As a rising senior, the realization of how soon I will enter the so-called “real world” is beginning to dawn on me. Although I did not work a part-time job during my high school years, I have been working on-campus jobs since my freshman year at Denison University. Now, I’m a junior, and I’ve had the privilege of working four different jobs on my campus. For my first two years, I worked as a “non-overnight admissions host,” which is really just a fancy way of saying that I welcomed prospective students and their families when they came to visit the school. My duties mainly consisted of directing people where to park and how to get from check-in to a dining hall. In short, the job required little to no brain power, but a lot of interpersonal skills and smiling.
Sophomore year I began working at our campus Writing Center, where I will work until I graduate. This job is by far and away the best I’ve had. I work with my best friends, the hours aren’t too overwhelming, I help people, and most of the time I get paid to do my homework (when there are no appointments). My other job this year, my junior year, has been as an assistant in the English department. This job is mostly clerical, research-based drudgery, but I enjoy gaining work skills and collaborating with professors on miscellaneous projects. I feel intellectually challenged, and that’s definitely a feeling I want to hold onto post-graduation. For example, right now I’m working through countless newspaper databases to find information on drug-induced homicides.
Unfortunately, not every job will allow you the opportunity to read about opiate overdoses from the late 1800’s. Instead, some jobs will force you to sit at a cubicle with an uncomfortable headset on for hours on end. That’s exactly what was required of me and my colleagues when I worked for just five weeks last summer as an “Annual Fund Student Caller.” Yes, I was that annoying stranger calling your home at 8:00 p.m. on a Thursday to ask you to donate money to the school you graduated from in 1979. I’m sorry. Trust me, I didn’t want to be “interrupting your program” either.
Don’t get me wrong, my boss tried to make the job bearable, even exciting. During our training, she told us that the bulk of our job was to connect with the potential donor by looking through their file, which appeared on screen, to find out what clubs they’d been in while at Denison. Before making “the ask,” the term used for the dollar amount suggested for alums to donate, the student caller had to build connections with complete strangers based on decades old information. No one wants to be called by a stranger who clearly wants money. What’s worse though, is having to listen to a kid talk to you about lacrosse when you just want to tell them you’re not interested in giving them anything.
Luckily enough for the callers, nearly 80% of alumni don’t answer the phone. We don’t leave voicemails, except to say thank you for making a previous donation. Often times those who we called to thank were confused--they thought for sure that we wanted even more money. I also found that the only people who wanted to stay on the phone with us were the alums from the fifties, a.k.a. the adorable old people. These people could barely hear us, but they actually enjoyed our conversations and, for the most part, were extremely polite.
The craziest part of the job, besides the rarity of some wacko yelling at you for continuing to call them, was that we had to call people who had dropped out. Why on earth would a drop-out or a transfer want to give the school money? I just don’t understand! Furthermore, it was extremely uncomfortable to have to ask people for the specific dollar amount suggested on-screen. This number was calculated carefully based on estimated annual income and past donation amounts. Nonetheless, I had a hard time squeezing out the words, “Would you be comfortable pledging $4,300 this evening?” Cringe.
Of course the monotony of this job could become crippling. I spent many hours each evening drawing or doing word searches, an activity I did not imagine I’d enjoy until I was at least 60-years-old. We were not allowed to have phones in the calling area for security purposes, as we had access to credit card information in the room. Callers received ten minute breaks every hour and a half or so, and we did have candy and pop available to us each night. These “luxuries” only went so far in keeping me from going off the deep end.
It got to the point of me welcoming a system crash. As much as Mrs. Smith from Newport didn’t want to talk to me, I did not want to talk to her either. I hated to hear all the annoyed “no’s,” the hang-ups and the depressing excuses. It was super uncomfortable to ask a recently unemployed alum to donate--this info isn’t in our system! In short, being a “cold-caller” for the Annual Fund, even for just five weeks, quickly became the bane of my existence. No matter how difficult it is to break into the job market post-graduation, I don’t think I can bring myself to work as a telemarketer ever again.