What did you want to be when you grew up?


How many of you have somewhere your school reports? Maybe the piece of paper you wrote when you were 10 years old that starts with something along the lines of “When I grow up I want to be…”

I’ll take odds that 90% of you remember doing this at some point. So what was top of the list?

Train Driver, Pilot, Astronaut, Soldier, Income Tax Inspector, Mergers and Acquisitions Lawyer?

I’ll also take the bet that no one had:

  • Resource Analyst
  • Customer Care Trainer
  • Customer Service Rep or Agent
  • Dialler Controller

I was right, wasn’t I?

I know we have a reputation in this trade for having a very ephemeral workforce and that high churn rates are considered the norm (regardless of what we all say).  I also appreciate that the ‘job for life’ culture that prevailed up until about ten years ago has now gone and the idea of having (gasp) two careers in your life is no longer thought of as ‘shiftless’ rather than the norm.  We no longer do a college course, become an apprentice to a trade or study for a degree in the subject that we will work in for the rest of our lives.

When I was eighteen,  degree courses tended to be either a pure subject (English, Maths, Physics, French, etc…) or you could do Law, Business Studies, Medical (Vet/Doctor/Dentist). There was very little scope for other choices.

This year a friend of mine is going back as a mature student and is interested in property. She has a choice of six (count em!) courses and only has to decide the final degree choice in her last year. Hmm…  if I’d had that amount of choice I might have stayed on.

Which leads me back to the original question above. From observation we (in the UK, I know offshore is VERY different) have two sorts of staff. Type A are the short-term student, need a job in a hurry whilst looking for something in their field, people, who seem to stay between 0 and 18 months. These probably represent 85% of the current staffing levels. Type B are the people like me who come from diverse sources (in my case being a chef) and, for want of a better word, find a home.

So why do we stay?

What have we found that makes this different to other trades?

Well, in my case I get to be a geek {GRIN} and get paid for it.

That’s obviously not the case for most people, the trade is still ‘something new’, still something fresh and still working out HOW to do the job properly.

We have best practices, accepted methods and ‘industry standard’ KPIs, SLAs, etc.

We also still have the opportunity for innovation, personal opinion (well you WILL listen to my opinion), weird ideas and experimentation.

This is what I think attracts the ‘outsiders’. As far as I’m aware there is only the one associate course and several “Certificate in…” NVQs along with the planning courses run by the Professional Planning Forum. These have only been available for the last couple of years anyway.

The nice side of this is that we have had a chance to come in and do well in an industry because we CAN’T be judged on prior qualifications. There aren’t any! Whoopee for us.

The drawback is we’ve just about hit the time that we’ll need to grow up, the industry will need to formalise the qualifications and requirements for a post meaning we’re probably the last to have all the fun. At some point we’ll need a BSc (BA?) in Contact Centre Operations, a BSc in Statistics with Planning. A rationalisation of the myriad of NVQs available will be necessary, and possibly the establishment of a BTEC track as well.

I just hope that when they get round to it the industry is consulted. The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors have tied in with the property and planning courses at universities so much that they no longer run their own internal qualification exams.

I just hope at the time I can get a Dip(Ed), can you imagine me in a lecture hall?

This could be fun.


Dave Appleby

Dave Appleby has been working as a planner, forecaster and analyst in the contact centre industry for the  last 11 years, having been a chef in a previous life. Starting off working on the phones for the launch of a Grocery Home Shopping service, he has worked for a variety of in-house and outsource operations including Disneyland Paris, Seeboard, GIftaid, GM Finance and the Daily Telegraph. A keen diver (both instructor and cave diver), Dave is currently a senior analyst for a large UK insurance company.

Published On: 29th Oct 2008 - Last modified: 6th Jul 2018
Read more about - Call Centre Life


5 Comments
  1. How right you are – and we are nearly there too!. I’m just completing a Foundation Degree in Contact Centre Management through University of Central Lancashire, although to progress to full honours I’ll have to finish it off with business management modules.

    I never ever thought I would end up studying for a contact centre qualification – who could ever foresee that there would be any?

    Didn’t really want to be a ballerina anyway!

    Kath Cole 30 Oct at 12:07 pm
  2. Your article was very interesting; i smiled all the way to reading about you. After reading about you, i said ‘no wonder’. I supervise a leading African Bank’s Contact Centre.

    Thelma 30 Oct at 12:23 pm
  3. In a way, I did fulfill my dream. I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. In Quality Assurance, I help do just that. I never would have thought a call center would be where I settled down, but now after over 12 years in the business, I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

    Fantastic article!

    Ann Onimous 30 Oct at 3:50 pm
  4. Very Interesting read Dave, When I first met you I never imagined i was in this industry for good, I needed cash and this was an easy option…. The easy!! life of an agent, Now look at me, A senior forecasting and resource planning analyst at a large telecoms company.

    I look forweard to my Dip(ed) we might yet work in the same company again 🙂

    Scott Wilton 20 Nov at 9:07 am
  5. Excellent article Dave and so true.

    I wanted to be a policeman, is that so different from my current role I wonder.

    Paul 20 Nov at 12:22 pm
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