How being a call center agent helped me become a CEO

Photo via Kalibrr

This story first appeared on Kalibrr Career AdviceVisit this page for more on the ups and downs of navigating your career.

There are many different types of call center agents – customer support, telemarketing, retention specialists and collections agents. The latter, being a collections specialist at a call center probably is the most terrifying.

As a collections agent, you talk to people all day who are late on their credit card bills and it is your job to get them to pay that debt back or collect.

While there are many types of call center jobs, this is probably the one that people fear the most because of the nature of the job – there are all sorts of nightmare stories about collections agents being yelled at. You’re probably thinking this is the LAST job I would want to ever do and that it’s better to choose something easier.

But easy is not the route you want to go down, especially as a fresh grad. Easy often means you don’t get better, you don’t acquire skills, you don’t get challenged, and you’ll never reach your full earning potential. You don’t want an easy first job. That’s almost always fatal to your career.

What if I told you that being a collections agent is probably the BEST first call center job you could get after graduating from school? What if I told you that it would be one of the most challenging jobs you’ll have (especially if you aren’t fully fluent in English)? What if I told you one of my first jobs was as a call center agent?

WHERE IT ALL STARTED. Kalibrr CEO Paul Rivera in 2003 as a call center agent for Fisher Investments in San Francisco, California. Photo via Kalibrr

WHERE IT ALL STARTED. Kalibrr CEO Paul Rivera in 2003 as a call center agent for Fisher Investments in San Francisco, California.

Photo via Kalibrr

I perfected my communication skills as a call center agent, specifically a telemarketer. That photo above was taken in 2003 when I would make 800 calls a day (we had an auto-dialer) and make over 100 pitches and receive 97 rejections. It was hard work – I quickly realized I didn’t want to be a telemarketer for the rest of my life and that my job here was to perfect this craft.

And that’s what you get by working in a collections or telemarketing role – an opportunity to perfect the craft of communication and to develop 3 very important soft skills that serve as a base for your future.

What are those skills?

As the CEO of Kalibrr, these are skills I use on a daily basis and I honed them in the 6 months that I was a telemarketer at Fisher Investments.

If you’re fresh out of school, I’m telling you now, if you are empathetic, you’ll be able to work well with other people (and other people will want to work with you or for you).

If you are resilient, you’ll be able to overcome any obstacle on your pathway to success.

And if you can negotiate, then you’ll be able to communicate effectively to get what you want, especially when it comes to a salary negotiation.

My advice is if you’re looking to build these soft skills, there is no better way to do it than to be a collections agent. It will be challenging – probably some of the hardest work that you will have ever done. Just remember, you’re not going to be a collections agent forever – you’re there for a period of time to do a great job for your company and to master these skills which will serve as a basis for your future career beyond the call center industry. –

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Paul Rivera is the co-founder & CEO of Kalibrr.