That Time I Worked in a Call Centre (And it Wasn't the Worst)

As some of you may recall, I used to work in the alcohol industry. Last October I left my job for numerous reasons, chief among which was the desire to quit drinking, something I had tried and failed many times before to accomplish. After my departure from my workplace of five years things got...interesting.

For the first two months after leaving I remained unemployed, which, in retrospect, was a pivotal (and hugely nerve wracking) point in my life. I suddenly found myself in a place of no expectations, and the weight of being constantly surrounded by alcohol was lifted from my shoulders. I suddenly had choices, and along with those choices came the responsibility to actually make them.

I've written here about the process of cutting alcohol out of my life numerous times, so I will leave it at this: those two months of unemployment were a period of healing for me, and without them I’m not sure I could have been successful in making the kinds of life improvements that I have. I had given myself the gift of time without even realizing it.

Anyway, as the months wore on I continued to look for work, and eventually took a temp gig at a local call centre. This was certainly not something I had considered to even be an option for me, but one can only spend so much time pounding keyboard at the local library and watching their bank account balance decrease before she has to swallow her pride and take what she can get. Rent to pay, and all that. So off I went to work at a call centre which, as it turns out, was the best thing I could have done.

My first day on the job happened to coincide with my second day as a non-smoker, which turned out to be excellent planning on my part. I was so busy being fascinated by the varied personalities and backgrounds present in my training group that I almost forgot I was supposed to be going through withdrawal! I was, unfortunately, still feeling quite raw and confused from the shock of all of the changes taking place in my life, so I was particularly introverted and almost unwilling to interact with my co-workers at that point in time.

The campaign I was placed on was exclusively inbound calls, and I quickly learned that the calls we received were few and far between. This left so much time for activities! There were a few restrictions on what we could do with that time (no browsing the internet, no cellphones, etc.), but we were allowed to read to our hearts’ content. I found myself devouring just as many books as I had during my period of unemployment, but began delving into more challenging subject matter. Since I had already cultivated a particular interest in addiction by that time (surprise, surprise), I had picked up a copy of “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts” by Dr. Gabor Mate from the library. What I thought would simply be a fascinating read quickly became a laborious process of reading, note taking, rereading, and contemplation. I was completely absorbed by the book and would highly recommend it.

Throughout this process of reading, thinking, and note taking, I found myself becoming more confident in my worth and abilities as both an employee and a person. Between the self discipline I was developing at home, the evolving clarity that comes with building sobriety, and my new-found sense of self efficacy, I began to feel that it was time to reach just a bit higher.

So it was that after about 8 weeks of living the call centre life I once again began to send out resumes. I was much pickier this time, only applying for positions that held an interest for me and that I knew I was qualified (but not overqualified) for. I was looking for somewhere I could feel good about working, with a corporate culture that aligned with my own ideals and principles. The result was one long day of interviews at a handful of different companies the following week, and my eventual acceptance of a job offer for my current position.

Given the choice I probably wouldn't work in a call centre again, but the weeks of my life during which I did have left a lasting impression on me, and I am grateful to have had that experience.