Is Call Center a Dead End Job for Filipino Graduates?

Two fresh graduates talking about their life after school.

Applicant A said, “Landing a job is hopeless. Everywhere I apply, companies always prefer applicants with working experience. How can we gain experience when they won’t even let us in?”

“Same here”, said applicant B. “No such luck in finding any job and I’m running out of allowance. You know I’m thinking maybe I should apply in a call center.”

“Seriously? If I were you I wouldn’t do that!”, exclaimed applicant A.

“Well, I need money, it pays higher, and they’re hiring everywhere.”

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“Yeah, but isn’t it a dead end job?”

Is call center a dead end job?

This is the question I hear all the time and it’s high time we clear this up. Most people, especially outsiders, see call center jobs as a plague everybody should avoid unless you’re desperate for money.

What the heck does a dead end job means, anyway? According to Wikipedia,

A dead end job is a job in which there is little or no chance of career development and advancement into a higher paid position.

For me, this definition just doesn’t add up. Most call center managers and supervisors, started out as call center agents. They worked their way up the company ladder and became leaders and decision makers of their company.

Some even started their own BPO companies. Some learned tons of valuable knowledge they never would’ve learned if they hadn’t worked in a call center (me included).

If anything, working in a call center gives you access to diverse opportunities you couldn’t have accessed in any other jobs.

To those who believe that working in a call center is a dead end job, only suited for college dropouts or graduates who couldn’t find a job in their own field, you are pitifully misinformed.

And I get it from your point of view. To become a call center agent, there isn’t a dedicated bachelor’s degree you have to pass in order to get in. No board exam to pass. No diploma to receive. Nothing remarkable.

Therefore, it must be right to assume that call center job is a no-brainer only suited for graduates who only care about making ends meet minus the career growth. But that’s where most people get it wrong.

Yes, most call center agents, if not all, initially applied because of money. But aside from a higher salary and benefits, they actually get something more. If their eyes are truly open for opportunities.

What People Think of Call Center Jobs Versus Reality

All call center agents ever do is make and receive phone calls.

No career growth, whatsoever. It’s just a monotonous, repetitive job that offers no progress or skills.

In reality

While making and receiving phone calls, call center agents are actually learning actual experiences nobody could gain just by sitting in school.

A sales agent

For instance, if he’s a sales agent, he knows exactly what makes people buy, what makes people not buy and what makes customers say, “I want your product, take my money now.” Someday, he’ll use those knowledge if he plans to sell products of his own and leave the company someday.

Or maybe he’s totally happy with the company and doesn’t see himself leaving so he climbs the company ladder, become a sales manager and wrote his own paycheck. How’s that for career growth?

A customer service representative

Or, she’s a customer service representative of an e-commerce clothing store who talks to irate customers over the phone about delayed shipments. You’d think all the agent ever gets is stress and a higher salary. A no-brainer task, without growth, you would say.

But no, while putting up with hysterical customers over the phone, she actually discovered that she likes selling stuffs online. Good thing is, she already has a good understanding on how everything is organized, how the company makes money from customers and how to make customers happy. And, finally, she starts her own business online. Finally, she doesn’t have to put up with irate customers. Everybody’s happy.

Or maybe this agent just loves working in a call center and can’t find any reason to leave. No problem. I doubt you could call a job a dead end job if someone is actually enjoying it.

Actually, here’s a true story

In the previous call center I was in, there was an agent who, in her spare time, recruits call center applicants to earn referral bonus. In this particular company, the referral bonus was PHP20,000.00 total for each applicant who reaches 6 months as an employee.

This agent saw the potential money she could earn from it. So every spare time she gets, she approaches every potential applicants in malls, in business parks, job fares then endorse them to the company. Until, the point came when her referral bonus exceeded her monthly salary.

Her referral earning doubled, tripled, until it was big enough to buy herself a food franchise (Master Siomai, one of them). She rented a place in malls, hire her own employees, earn more referral bonus, rinse and repeat. Last time I heard about her, she’s still working as a call center agent not because she had to, but because she naturally loves it. The whole point is this:

Is working in a call center a dead end job?

No. Call center job is no more a dead end job than any others. You can get a job based on your studied degree but still feel stagnant, not because of the job itself, but because of your attitude. Don’t blame the job you have as to why you’re still in the same position you were in 10 years ago.

You want to climb in the company ladder? Improve yourself. You want to leave the company someday and build something of your own? Plan something.

You want to go to school and study a course you truly love? Use your call center salary to make it happen. Doing the same thing now as you were doing 10 years ago won’t give you different results.

It’s also not just your diploma, again it’s your attitude.

To the graduates who successfully landed their dream job related to their courses, congratulations (without sarcasm).

To those graduates who, until now, are still desperately looking for a job and are considering to get into the call center industry, but are worried about the “dead end job label”, don’t let this absurd idea stop you.

We have this idea that unless we land a job related to our degree in school, we’re a failure; that we aren’t good enough, that we’re settling for less, that we’ve wasted our parents’ money.

I get it. In your “What do I want to be when I grow up” essay, you didn’t write, “When I grow up, I want to be a call center agent! I want to answer calls from irate customers! I want to mess up my body clock, wake up at night, and sleep at daytime. I’ll make my family proud by getting the perfect attendance bonus, the high CSAT score and the highest upsale commission.”

Neither did your parents say, “Anak, study hard so you’ll become a TL someday!

And never did our teachers tell us, “Children, take your studies seriously and one day, you’ll stand before the future students of this Alma Matter, and tell us tales about your success in the BPO industry!”

But again, working in a call center doesn’t mean you have to stay forever. Sometimes, to get to a destination, you have to bump into detours here and there. Detours aren’t all that bad.

And who says you’ll never be able to pursue your dream job anymore once you’ve begun working in the call center?

If you end staying as a call center agent forever, it’s either

  1. because you willingly chose to do so and are happy about it. In which case, good for you!
  2. Or because you were distracted, forgot about your goals, and feel miserable about it. In this case, do not, I repeat, do not blame the job.

So the next time somebody asks, “is call center a dead end job?”, you’ll know better.

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