By Emily Wood Roque Cisneros
“Hi, my name is Nick. I’m a freshman calling from Union College. May I speak with Karen?”
If you’re an alumnus, parent or friend of Union, you’ve likely heard a similar opening line. He’s not a telemarketer or machine. Nick is a current student at Union College.
Nick Lawrence, a freshman social science education major, is one of 13 students employed for Union’s annual phonathon. From September through November, phonathon callers make more than 500 calls each evening to share campus news and ask for gifts to support the college’s future. Their goal this year? To raise $85,000 for the annual fund.
Many students join phonathon looking for a job and gain more than just a new line on their résumé. Lawrence knew phonathon would help his communication skills, but he didn’t realize what else he would learn—feeling comfortable talking with strangers, keeping a positive outlook and networking, to name a few.
“Phonathon trains students how to negotiate, which I see prepping me for when I negotiate my salary in a future job,” Lawrence shared. “I’m also more aware of thinking on my feet and adapting to any kind of situation. I never know what people are going to say or ask.”
Time management is another skill Lawrence is trying to perfect while working. “I have to make sure I’m getting in enough calls each shift, but I also don’t want to cut conversations short,” he explained.
Occasionally, Lawrence receives negativity. “I try to understand their problems,” he said. “I’m constantly thinking, ‘How can I make this conversation better?’” Handling rejection and learning to persevere are two of the major hurdles callers have to overcome.
Before ending a call, he also asks for prayer requests. “Keeping a spiritual focus helps me stay motivated during long shifts when no one is answering or giving a gift.”
Lawrence credits his fellow callers for encouraging him and making work lively. “I’m getting to know people more than I would in a classroom,” he said. “I appreciate Union more than I did when I first came on campus.”
Aside from the life skills Lawrence refines while working, he takes pride in knowing the gifts go toward a good cause. “The more funds we raise, the better Union will be.”