The University of Illinois Foundation is, once again, hiring students to do telemarketing. It pays $10/hour and offers flexible hours right here on the Quad. Despite these advantages, the turnover in employees is so great that they have to hire every few months and even have a Facebook page dedicated to that endeavor. The work involves calling alumni to ask for donations, and many students find it grueling and demoralizing. You get told “No” a LOT. Many people do it for a few weeks or months and then decide to move on to a part-time job that has less rejection built into it.
So why bring it up here, on a website dedicated to encouraging English department majors to seek out rewarding employment? Simple: even if you have zero interest in telemarketing after you graduate, a stint in one of these jobs can give your career planning a boost: And some people turn out to be good at it and enjoy it.
- Experience. A lot of of rewarding jobs–in organizations ranging from nonprofit arts or social outreach agencies to political organizations and start-up companies–involve fundraising. It helps to be able to tell employers that you’ve had some experience and know what it feels like to ask people for money, even if it’s not the main duty of the position.
- Applied English Skills! In your classes, you learn a lot about rhetorical strategies, persuasion, audience, reading what is not said–as well as what is said, connecting to characters and situations very different from your own. These jobs require you do do all those things, but in real time with real stakes. Even if you don’t enjoy it, you’ll emerge with a better sense of how and where you’d prefer to apply those skills.
- Self-knowledge. You might be good at it. Fundraising is one of those talents–like writing rhymed verse or playing a musical instrument–that you can’t know you have until you give it a try. Unlike those other things, though, you can get paid for the time you spend on the venture.
- Life skills. You’ll get a lot of practice dealing with rejection. The sooner in life you can get comfortable with hearing “No” and moving gracefully on to the next conversation, the more opportunities you’ll give yourself to hear “Yes.” A U of I Foundation job can compress a lot of transferable life experience into a relatively short time frame. And you get paid for it.
- Fun! The Foundation values its student employees and does its best to make the experience enjoyable and worthwhile.
- It is, after all, a good cause.