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Working at a call centre could be just the job you need to get yourself a position with more responsibility and authority, straight out of school. That’s because call centres offer plenty of opportunities to students who need flexible work schedules but have ambitions as well.

Call centres are great places to work while you’re pursuing your degree or diploma because you don’t necessarily need a certain educational background to start, says Michael Webster, vice president for the Canadian Call Centre Advisory Group. Webster says while some call centres (like those for pharmaceutical businesses) require a certain knowledge base, most, especially inbound call centres, only require a high school diploma or a general two to three year college business degree.

Even so, a successful call centre agent must possess certain behavioural qualities in order to enjoy their day-to-day work. For instance, being able to deal with the repetitive nature of the job and sitting or standing at a desk for four, five or six hours a day, explains Webster.

“Call centres tend to be very rule oriented environments,” he says. “So, the individual’s work discipline and style needs to line up with that if they are going to be successful, otherwise, they are not going to enjoy the job and find themselves with a poor fit.”

Webster doesn’t forget to mention the aptitudes and skills needed to be an effective agent, such as keyboarding skills, familiarity with systems, an understanding of Microsoft Office products and, of course, being able to multi-task by thinking, talking and typing all at the same time. But working as an agent is just a starting point, Webster says. “Team leaders and people in supervisory positions report to a manager. Those managers are likely reporting to a director, who is responsible and accountable for the level of service, productivity, labour relations, etc. – basically all of those aspects of running and operating a call centre.”

Some, but not all, outbound call centres aim to sell stuff, says Richel Davies, recruitment coordinator for Ipsos Direct (Canada’s largest market research firm) in Winnipeg.

Some outbound callers are reluctant to contact people in the evenings and on the weekends when they are having dinner or watching their favourite TV shows. “There’s definitely a challenge to that, but by giving people the opportunity to voice their opinions we’re often really successful at getting people to participate,” Davies says, adding that surveys which allow respondents to express their dissatisfaction with the services of an airline, a local grocery store, or with a federal government budget announcement, for example, have a lot of impact and make respondents feel empowered.

Do you need a marketing education or work experience background to work for Ipsos? “We don’t have any educational requirements other than you are able to conduct a professional survey,” says Davies.

And how long does one have to be an interviewer before moving up to another position, like a team leader? Davies says it depends on performance, previous experience and opportunity within the company, but if it’s a busy year there will be lots of opportunities for interviewers to move up.

“It’s a great opportunity for a career in the market research industry,” says Davies. “I think the research industry is a fantastic industry to be involved with. We are on the cutting edge of everything and we get to see stuff come through first hand.”

If you’re not keen on making call after call, working for an inbound call centre could be a better fit. Inbound call centre agents answer phone calls from people who actually want to talk to them.

Telebanking specialists at TD Canada Trust handle inbound inquiries for day-to-day banking and recommend appropriate products and services to further help customers achieve their financial goals, says Jennifer Trimmer, business recruitment officer for TD Canada Trust.

“Candidates may not have previously been from TD or have financial experience,” says Trimmer, adding new recruits receive eight weeks of in-class and on-the-job training. But TD does look for candidates with customer service and sales experience.

Telebanking agents get the front line experience and perspective they need to be able to progress into higher level positions, such as resource officers, team managers, skills development coaches and compliance officers, explains Trimmer.

There aren’t many jobs in which you can advance your career while studying, but working as a call centre agent allows you to do exactly that. That’s because many call centres are 24 hour, seven day per week operations.

Just think of the advantage you’d have over your peers if you attained a supervisory or management position during or near the end of your university degree. How about having your own desk, computer and phone, and being able to show your boss how discipline-oriented you are and actually being appreciated for it? Now how would that look on your resumé?

Photo: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Thinkstock