Rider freshman Sharon Buchnik during the Phonathon.

When Rider freshman Sharon Buchnik picked up the phone to call Joseph Kelly ’91 as part of the student Phonathon in early March, she thought she might secure a donation for the Annual Fund. Buchnik had no idea that the reward would be even greater.

After a 20 minute conversation with the Human Resource management major, Kelly, the chief operating officer of Talon Professional Services, not only made a donation, but saw a fit for Buchnik within his company. After a follow-up interview during spring break, Kelly offered her a summer internship.

“Typically, it’s rare that I would stay on the phone with somebody, but what she did was impressive,” Kelly said. “She was able to use the information she was given about my background to break down the barrier that usually exists between people and quickly form a bond.”

As part of the student Phonathon, volunteers refer to a sheet of background information about each Rider graduate, including their class year, degree, campus interests and professional job titles.

“When you call them, the first thing they think of is money, so you try to get the topic off their head and give updates about the University,” Buchnik explained. “You try to have a personal conversation.”

During Buchnik’s talk with Kelly, they covered everything from Buchnik’s career interests and Kelly’s profession to the fact that Buchnik was pledging the same sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha, that Kelly’s wife, Cheryl Eberbsach Kelly ’90, had belonged to as an undergraduate.

“In a short amount of time she was able to get my attention by developing a common bond,” Kelly said. “It’s really not a skill learned. It’s typically something someone possesses — a lot of the time without them knowing it. It’s a rare skill to have.”

Mary Workman, assistant director of Annual Giving, said Buchnik is one of her top callers.

“As far as I know, this is the first time that a student volunteer has been offered such an opportunity through Phonathon,” Workman said.

Located in Princeton, N.J., Talon Professional Services requires employees to have those skills because a large part of their job responsibility is making phone calls with potential clients, said Kelly, who earned a degree in Marketing from Rider. The company typically does not offer internships, but Kelly said it was considering an internship for this summer and he was planning to reach out to his alma mater before he spoke with Buchnik.

While Buchnik has an interest in human resource management, Kelly thinks her phone skills lend themselves to the sales side of a business, and has tried to structure the internship so she will get experience in both fields. For part of the internship, Buchnik will work with the internal operations manager in the company’s human resources department. She will also make phone calls to potential clients and set up appointments for account executives.

“Hopefully, it will give her some experience that she can use later in her career,” Kelly said.

Similar to Buchnik, Kelly  was unaware of his sales skills until he met a woman from a staffing firm, who later became his mentor. She offered him a position at Pomerantz Staffing Services, now CoWorxs, where he eventually became an associate vice president before starting his post at Talon in 2007.

“Sometimes what you want to do is not necessarily what you would be best at – sometimes you don’t know until someone tells you,” he said.