“Ringggg… ringggg…” I picked up my phone and said, “Hello, who is this please?” “Hi, May I speak with Marleo Enobio?” I heard a happy lady’s voice.
“Speaking!” I sounded bothered. She interrupted me in the middle of the meeting. I was in a youth meeting at church.
“Hi Marleo, This is Shiela from So and So Company. Someone referred your name to join our company.”
“Nope. I don’t want to join!” I rejected her right away and she ended the call immediately.
This was how I was first introduced to the call center industry. I looked down at those people who work as call center agents before. I thought it’s a no-brainer job and it’s a shame to do this job if you have a degree.
You see, that was me. I had some wrong beliefs that this industry is only for undergraduates and high school graduates.
That I shouldn’t work in this industry. Then I got karma. The call center industry had their big revenge later.
Those bad beliefs I had were replaced into positive ones later on. It all started when I looked around our city after college graduation to apply for a job, and I couldn’t find one that pays me well to my desired salary.
It was one of the pain points. A little realization that I should not be choosy with jobs for as long as I get paid well and to get experience.
Now, let’s discover some crazy ideas I had why I did join the call center industry.
Let’s dive in.
Why did I join?
1. I wanted to become an international speaker
I’m not kidding. Believe it or not.
I believe not a single person who works in the call center industry had this type of reason why he/she joined. Even you interview now a million call center agents, I was probably the only one had this crazy reason.
Well, this dream came out when I was still a youth leader. I was a constant speaker to our youth formation program at church. Having a passion to speak to a crowd, I entertained the idea of speaking internationally.
Dreaming big is free, right?
But here’s the problem:
I wasn’t good at speaking English. I mapped out two solutions to learn how to speak English well. Go to the United States or work in the call center industry. The first solution was obviously not practical.
My father is only a construction worker. He could not even send us to college, how much more sending us to the United States to study, right?
Then I second option is the obvious choice.
I remembered one church member who was a call center agent speaks really good English. That gave me an idea. It was a eureka moment.
Why not join this time?
But when I became a call center agent, I forget about becoming an international speaker. When it happens, it happens. Let fate take its course.
2. I badly needed a job
I ran away home due to the conflict I had with my father. I graduated from college with my own hard work.
But honestly, my 10-year girlfriend helped me a lot to graduate in college (She’s my wife today).
Since I didn’t have parents to feed me, I jumped right away to look for jobs. And I remembered my #1 reason. That gave me more push to join the call center industry.
I immediately flew to Cebu and looked for a call center job. It was my girlfriend who provided everything for me to get to Cebu.
And in March 1521, I landed in Mactan. Oops. Let me take that back. It was Magellan who landed at that time.
Take two: in November 2010, I landed in Mactan. I did not waste time. I applied right away, and the next day, and the day after, and even on weekends.
That’s how desperate I was to get a job. I was relentless and hungry to succeed.
3. No pleasing personality requirement
I was thin, ugly, and small then. I repeat: I was thin, ugly, and small. I really was (Hope you get it).
My wife agreed with me that’s true. I don’t know about you. But anyway, let me proceed. The only thing that did not change was my height. Okay, forget about my height.
The call center industry is infested by smart people—but—hmm… you know what I mean. I guess I belonged to this group.
Unattractive people are somehow discriminated against by a lot of private companies. I experienced it a lot of times.
I applied to major fast-food chains in the country and all of them rejected me. Even those non-food industries I applied. One instance, an HR officer (I forgot the name of the company) called and invited me to come to their office. She seemed so excited to meet me.
But after she saw me in person, the atmosphere suddenly changed and looked at me head to foot—and told me, “You may go home this time. We don’t have a need yet. We will just call you for an interview”.
Obviously she never called me.
What’s the point of inviting people for an interview and then advised them to go home and wait for a call again? I was angry. But I kept it to myself.
I wasn’t pleasing enough. But no heart feelings. That’s life. That’s a fact. I accepted it.
But applying in the call center industry, only our communication skills matter. Our looks, age (at least 18), status (complicated), etc. won’t matter.
Because we won’t face any customers. We talk to them only on the phone.
4. No height requirement
I made this as one of the reasons. Yes, I admit I am small. But not too small. It’s pathetic to think I did not have the looks, the body, and of course the height (still today).
The only thing I have is a beautiful girlfriend. This was the only beautiful opportunity I pursued that I became highly successful. But other guys out there were jealous and a few friends of my wife were not approved to our relationships.
They said, we’re not meant to be or fit to be as lovers. People judged us many times. But we don’t care. We’re married now.
But I digress.
I’m not sure if this is part of the pleasing personality requirement of many private companies (or even public?).
It was such a relief that the call center industry did not impose some height requirements. I’ve seen a lot of people who are smaller than me working. That gave me hope and try harder to apply and join the call center industry.
5. Chasing a good salary and a promise of perks
I’ve heard a lot of stories from my fellow applicants about the perks in working in the BPO industry. Especially to big companies we applied.
I was salivating. It couldn’t wait to start. Until I finally landed a job.
My first company was a rock star. Our COO was too generous with spiffs. I was enjoying my work. I was motivated to hit our metrics every day.
Even I transferred to my second company as an agent, I got bonuses almost every month.
Though I missed a lot of big rewards (e.g., laptop, travel, appliances, etc.), I am still thankful for what I had been receiving. There was free food on major Holidays, gifts, among others.
Not all companies are generous when it comes to perks. But if you work for big BPO companies, most of the time they offer above industry salary and provide a lot of perks employees can enjoy.
6. It seemed it feels good to work at the top of the building
No explanation. I leave it here. It just cool. What do you think?
7. No office uniforms
This can be negative or positive. A lot of people abhorred wearing uniforms while others like it. Especially those who work in the banking industry.
Now, in the call center industry, I’ve never heard or encounter a company that imposed an office uniform for call center agents. Never. Ever.
However, the majority of them have a dress code policy. Sort of decent dress to come at work. Those decent dresses can be semi-formal, formal, casual, or a pair of jeans is enough.
I like the no uniform thing. But the formal attire, it’s expensive and tedious to prepare. I hated ironing dresses daily. It consumes a lot of electricity.
But overall, I preferred a no-uniform dress code policy with a pair of jeans.
That’s all for my wild reasons why I joined. Now, let me tell you why I left.
Why did I leave the call center industry?
1. I was away from home
My family was in General Santos City while I was working in Cebu. I hated our situation. Why they needed to be away. The sad fact: I could not afford their life in Cebu City. I couldn’t find a good boarding house for them to live safely and have a clean environment and affordable. The boarding house I occupied was messy, small, and unsafe.
We tried to live together and brought them in. My son got sick a lot. So, they went back home again. Such a pain inside seeing them going home. But we had to for the sake of my son’s life.
I could not afford to get them an apartment. My salary was just enough. Also, my son consumed milk like a big dinosaur. My money was spent mostly on raising our son. His diapers. His milk. His clothing.
We had to live separately to salvage some savings.
It’s painful. I felt miserable. My family is my home. They’re away. That’s why I left the call center industry.
2. No longer happy at work
This was the effect of my family not being with me. And the motivation to go to work was giving me fewer reasons.
As a result, I was dragging myself going to work. I forced myself to do my job. For the sake of a job. For the sake that I need to feed my family. And for God’s sake, I love my family.
I had to sacrifice my happiness. Never mind I wasn’t happy at work. Never mind I wasn’t enjoying my work-life.
I started to notice what’s wrong with my company. Before, I just closed my eyes. But the company’s imperfections became too apparent. That added to my unhappiness in life.
As a result, I risked things. I broke the rules intentionally. I went to work late. I browsed unauthorized websites. But it dawned on me, it shouldn’t be this way. It’s completely wrong. If I leave, I must leave happily. And I did leave happily.
3. Metrics were terrorizing me
It’s one of the things I hate in the call center industry. The metrics. The ever-changing metrics. It changes without prior notice sometimes.
Especially when the company is suffering financially, this will be a major factor that companies suddenly put unrealistic metrics. It’s like telling people, “Hey, we have to let you go. We set the bar high now to our targets. I believe you can’t hit it. This is how we can evade the law and to creatively play some constructive dismissals that don’t look constructive!”
Believe me, a lot of call center companies are doing this. I was once an active leader to a call center labor group in Cebu. I listened to a lot of complaints by call center agents who filed a case against their employers.
Now going back to my company, this also happened. But it’s not as notorious compared to other companies. I was still lucky.
About my metrics, I was not good at achieving it especially when they raise the targets. I really struggled. It’s sort of terrorizing me almost daily. I wanted to end it and so I left.
4. I hit a dead-end
I always want to move higher to whatever I do. Two years is my maximum time to stay and master what I am doing. I reached five years just being a call center agent. I should have celebrated. I was surprised I hit five years doing the same thing over and over again.
But it should have been a completely different story. I should have climbed higher and became a manager. But no, it’s a dead-end career as the account I belong was full of tenured guys who also aspired to move up. Another problem, there were fewer openings for a higher position.
Aside from that, it’s not worth it as well to move up with a little increase. I was just ambitious. I wanted to double my salary and the company did not provide that kind of increase.
With all the solutions I had on my mind hitting my target, working from home is the best route. And, that’s what I do today.
(I was debating with myself a lot of transferring to another company or wait for five years for my early retirement. Obviously, I chose the latter.)
5. The salary was no longer enough
When I was single, I thought my salary as an agent was big. Because I don’t spend a lot of vices, clothes, or go for a vacation. My routine every time I had some extra money is to buy books and go home with my family in Mindanao twice a year.
But everything changed when I got married and started to have a baby. Building a family is expensive. That’s what I realized. You buy for clothing, for milk, for shelter, for protection, etc. for my family. A lot of things I have to provide for my wife and my son. I could not replace my 3-year underwear anymore.
The not-enough-salary-situation triggered so much pain that I needed to do something with my salary. I had to find ways. Which the solution should not be to exacerbate the situation. Like I need work at night (I worked in the morning at that time) and go overtime or overwork and kill myself in the process.
In the end, the solution was not to stay in the call center industry. BUT TO GET OUT and work from home.
6. Enough taking calls
I believe I’m not the only one who has these reasons. The monotony of taking calls every day was no longer challenging my intelligence. I felt like I was put in the box. That I had limited myself to do something bigger for my dreams.
At first, I fell in love with taking calls. That’s what I wanted. I wanted to get better at speaking English. As a learned to speak better, it opened my eyes that taking calls should not be the end. It’s only for the beginning.
I reached to a point that I said to myself, “Enough taking calls Marleo. It’s high time to move forward and pursue your worthy goals.”
7. Monotony bored me to death
I’m a choleric type of person. There’s always an innate leadership in me. That means, I’m a goal-setter and a goal-hitter. These two come together with me.
If I do things over and over again but I’m not moving closer to what I wanted in life, that’s monotony in action. That kind of activity will bore me to death. And I must stop that activity as soon as I realized I’m heading to nowhere.
To me, monotony will lead to boredom. Boredom is killing myself slowly. Killing me softly.
That’s why my timeline is only two years for monotony. After that, I must do something else that I really love doing, to give me more excitement in life, and also moves me closer to the goals. If I’m not moving closer to my goals, then, I must completely change all that I’m doing and do something else completely.
That’s why I resigned and do home-based work today.
Overall, No Regrets
I did not regret working in the BPO industry or the call center industry. It taught me a lot of skills, and discipline, and improve my communication skills.
It’s not easy to serve irate customers. It’s not easy to hit metrics. It’s not easy to work at night or rotating schedules.
Flexibility, patience, and endurance are needed to thrive and survive in this industry.
It did not become a call center slut. As what experienced call center agents called those people who do call center hopping.
I challenged myself not to give up when the going gets tough. Let the company give up on me but not me. And I did. After five years of taking calls, I was the one who gave up.
But I gave up because it’s the right time. Because it’s the right thing to do for my family and for chasing my big dreams. I left the company for good reasons.
One thing that was poignant when I left? I missed the people I left behind. Those people I had developed good friendships with at work and remembered our happy days together.