Category Archives: Job

Introvert In A Call Center Part 2

It’s time for a topic revisit from when I first started working at a call center.  If you recall from part 1 of this topic, I was having a hard time coping with literally being paid to be social for 8 hours a day and needing time to myself, as an introvert.  I’m back for part 2 now to let you all, my dear readers, know how I’ve been handling a job where all I do is talk on the phone all day.

The first thing I had to learn and take to heart is that I cannot internalize things the callers say to me or even the things they call me.  For example, just last week I had a caller who called me a fucking moron because I told her she did not have a Medicare account with us.  The call didn’t last much longer than that, but it was upsetting.  Even when I’ve had to deal with people like that day in and day out, it will always be upsetting.  But you know what?  I had to deal with that entitled asshole of a customer for less than 10 minutes.  She has to deal with her insurance issues for hours, days, and hopefully even weeks.  She’s not worth my time outside of work to worry about.

The trick is, when you get a call that upsets you, it’s totally fine to take a minute or two after the call and take a few deep breaths.  Take a long swig of water or soda or coffee or whatever it is you drink.  Go take a bathroom break, even if all you do is get away from the phone for a few minutes.  If someone calls you out on it, all you have to do is say you had a bad call.  I promise, everyone who has ever worked at a call center will understand and let you take a couple of moments to calm down and let it go.

The other side of the coin is that you need to take the kind things customers say to heart.  If someone is thanking you for helping them, even if all you did was click a few buttons and get their medication refilled, they are being sincere.  It may not seem like a big deal to you, but sharing that one little piece of information like that they can get up to a 14 day supply at the local pharmacy while waiting for their 90 day supply through the mail order pharmacy can make someone’s day, even their week.

Yes, more often than not, you’ll get calls where the caller won’t even realize they’re yelling at a real person, but those calls were the caller realizes it and then goes a step farther by acknowledging the fact that you are indeed a human being are going to make the job bearable.

If you’re worried about the physical act of having to answer the phone every time it rings, the whole process does become automatic.  Also, you don’t even physically answer the phones, the call just sort of comes in.  No real way to avoid it.  At my job, it’s this little beep-beep and then we’re on with our “Thank you for calling.  This is Kate.  How can I help you?”  It gets easier and easier the more you repeat the process.  I’ve been at my job for 8 months now, and each time I take a call, I begin automatically.  In fact, I move through the majority of my calls pretty much on autopilot.

Working at a job where all you do is talk on the phones, making and taking phone calls outside of work becomes even more of a daunting task.  It is nice, though, when you can relate to the person answering the phone at your bank or when you call the electric company.  It makes those calls seem less like you’re talking to some stranger and more like you’re talking to a comrade-in-arms (because, let’s face it, it’s a war on those phones – fighting customers who think they’re right but aren’t, trying to help those that have been wronged by the system, and moving through the seemingly constant verbal barrage of insults and complaints).

You’re friends, family, and loved ones will at least attempt to understand you need a good hour or more of silence or minimal conversation upon arriving home.  I’m lucky my boyfriend works in the same call center I do.  We have a mutual understanding that the drive home will only consist of very basic “what do you want for dinners” and whatever music is playing on the radio.  You may need to explain to family or roommates once or twice that all you do all day is talk, you need time to not talk.  And I mean that – you need physical time to rest your vocal chords.  You will get sore throat after sore throat and loose your voice on a monthly, even weekly basis.  Once whoever you live with sees the physical side effects of literally talking for 8 hours straight, they’ll let you rest up your voice a bit before asking again how your day was and the like.

So far, being an introvert at a call center isn’t an impossible thing to do.  It does just take some time to get used to it all and to learn coping mechanisms for dealing with the constant socialization.  Expect more posts on the topic as I learn more about it through first hand experience.

Forever Student

The APAC site I work at is changing the type of calls that it mainly takes.  That means we all have a new round of training to go through.  Super fun!

In fact, I just started training yesterday.  We’re being trained on Medicare Part D.  And holy shit, is Medicare complicated!  Lord have mercy on my poor soul when I turn 65.  After two days, my head is spinning around and around.  I’m just waiting for it to puke and pass out at this point.

I probably won’t really understand any of this anyway until I start taking calls.  Four parts, four stages of coverage in one of those parts – right now it’s just a mess of numbers and stages and random information.  So until I’m able to get into an account and answer real questions that real people have,  it’s just not going to click for me.  It was like that when I trained in regular member services, too.  Nothing clicked until I was on the phones.

And of course, I’m the last group through the training.  So at least there’s tons of people on the floor that already know what they’re doing that I can ask if I need help.  The other good part about training is that I have weekends off for the next two weeks.  That’s two whole days off in a row that I get to spend with Mr. English.  Super bonus!

Have You Tried Turning It Off and On Again?

Tech support.  Well, web support at APAC.  The dredges of most companies.  Happens to be my favorite place to be.  Yeah, the calls might be 20 minutes or better, but no one hardly ever yells at you.  People want your help.  They’re grateful for the simplest things, like resetting a password.

Last week, I was pulled from training to train in web support.  I’ve spent my time at work since then in web support and loved every second of it.  Some of my fellow trainees don’t like it as much as I do, but I will take explaining what an address bar is to a 73 year old lady over being yelled at by a 54 year old man for not covering his viagra (pro tip: I don’t make the rules on what drugs get covered, that would be your benefit office) any day of the week thank you very much.  Mornings start out slow with 10 to 15 minutes between calls.  The pace picks up around lunch and then again after work, but I like having those ups and downs in call volume.  It gives me a chance to breath and reset myself.

If you didn’t already know, I was hired to work member services.  This entails ordering refills, making payments, eligibility questions, drug coverage questions, locating a shipment, reimbursements, why a pharmacy didn’t process a prescription, doctors calling in to check on the status of prescriptions, insurance calling to check on deductibles… The list goes on and on.  When I got transitioned to web services, I reset passwords, walked members through deleting cookies from their browsers, registered people for the website, and helped navigate around said website.  That’s four things compared to the million things in member services.

On top of that, I feel more in control when I’m working web.  There’s only so many things that can go wrong and I can fix almost all of them.  Whereas in member, it could literally be anything that’s the problem and 80% of the time, I can’t do anything to fix it except for apologize until the caller hangs up.  Some people like the challenges that come with taking member services calls.  I enjoy the challenges that come with taking web support calls.  Explaining what a browser is to an 80 year old man who ends the call by thanking you profusely and repeatedly acknowledging that you deserve a raise (did you hear that, team leads that listen to my calls?  Mr. Smith thinks I deserve a raise!) is something I can handle and enjoy handling.

Unfortunately, as of today, I got put back in member services.  But don’t worry, dear readers.  You can bet money I won’t shut up about how much I love web support until I get put back in web support.

Introvert in a Call Center

As you may or may not know, an introvert, dear readers, is a person who spends energy engaging in social interactions.  The opposite, an extrovert, gains energy from social interactions.  Now, that’s not to say introverts don’t enjoy being social.  It’s just that introverts need a little time to ourselves after being social.

You might have guessed that I am an introvert.  I know, I know, how could I possibly be an introvert?  I seem so outgoing and friendly, right?!  Well, I am, so there.  I’m an introvert and I work at a call center taking inbound calls.  My job is for me to be social 100% of the time.  I have to talk to people 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.  For me, this takes a tremendous amount of energy.

Before I even got on the phones I was getting antsy for time alone by lunch.  There were 15 of us crammed into a small training room.  There is no escaping people here at work.  Even if my phone calls are only about 5 -10 minutes long in terms of time spent speaking to the customer (as opposed to placing them on hold and asking one of the team leads “What the hell am I supposed to do?!?”), it’s too much social interaction for me.

And I feel bad because by the time I get home, I’ve got right around zero tolerance for being social and of course my parents want to know how my day went and the like.  Because they’re my parents and I love them (and they usually have dinner ready by the time I get home), I want to know how their days have gone, too.  I’m able to call upon a small reserve of energy to chat for a little while.  But then I need need NEED time by myself or I feel like I’m going to snap and start murdering people.  Or at least calling them some very nasty names.

As of right now, I feel like I don’t get enough time to myself.  I go to bed earlier and earlier and that doesn’t really refill my energy level in terms of being social.  I just need some time to myself to cuddle with my kittens, work on a project, or just zone out in front of the TV for a while.  And going to bed at 8:30 when I get home around 6 doesn’t really make for a lot of ‘me’ time.

So my challenge is to find a work/life balance.  I’ve never had to do that before.  Every other job I’ve had before this was while I was also in school, where I could way more easily fit time to myself into my schedule.  I need to work on finding that sweet spot between getting paid and being happy and relaxed.  I’m hoping the change to my regular schedule in a couple of weeks will help with that, since I won’t have to get up so early and I can have mornings to myself.  Until then, I’ll just have to try to maybe stay up a little later to recharge my social batteries.

Weekly Update #6

Okay!  So I’m back from Seattle and even though I have a few more days of stressing out over moving and working and all sorts of other things, I wanted to get a post up.  If I didn’t post today, I wouldn’t get to post until Monday, which won’t work for me since I want to start a new posting schedule with a bunch of different posts and stuff.  My free time on the plane to and from Seattle was well spent!

First up, I’m sure you’re all dying to know about how the interview went.  It went really well!  Very long, and also the most stressful and terrifying thing I’ve ever done, but I’m pretty sure it went well.  This was the most intense job interview I’ve ever experienced, so let me go into excruciating detail for you, my lovely readers.

You’ve all read about the application process in my previous posts.  Well, there was even more “application” work for this interview.  After I confirmed my interview date, I was sent four packets of information and things I needed to fill out.  Which included a 12 page booklet about ECC’s history and inner workings and an application very similar to the online version I had already filled out.  I was also required to bring a long-form CV and a short-form CV, as well as references, a copy of several pages of my passport, and copies of my three degrees.  That was a lot to get done, considering I didn’t have my diplomas or my passport here in MN with me.  Happily, I got it all done, figured out just what a CV was (it’s a curriculum vitae, which is a more academic version of a resume), figured out how to write a CV, bugged a bunch of people over whether they’d be okay with being a reference for me, and put it all together in a neat folder.

Then, came D-Day.  September 24, 2013.  A day that will live in infamy, at least in my mind.  I woke up at 4 AM, showered, took my time getting dressed and doing my hair and makeup, made sure I had everything I needed for the day, then I left around 9:15 AM.  I was only a block away from where the interview was being held, but we were told to be there around 9:30 or so, ideally starting the whole process at 10 AM.  But I was desperate at that point for some caffeine, so I left earlier to find my way to a Starbucks and get some sweet, sweet coffee.

When I got to the Westin (the hotel where the interview was), I finally met John, who I’d been emailing with, and Dustin, the HR head honcho.  They had us fill out yet another sort of application while we waited for everyone to show up.  There were eleven of us all together and we got going right at 10 AM with the two hour long information presentation.  I took notes, but most of it was stuff I’d already gone over in the booklet they’d sent.  Not too bad, if a bit long and slightly boring.

Then, slight break and then the grammar test.  100 questions, multiple choice, needed 70 to pass and proceed with the interview process.  Doesn’t sound too bad until your future is depending on you knowing what a modal verb is (hint: I still don’t) and knowing some teaching terms like realia.  I passed, but four people got cut.  That left seven of us after lunch for the teaching demonstrations.  I was placed in a group of three and we were given “run” “jump” “skip” “hop” etc to teach, along with the “Can you [blank]?” “Yes, I can./No, I can’t.” thing.  Anne had told me that you just need to be energetic and willing to make a fool of yourself (which I do on a daily basis).  So, I was energetic and very much made a fool of myself.  I got the “students” (the other potential hires) to laugh, and I’m pretty sure I got John to crack a smile when I was trying to teach “Can you walk?” “No, I can’t.” I took a step and fell to the ground and crawled on my hands and knees – “No, I can’t.”

After that, there was another break of sorts where the remaining potential hires got to sit outside while John and Dustin debated over whether to continue with each one of us or to send us packing.  We laughed to keep from crying, and three more of us got cut.  That left me, two other girls, and a guy.  Four of us.  Out of eleven, we were now four.  We did our one-on-one interviews and then that was it.  That was the end of the day.  And the kicker is we STILL don’t know whether or not we got the job.  We won’t know for nearly two weeks.  The earliest I’ll know, John told me, is by October 8th.  And that’s just if they want to offer me a job.  I might not know when and where until 90 days before I would leave.  I still get to sit and worry over my future until October 8th.  Awesome!

But to relieve that stress, the four survivors went out for dinner and drinks.  It was nice to hang out with them outside of the interview setting and blow off some steam.  They’re all cool people – Miranda, Charles, and Cheryl – and I wish them the absolute best!  I hope we all make it over to Japan, so we can get a round together again.  Besides, I owe Cheryl two drinks since she was unable to partake with us that evening.

Well, this post is already too long, so I’ll leave my update at that.  I’m stress-sick now, too, so I need to nurse my poor sinuses.  On top of that, I move home to IA shortly and that’ll be a whole ‘nother thing to post about.  So, look forward to that, dear readers!

However it goes, enjoy the journey.

-Kate

Dollars and Sense

So, I have my confirmed interview date from ECC as September 24th in Seattle, WA.  Now, I don’t know if you remember, but I live in the Midwest.  Specifically Minneapolis.  That’s a little far away.  And by “a little” I mean it’s a 2 day drive at least.  If I were to drive.  The other interview locations are all just as far away from home base for me.  San Francisco, New York, and Toronto.  All out on the coasts.  I kind of wish ECC had a location in Chicago.  That would make life way easier for me and everyone else from the center of the US who wanted to apply.

My plan is to fly out to Seattle the day before my interview, and fly back home the day after.  This requires a plane ticket and a hotel room.  As well as money for food and cost of transportation to and from the airport.  And if I land the job, there’s even more money I need to throw at a plane ticket to Japan and an apartment and all the other costs which come with moving, let alone moving to a different country.  On top of all of that, I have student loans looming over my head.  I have bills to pay and currently have zero money coming in to offset those costs.

So what can I do to at least try and make ends meet?  I’ve lucked out on having basically the best parents out there.  They’ve been helping me financially since I got out of school and haven’t been able to find a job.  But I know I can’t rely on them for much longer.  They have their own bills to pay.  My current lease is up at the end of September, so I’m doing something I swore to myself that I would never absolutely ever do:

I’m moving back home.

I was of the mindset that I’d live on the street before I moved back home.  There’s a lot of reasons I was set on never doing this.  The biggest reason being as that I saw moving back in with your parents meant that you failed.  You failed at being a functioning adult.  You failed at living your dream.  You just failed in every way you possibly could fail.  And failure – even the mere idea of it – terrifies me.  I still struggle with failure and my attitude towards it, and I still struggle with the decision I’ve made to move home.  But I know it’s something I’ve just got to bite the bullet and do.  I can’t save any money when I do get a job if I have to spend all that money on rent and electricity and internet and whatnot.

I recognize that living with my parents for a while again is financially necessary for me.  And even though I don’t think I’ll ever really be comfortable with the idea, I just keep telling myself that it’s only until I can move to Japan.  I’m fairly confident that I’ll do well in my ECC interview and will land the job.  Then it’s just a matter of getting a start date.  If I had my choice, I’d move over in March.  I feel like that would give me enough time to find a job in IA and save up the money required to get myself and my stuff to Japan without pushing my limits on living with my parents again.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents and I’m beyond grateful to them for helping me out at this rough time in my life.  But I am 25 and I’ve been living on my own since I started college (the first time) in 2006.  I’m used to having my own schedule and living my own way.  I’m worried that I might clash with my parents over that sort of thing.

I already get frustrated with my father over silly things that don’t matter in the long run.  For example, he suggested I contact a cousin of mine who has a teaching degree and teaches ESL in Indonesia.  Which is a fine idea, one I will probably end up doing, but the way it was suggested to me made me feel like he wasn’t just suggesting, but telling me that I needed to do this.  We got into a bit of a fight then because I mentioned that my best friend already works for ECC (the company I’m applying to) and has gone through the exact same application process I will be going through.  Then we butted heads about how I should contact my cousin – email or Facebook.  My dad said email because he said my cousin might not like having a conversation like that in a place where the whole public can see.  But, Facebook does have private messaging, as I mentioned, and since my cousin is the same age as me, probably is quicker to respond via Facebook than via email.  It boils down to my father wanting to help me in every way he can and coming across as wanting to control how I do things while all I want is for him to be supportive of my choices and decisions while letting me make my own mistakes and letting me do things in my own time and on my own terms.

So while I’m going to get frustrated with Dad over this, I’m going to ask him to help me keep a budget to save as much money as I can while I’m living at home.  I know I’ve never been good at managing my money or sticking to a budget.  But I want to give myself the best start in Japan, and I know the amount of money I can stockpile will play a key part in that.  I know my downfalls whenever I try to create a budget is that I don’t write down every single thing I spend money on.  I’ll leave off the $5 I spend at CVS on snacks that I don’t really need.  I’ll forget to write down the lunch I grabbed while I was out running errands because I didn’t bring my designated budget notebook with me.  And next thing I know I’ll glance at my little budget notebook as I carry in groceries or pull out my guilty book buy that I “didn’t intend” on buying but really did intend on buying.

The other big thing that kills my budgeting plan before it even gets started is that I typically use my debit or credit cards instead of cash.  It’s very true that it’s easy to overspend if you’re not physically handing paper money over to the cashier.  If I’m paying by card, yeah, I’ll throw that box of tea I’ve been meaning to try in my cart without even glancing at the price.  But when I’ve got $30 in my wallet and I need milk, bread, and eggs, then I’m only getting milk, bread, and eggs, no matter how longingly I stare at the pint of ice cream on sale.  Okay, well, maybe if it’s on sale…  But then I can’t afford coffee when my friends want to hang out downtown and catch up.

If you have similar poor spending habits, might I suggest the envelope system?  I’m going to try this once I have income to try it with.  In Japan, it’s a very cash-based society.  I hardly ever used my debit card, unless I was withdrawing money for the weekend or whatever.  But I tended to spend more wisely and think twice and twice again about the things I was buying because I was handing over cash.  And when a coin says “100” on it, even if it’s only the equivalent of US$1, it feels like it’s worth more, silly as it may seem.

So I think I’ll just leave this post about budgeting and save my fury over the ridiculously low minimum wage for another day.

However much it costs, enjoy the journey.

-Kate

Thank You For Your Consideration

Last Tuesday night I filled out and sent in an application for ECC.  It was incredibly nerve-wracking to sit there and try to answer questions like “Describe your personality/character” and make the little teaching experience I have seem like I have a good grasp of what I’m doing in a classroom.  Thankfully, my friend Anne was there to help me out.  She’s worked for ECC for three years and knows what the company is looking for in a teacher.

The application process is entirely online.  After you submit your application and double-check the information you entered and submit it again, the website informs you that you’ll get a reply in 12 days, if you’re chosen by the powers that be in the ECC hiring hierarchy.  Seeing as I submitted my application around 9 PM, I figured no one would start processing it until Wednesday morning.  So, 12 days from the date I submitted myself for the consideration of ECC – July 31 – ends up falling on Sunday, August 11th.  But, me being typical overly nervous, constantly over-thinking me, obviously need to compensate for weekends, even if ECC’s website doesn’t explicitly say “business days.”  That gives me until August 15th before I start freaking out and crying about not getting the job.

However, as Anne informed me, this “12 day” reply policy is not very strict.  According to her, she got her invitation to an interview after the 12 day period.  And there’s apparently a similar time restraint on hearing back after your interview.  Which also seems to not apply in some cases.  Like Anne’s case.  She didn’t get a job offer until after the “we will reply to you within XX days” deadline.

This all means that I am going to worry unnecessarily until I have a clear, definitive answer as to whether or not I can continue in ECC’s hiring process.  Getting this job will change my life.  And I’m not being dramatic.  It’s either get this job now or move back in with my parents to save money.  One thing is clearly preferable over the other.  (Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents and I’m beyond grateful that they’re willing and able to help me out).  So, until I know for sure what my future holds, I’m going to sit here and have a mini heart attack every time my phone alerts me that I have a new email.  I’m going to rack my brain trying to remember if I mistyped my email address (I know for a fact that I didn’t, but facts don’t matter to my nerves).  I’m going to count down the days, the hours, the very minutes until I get a reply.  Or don’t get a reply.

This is the most nervous I’ve ever been about a job.  I just need to breathe and believe I put forth my best face on my application.  If I don’t get an interview, then I’ll just have to apply and try again.  I need to remember that one rejection does not mean I should give up.

Whatever happens, enjoy the journey.

Kate