Just because Wi-Fi is available, doesn’t mean you should be.
As reported by TechCrunch last week, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) “switched on wireless connectivity in 30 underground subway stations around Manhattan.” What’s more, over the next four years, cell phone service and free Wi-Fi will expand to all of the MTA’s 277 subway stations.
For many New Yorkers, this is great news. Professionals can be more productive during their commute, which may translate to shorter work hours in the office, or at home during family time. Job seekers can also reap the benefits of having phone and Internet access while in transit by taking advantage of the uninterrupted search time for job sourcing, networking and applying.
However, just because Wi-Fi is available, doesn’t mean you should be. Typically, the best policy is to never speak to a recruiter or participate in an interview while commuting.
Between interrupted service, booming MTA announcements, and crowds of strangers filing in and out at various stations, there’s no way to guarantee a professional and confidential conversation. Remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Don’t let a subway ride derail a potentially valuable connection. Before you accept a call in transit, ask yourself the following questions.
Can you control the environment?
Don’t answer the call if your current location is noisy or your cell service is spotty. Instead, let the call go to voicemail, and call the person back as soon as you can find a quiet spot where your call won’t be interrupted. It’s important to return the call within the same business day, even if it’s after normal business hours. There’s nothing wrong with leaving a message to say you’re sorry that you missed the call and would like to speak the following day.
Are you prepared to answer the caller’s questions?
Sometimes a recruiter will reach out immediately after you submit an application –before you’ve had time to prepare for the phone screen. If that’s the case, use the rest of your transit time to review the job description and your application. Have copies of these materials handy when you return the call so you can tailor your responses to reflect your qualifications for the role.
Will your conversation be confidential?
If you answer your phone in a quiet subway car, then assume your conversation will be overheard by others. While you may not recognize anyone in the car, that doesn’t mean your conversation is safe. There’s no way of knowing who is in that car, or who they might know. This is especially important if you’re currently employed and exploring other opportunities. The last thing you want to do is get caught talking to a recruiter with a colleague standing in the same subway car.
Whether you’re underground in the subway, watching your kids at the playground, or ordering coffee in a crowded cafe, pause before fielding a phone call from an unknown caller. If you can’t guarantee a professional and confidential conversation in a controlled environment, then you’re better off returning the phone call later that day when you can.
Amanda Augustine is the Job Search Expert for TheLadders. She provides job search and career guidance for professionals looking to make their next career move. Have a question for Amanda? Submit your question here for a chance to have it answered in her weekly column, and be sure to follow @JobSearchAmanda on Twitter and “Like” her on Facebook for up-to-the-minute job-search advice.