Today marked my bittersweet last day working with the University of Calgary Student Calling Program. It has been an absolute pleasure working with such amazing people for such a fantastic institution. I worked at the SCP for a short time, but it left such an impact that I really wanted to honour that time by writing this post. Now that I’ve found (or rather it’s found me) a love for working with organizations like AAFS (Aspergers Autism Friendship Society) and SFL (Students for Literacy) along with private respite care, I knew my time at the SCP was coming to a close, but I’ll never forget what an amazing opportunity it was.
25 Reasons to Work in a Call Centre
1. There is never a dull moment at a call centre. Okay, there are definitely shifts where you mostly contact answering machines, but there are some INTERESTING people on the other end of that phone line. Sometimes they will be interesting because of their email addresses (like firstname.lastname@example.org) or because of their name (there were times when a person’s name would be 30 letters long, and mostly vowels, or they’d have a colourful name like Charlotte Beaver Bottom). Sometimes their quirks don’t come out until the conversation: “Well, every woman I dated from the U of C died, so I don’t think I’ll be donating this year.” “It’s really boring and lonely in this small town, do you have time to talk?”
2. Your communication skills will never be the same. They will be forever a million times better than before you worked at a call centre.
3. You will have more empathy for people than you ever thought possible, and you will see sides of people that you never expected. “I’m sorry, I can’t talk right now. My dad died this morning.” “My mother can’t come to the phone, she’s dying. But I know that she’d appreciate this call, so I’d like to donate $500 dollars in her name. She really loved the university.” People are surprisingly open and honest with us- the anonymous voices on the phone- sometimes we’re used as punching bags for people unhappy with university administration, sometimes people just need to talk. And every one of those calls is extraordinarily rewarding, and laced with interactions and distant voices you’ll never forget.
4. You will get some of the best advice and encouragement of your entire life. “If you were interviewing at my school, I’d hire you on the spot. You’re going to make an amazing teacher one day.” “I’m so happy to see that you had the courage to take english and do what you love. Not many people can do that.” “I wish every telemarketer was as kind as you.” “Thank you so much for your call. It’s great to see the next generation of UofC students as involved and informed as you.”
5. You will get yelled at, hung up on, sworn at, criticized and blamed for really random things, but you’ll learn to take it, you’ll learn to turn it into a positive conversation, you’ll learn when to listen and when to hang up, and you’ll learn when to pass it on to someone else. (Because no matter what an angry parent says, it’s not your fault that their daughter didn’t get accepted into law school.)
6. Every negative will be outweighed (twice) by a positive. For every angry prospect, every failed call, there will be two people who will say “good job, I wish you all the best,” or “thank you for the call, it was lovely to hear from you.” For every frustrating call there will be another to renew your faith. For every horrifying call where someone is racist or sexist or “doesn’t support the liberal agenda of this generation” there will be another congratulating the school on it’s forward thinking and constant development.
7. You will learn to communicate through language and cultural barriers. When body language is out of the question, you will develop an ear for thick accents, and learn to communicate as effectively as possible.
8. Networking. You will be working alongside students from every faculty, some even graduate students. You will work with international students and native Calgarians. You will make lifelong friends and connections.
9. You will develop an immense sense of pride for your university and all it has to offer to students, faculty, alumni, and the community.
10. You will view the University as a business as well as an institution- you will be able to see the ways in which the university deals with things other than midterms and class sizes, and you will be a better student for it.
11. YOU WILL MAKE THE BEST FRIENDS, EVER. I’m looking at you, Lina, Izzah, Manal, Abeera, Megan, Maria, Megan, Lindy, Aisha, Haleemah, Bobola, Uilst, Thanusha, and Jasleen! When you work such a challenging job in such close quarters, you really come to love your little call centre family!
12. You get to put the University of Calgary on your resume.
13. You get experience working with a computer program like campus call, and get experience working with demographics an data recording.
14. If you stick around, there are opportunities to move up to supervisor positions or work as a researcher. Our boss even worked as a student caller before working as a development associate for annual giving- you can definitely find a career here if you want to.
15. Team bonding! During each break we always take a few minutes to play a game together, like dictionary or mafia, which not only brings us closer, but also allows us to clear our heads before getting back on the phones.
16. You will find that in your day-to-day life, you’ll be less hesitant when asking for help, or support (because asking your boyfriend or your best friend for some down time after a bad day is a lot easier than asking strangers for money). You will become a happier, more fulfilled and assertive person because of it.
17. You will develop an infectious and unrelenting positive attitude. You can’t be a Debbie Downer on calls, and most of the time, that fake smile over the phone translates to real positivity and happiness at work and once you get home.
18. Your sense of pride and professionalism will increase tenfold. You are an ambassador of the university, not just as a student, but also as an employee. This is empowering in itself, and being polite, courteous, and thorough over the phone translates seamlessly into other areas of your life as well.
19. Never again will anxiety grip you when you have to call the doctor, or answer a call from a prospective employer, or do a phone interview. You did this for a living, you GOT this.
20. Your time management skills will soar. Seeing each second pass on a computer screen, and having your potential for being rehired depend on stats like this really makes you conscious of your time and how you choose to spend it, on and off the job.
21. You will learn to take rejection with stride and elegance, and learn to leave a lasting positive impression with each person you speak to, regardless of how the conversation began
22. Your multitasking will reach an expert level: somehow you will learn to read cosmo, record all data, talk to prospects, and update your coworkers on every detail of your midterm stress at the same time.
23. You will learn to listen to concerns, comments, complaints, compliments, and anything else without missing a beat, and while copying the prospects words into the program. In such a technology-absorbed world, we miss out on this pivotal skill.
24. You will always consider the person on the other end of the line when you pick up a call from 1-800 number.
25. You will always have an SCP family to back you up.
**All conversation examples have been altered slightly to protect the privacy of our alumni.
(This post is part one in a series of articles relating to introductory jobs and why you need them.)
Thank you, Shahla, Miranda, Megan, Maria, Lindy, Hana, and Shaunda for absolutely everything!
Side Note/ Edit: I grew up in a very small town where everyone knew my parents, and where my parents themselves ran businesses; needless to say I was never an unemployed teenager. I came to the SCP when I accidentally dyed my hair green and realized I was broke after paying a fortune to fix it! I realized that this was my life and that to fix it I had to make a place for myself outside of Black Diamond, Alberta. So, with nobody’s help or even pressure but that of myself, got myself a job, completely on my own merit. It was a great feeling to have my boyfriend and family express how proud they were of me, but nothing was greater than the sense of pride I had for myself.