The first days at college can be nerve-racking for even the most carefree individual. However, my stressors didn't end with reading mile-long syllabuses and sharing a room with strangers; I also focused on what I would do for work as soon as I stepped on campus. In my teenage years, I watched people's pets when they went on vacation, cut neighbors' lawns, and did odd jobs to fund my many passions. I was constantly working. So, by the time I got to college, it was second nature to seek a job.
I spotted a bright yellow flier in the student center stating, "Get paid to talk on the phone." I thought, "That has to be too good to be true." It wasn't. I applied for a position at my university's phonathon. Some colleges refer to it as a telefund, but, at the end of the day, it's a fundraising program where students call alums (and sometimes parents and friends) to update them on the latest happenings at the university, invite them back to campus for events like homecoming, and ultimately ask them to support their alma mater.
I got the job and received training on how to raise funds like a pro. I've retained a few of the mantras decades later, such as "smile as you dial" and "persistence breaks down resistance." Every night, I would put on my trusty headset, log into CampusCall, and call hundreds of individuals to ask them to make a gift to the President's Society, all at the age of 18. I love the human condition, so it was great connecting with people who once sat in the same classrooms as me, but it wasn't always easy. I received advice and occasionally got hung up on, but I received hundreds of pledges and gifts, and generally felt good I was helping provide my fellow students with scholarships, new athletic equipment, and more. I did so well that I was promoted to supervisor after the first year, training new team members on how to develop rapport, raise funds, and steward the contributions received. In parallel, I interned at a radio station and a technology-focused PR firm. My work developed into a graduate assistantship, where I managed the calling program while getting my masters in corporate and public communication.
I graduated during the Great Recession. So it was a no-brainer to accept a full-time job with my alma mater's annual fund when offered. I hustled, taking freelance production gigs for a local marketing firm. My role at the university expanded, and I began to oversee the direct mail program, email marketing, employee giving, and an emerging social media presence. I was excited to combine my fundraising experience with my passions for production, including web and graphic design and audio and video production.
I excelled and received several national awards for design and communications. Recruiters periodically contacted me. Most were ignored, but I couldn't ignore outreach on behalf of Smile Train, the world's largest cleft charity. I joined the team as the Senior Manager of Digital Marketing. Over the next six years, I led the team through a brand refresh, website redesign, database migration, and too many to count campaigns, ending my time with the title of Senior Director of Marketing Infrastructure.