I joined York as an English Literature student who had absolutely no clue what career I wanted to do after university. I joined lots of societies in first term, trying journalism, sport, and volunteering but I still felt a bit lost. After Christmas, I spotted an ad for a part-time job on campus for YuCall, a fundraising telethon with student callers, only requiring two shifts a week, and paying really well- I already had work as a waitress in town but first year is expensive! I applied and I’d say, without (much) exaggeration, that it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
I started life in the call room as a student caller, given a weekend of training on conversation, York’s philanthropic mindset, and negotiation skills and began doing a minimum of two shifts per week in a small computer room in James College. The job basically consists of connecting the University with its alumni community, ringing a huge variety of people, ranging from the first cohort of students to students who had graduated in the last five years, from people still living in York to previous US and Canadian students.
It was an incredible job; I’ve always been told that I talked too much and here I was, getting paid for it!
YuCall became a lot more than just a part-time job through the two and a half years that I worked there. I’d previously only worked in hospitality or fast food outlets- this was the first job I had that gave me real career development opportunities, giving me skills and experience that I was actually able to use successfully in dreaded interview scenario questions. Through YuCall, I was able to represent the university at a networking conference in London, and every shift I spoke to alumni who offered me valuable career advice, talked me through my CV, and even gave me contacts for further opportunities. Bill Nighy says “everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t” and this job proved that- I had fascinating conversations with alumni about subjects that I’d never even previously thought of. YuCall introduced me to hundreds of people I wouldn’t have met otherwise- through my phone conversations, but also within the call room itself. I’ve made friends for life- although, one of them did make me do a triathlon last October so I don’t know whether I’d classify her as a ‘friend’ for that! And, like I’ve mentioned, I’ve gotten the chance to interact with hundreds, if not thousands of fascinating alumni over the phone.
I’ve had conversations with alumni about the broadest of subjects; from architecture in small country towns to the educational system in Kenya.
I expanded my knowledge of the university, gaining an awareness of just how much good work the university does for widening access to education and supporting its student body. My friends that didn’t work for YuCall were peripherally conscious of the investment of philanthropy; some had scholarships and knew more, or some had applied for a grant for their society. However, all of them felt the supportive atmosphere of York which I’d argue can be heavily attributed to the incredible donations we receive! As a student, I always felt that if I had a project or needed assistance, the University would encourage and support me until completion. My society, NightSafe, applied for a grant from YuFund to pay for mental health training for our volunteers- something that we felt was essential as our volunteers go out every week to assist with drunk and vulnerable students in the city centre. We received this grant and were able to put it to use; without YuCall I wouldn’t have fully realised the level of support I could access at York, or be able to speak directly to the people making this happen. YuCall gifted me with an opportunity to personally thank and speak to alumni who were keen to make a difference, or just wanted to know a little more!
My experiences in YuCall inspired me and developed my passion and interest for fundraising and working within higher education. The opportunities I had at YuCall helped me to build a firm base for employment post-graduation; I was hired before I even graduated and I’d attribute a lot of my success to the hours of varied, entertaining and at times complex conversations I had at YuCall. These conversations made me a resilient, sociable person, and I can’t thank YuCall, or the vast number of alumni who stayed on the phone with me.
The opportunities I had at YuCall helped me to build a firm base for employment post-graduation; I was hired before I even graduated.
Quite simply, I learned how to talk better, empathise more, and have the best conversations possible with the widest range of people I’ve ever had the chance to meet. I hadn’t realised before university how awkward I felt initially meeting people; in freshers’ I never knew what to say or how to start a conversation and there were a lot of uncomfortable, long silences in kitchenettes across Derwent. Every shift at YuCall developed my ability to initiate, direct, and develop conversations. YuCall gave me a level of confidence that is now the foundation of everything I do.
My degree was enjoyable and it’s the reason I came to York, but YuCall is the reason I enjoyed my university career as much as I did. It was the first job that I had that encouraged me, drove me further, inspired me, and left me feeling fulfilled.