When beginning any new experience there is always a learning curve. Whether you come into said experience having done something very similar or with no knowledge of the topic once so ever, you are bound to make mistakes. This was the way my internship at Columbia University began. I am a Research Assistant for the Global Psychiatric Epidemiology Group located in the New York State Psychiatric Institute. The beginning on the internship began as any other, training, mingling, ice breakers etc. From there we were thrown into the experience: recruiting, researching, and running the study. I went in believing that I was set; I’d been in multiple research labs and felt prepared for anything they could throw at me, that was not exactly the case.
I have always been an outgoing person, able to talk to anyone about anything, and I’ve been told I’ve got the skill to sell Ice to a polar bear. With this in mind I immediately thought recruitment would be my strongest field. On the first day of recruitment calls I was set up with a stack of files and told to call them…all of them…on my own. I picked up the phone and began dialing, prepared to jump right in with my spiel and sign up some families. My first call didn’t answer, no big deal, call the next case. The second case was where I was thrown through a loop. No, they didn’t want to participate. No, they didn’t care what I had to say, and no, I could not call back later. I was so thrown off, I had started the conversation cheery and excited. What had I done wrong? I began to second guess my instincts but decided to push it aside and try another case. My supervisor came around to watch me and observe how I did, the family picked up and thankfully they allowed me to explain what I was calling for. Then came the excuses, as I tried desperately to keep them on the line I could feel myself losing them. I thought I saw disappointment in my supervisor’s eyes as she realized I would not be scheduling that family and walked away.
All the other interns said I did well. I was sure they were just being nice but then something amazing happened. I was picked! That had been a test and I had passed. The recruitment supervisor wanted to see how determined we were and how well we described the study, and based on my performance I was chosen to join the recruitment team. I was elated!
My prize you ask? A stack the size of two thesauruses worth of cases to call and a chance to prove I could schedule these families.
My first day of “real” calling I scheduled two families – I promise this is good – and it has been one of my favorite parts of the job since.