For the past 1.5 years I have been working at the UBC Annual Giving Call Centre, raising funds for the university as a student caller.
I started this position with interest in alumni relations as I am daughter of an alumnus, with a great UBC-family story that changed my life. I also just really wanted a paying part-time job, something I couldn’t do before in high school.
But working at a call centre is somehow seen as a tough feat, something you have to get through with little return especially, for university students trying to build a career path.
Guess what? #fakenews
Confidence is key
Upon starting, little did I know that the call centre would become home, and a hub of growth. Foremost, it became my source of confidence as I talked to hundreds of alumni, pitching various funds. I haven’t been the shy kind at work ever but communicating with a stranger with a goal in hand develops a different kind of confidence – something more uninhibited and determined.
Conversations with alumni are structured yet quite flexible, so talking to them is not any awkward interaction but quite intentional. This means that I became great at starting conversations knowing few basic facts about the person. Where else does one try to do this and often fail? Hint: a room full of suited individuals with just name tags. Yes, at networking events. I feel well-equipped in starting and maintaining an informative conversation with professionals, which helps a lot at university.
Persuasion and perseverance
Ever felt like you give up too soon? You’re gonna stop when you’re so motivated to make some $$$ (bonus is if you do it with conviction). Often politeness and consideration leads us to give up a conversation if the other person is not in board. But as a fundraiser, you are working for a cause and are not only required to but also motivated to maintain a level of persuasion.
Remember, its not the same as coercion.
A bonus is if you also believe in it because then you don’t come across as a pesky marketer someone is trying to get offtheir backs. In my experience, it has at least made me patient and persistent about standing my ground even when it is rough from the other side. Once you get past the initial hesitation, you also become strategic about this persuasion and will naturally weave in solid reasons to back it. This is what is communication, and it pays off in EVERY area of life.
Not only have I met a variety of my university peers through the call centre, I have had conversations with people from all fields. People who love to talk, people who hang up, people who do not understand why we call the on a Sunday morning – it’s all about getting exposed to as many people.
What this does is take away the fear and anxiety of the unknown. I always say to myself, the max awkwardness that is going to happen is they’ll hang up or say I’m calling for donations. They’re not gonna come out of the phone or ever meet me in person.
But there are way more good conversations than bad ones, and each shows me a new way to talk to a new person. Because there is no course on talking to people and it is one thing that saves you everywhere, I have treated this as the greatest lesson so far!