's someone who continually takes up lots of your time, keeping you from doing other stuff in your life. This person is not a friend, but a fiend taking all he or she can from you and offering little, if anything, in return. Here's how to deal with time vampires and make sure you do not become one yourself.

Time vampires lurk on the phone.

Phone Tricks

Leaving Messages

When leaving a message, be succinct but provide enough information so the person receiving the message can take appropriate action. If you have a question, ask it. If you have information, give it.

Speak clearly and leave your full name and full phone number, including the area code. Speak slowly and loudly enough and repeat the number so the person can return the call. Never assume the person has your number.

To avoid playing phone tag, leave a specific time you can be reached by phone, if you need to speak in person. If you don't need to speak in person or don't need a return call, say so. But leave a message stating what you need and any action required.

If you expect a return call, please have an operable answering machine. If you are on the phone a lot (like I am) or online a lot (like me), look into getting a voice mail system which eliminates the need for call waiting and for an answering machine. You'll never miss a call again, even if you have roommates or teenagers using the phone.

Making Connections

When you reach a person by phone, identify yourself with your full name and the reason for your call. Be conscious of the other person's time and get to the point as quickly as possible.

Be pleasant and you will get a lot more accomplished in a quicker amount of time.

If you are seeking information, have a pad and paper ready to take notes.

It is rude to put someone you have called on hold while you take another call. If you must take another call, don't leave the person on hold, but ask if you can call them back again instead.

Do not start a phone conversation with "What's going on?" or "Any news?" Get to the point, don't chat. If you are calling a studio to follow up on a job application, say so. If you are calling to find out if there are jobs available in your specialty at a studio, say so. Be courteous and remember to keep your conversations brief. If necessary, set a clock next to the phone with a timer on it. Try not to stay on the phone longer than 3 minutes unless you are consulting on a large project and telecommuting.

Do not linger. Lost on how to end the call? "Thanks for your time."

Tips For Phone Call Recipients

Return calls as promptly as possible. I like to use email because I can return calls during off hours and have a written record of the "conversation."

If you find it difficult to get anything done during the day, try not answering the phone at all, but return all calls before the end of the day. It may help to return all calls in a certain time period so that you are not interrupted by the phone during the day.

If you receive professional calls on your answering machine or service, be sure you leave a professional outgoing message identifying yourself and the number called.

Don't hesitate to cut off telephone solicitors quickly. If you feel bad about this, realize that their time is valuable too. Since you are not interested, let them get to the next call as soon as possible.

Cell Phones

When meeting someone face to face, don't take a call.

Don't use your cell phone when doing something else to which you should devote attention. If you must use your cell phone while waiting in line at the grocery store or bank, make sure that you end the call before you get to the front of the line. If you are not done with the call, let the people behind you go in front of you until you finish.

Observe these rules to avoid being a time vampire. Don't associate with people who violate these rules. They are time vampires who will devour every last drop of your precious time.

Thanks for your time. It's been a treat.

Pamela Thompson is a career coach and recruiter. She speaks regularly at colleges and universities on career issues. She does not have a cell phone or pager but she still spends too much time on the phone and answering email.