When I tell people I work at the student development office as a student caller I get two responses: 1. You get paid to just sit there and call people? Are you kidding? or 2. How are you able to talk that much (to which I say, how are you not?)? There are many myths about what Phonathon actually does on a day-to-day basis. In order to dispel any questions you may have, here are my eight confessions about the life of a student caller.
Most people don’t even pick up the phone. A lot of times we’re talking to each other, desperately waiting for someone to pick up the phone so we can feel like our job is worthwhile. When someone does pick up, we put our game face on and get ready to give the peppiest and most persuasive talk we’ve ever given before.
Working as a student caller is actually very emotionally draining. Every “no pledge” we hear feels like a personal rejection. While we know that is not true, there is nothing worse than a day filled with non-stop rejection.
We have mastered positivity. Every donation excites us, no matter how big or small. No matter how rude people are or how many times people hang up, we still talk to the next person with a smile and unbridled optimism, hoping that this person could be the one to donate.
There are still good people out there. The best moments at Phonathon are the calls with people who recognize that they are talking to actual people. They care about us as individuals and are eager to know about our life plans. I will never forget my one call with a lady who asked to pray for me. Her compassion for an over-the-phone solicitor she didn’t even know took me aback. Even though she did not give, she gave more than enough by simply taking the time to be courteous.
Selective hearing is key. When a bunch of extroverts are piled into one room, things can get loud. Through Phonathon, I’ve become skilled at the art of not letting my surroundings distract me from the conversation at hand.
It’s impossible to finish a conversation with the worker in the next cubicle. All too often, I’ll have a story to tell the person next to me which constantly is interrupted by one of us answering the phone. Sometimes, it can take up to a whole shift to tell a story that would take five minutes in any other circumstance. Patience and the ability to switch between conversations are crucial skills to have at Phonathon.
Everyone there is insane, and we love it. Student callers tend to have a certain “personality.” A typical day at work involves people dying of laughter, talking about the cute answering machine message we just heard and discussing everything from politics to Taylor Swift’s dress at the Grammys. When people who are literally paid to talk unite, there’s bound to be interesting conversation.
I would not want to work anywhere else. Despite the constant fear of rejection, there is nowhere on campus that has a vibrant and energetic atmosphere quite like Phonathon. The people are boisterous, gregarious and wonderfully dramatic. We have learned to laugh off the rejections and celebrate our victories. To top it off, there’s always candy. And really, who can ask for anything better than that?