In celebration of Student Employment Month, CES invited current supervisors who served as student staff members during their time at Puget Sound to talk about how their on-campus employment impacted their career path.
Between classes, work, and co-curricular activities, Puget Sound students tend to have packed schedules. And when you don’t have a lot of down time, it’s easy to focus on accomplishing the task at hand without recognizing how you’re being affected by the experience.
When Nichole Lindquist-Kleissler ’15 began work as a Phonathon Caller, the role challenged her in ways she didn’t expect. The act of reflecting—of intentionally evaluating both the skills she possessed and the strengths she was developing—brought her to a new understanding of herself and of her goals for work and life beyond Puget Sound. Now, as Assistant Director in the Office of Annual Giving, Nichole can easily connect the dots of her journey from student to supervisor.
CES: Please describe your student staff member roles and what you most enjoyed and/or found challenging.
Nicole: I worked as a Phonathon Caller and then a Phonathon Manager as a student. As a Phonathon Caller, I was responsible for calling alumni and parents, building rapport about their experiences with the university, and soliciting them for a gift to the Puget Sound Fund. As a Manager, I was responsible for tracking and maintaining program statistics and for managing shifts of 13 students, alongside my fellow Managers.
I enjoyed knowing what the impact of my work was and that it was important—Phonathon was very tangible in that we could identify the exact results of our work—dollars raised, contacts made, etc. I also enjoyed the team dynamic of the program—particularly when I became a Manager and was able to develop relationships as part of a management team and as a supervisor overseeing an entire shift.
Mostly, I enjoyed how much I grew in both positions. Phonathon challenged me in many ways and the nature of the work forced me to develop and hone new skills and broaden my comfort zone. I left with incredible professional experience and as a much more confident, well-rounded, and competent individual and employee.
I didn’t enjoy calling people and asking them for money when I first started working at the Phonathon. I found it very difficult and took conversations very personally. It forced me to confront what was “comfortable” for me, but through persevering and succeeding at something that was initially very challenging, I realized how applicable some of my greatest strengths were to the job. As a result, I became better at adapting my strengths to different situations.
As a Manager, I didn’t enjoy having to navigate relationships that were both professional and personal. There were a few individuals who I was friends and co-workers with, and sometimes that personal relationship made it difficult or unpleasant to perform my job in relation to them. However, that was great experience and taught me how to communicate in a variety of delicate situations.
CES: How did those early work experiences in Phonathon impact your career path?
Nicole: Well I’m back where it all began, so it had a big impact! I don’t know if I’ve ever grown more in a role than I did as a Phonathon employee. I gained and strengthened so many skills in a relatively short period of time. It also broadened my horizons of what I could pursue because I ended up being very good at something that I didn’t think I had the skill set for. As a result, I look at situations and careers differently and I’m able to re-frame a job description and see where my skills overlap.
I also learned a lot about what I enjoyed doing in a job and knew what I was not interested in pursuing. Most importantly, it made me want to work for a company or a mission that I believed in and that was bigger than me. I didn’t set out to work in fundraising, but I discovered that it was everything I was looking for.
CES: How did those experiences impact the way you approach supervision of students now?
Nicole: I saw (and was a part of) a lot of really good communication and really bad communication as a student employee—both when I was being supervised by Managers and Staff Members, and when I was the one managing. I believe I am extra thoughtful about the ways in which I communicate with my students and the ways in which I coach my student Managers to communicate and interact with Callers.
As a supervisor, I do my best to stay organized and be as responsive as I can be to my students so that they don’t ever feel like they aren’t a priority. Conversely, I also work to help them understand their place in the larger picture of Annual Giving, University Relations, and the university. I didn’t have a lot of awareness of those dynamics when I was a student and I think it would have benefited me and my peers to think beyond each shift to more long-term results and aims.
CES: Anything else you’d like to share about your student or supervisory role?
Nicole: In my experience, students don’t acknowledge the full extent of skills they use in a given job. In hindsight, I didn’t either. Every job teaches you something and has value, even if it’s not exciting. The hardest jobs are particularly rewarding—in both the short term and the long term. Try it! Even if you don’t think you’ll be good at it, give it a chance because you never know! I stayed with a job that was truly challenging for me and gained a unique and valuable set of skills, grew as a person, and found a field of work that I love and that exercises just about every part of my brain and interests.
Photos courtesy of Nichole Lindquist-Kleissler
© 2019 Career and Employment Services, University of Puget Sound