I have 48 days to find a job

I find myself in an interesting situation and I seek the advice and stories of Qt3 for enlightenment, education and possibly amusement.

During a period of unemployment following a downsizing layoff in 2009, I came around to the conclusion that one of the fields I had experience in – tech support – was one I would not try to return to. I had burned out on it before and suspected that the same would happen if I went down that particular path again.

In October 2010 I accepted a position as a TSR – tech support representative – at one of Canada’s major telecomm companies. I figured a job is a job. The six month probation period comes up on April 19th, 48 days from now.

I had a performance review yesterday with my two supervisors. I am generally average in most respects, with nothing in the ‘danger zone’. Except for sales.

As a TSR, I am expected to generate revenue on 10% of all calls. 5% is the bare minimum. I am not at 5%. I was told if my sales don’t improve I will be fired at the end of probation. This was expressed via cute metaphors like ‘you’ll go left, we’ll go right’ and ‘it would be a sad trip down the elevator for you’ (we’re on the 8th floor).

I hate sales. I do not enjoy selling, I am not good at it and it makes me miserable. I do not want to sell.

This has created a problem that will ultimately resolve itself in 48 days. I’d like to be proactive and try to find some other work before then. (I am not going to try to improve my sales because my feelings on working in tech support have been reconfirmed vividly.)

So I need to find a new job and I am bereft of ideas. I can’t return to school in the short term as I lack the savings to go back. What I need right now is stable work that pays decently and doesn’t make me crazy.

Things that make me crazy:

  • high pressure environments
  • dealing with the public (there are exceptions)
  • selling
  • shift work

I am amenable to most other things. My experience over the past decade includes:

  • shipper/receiver at a small company (working for a friend, no forklifts in warehouses, was pleasantly brainless)
  • tech support for UBC libraries (mostly onsite at various branches around campus)
  • tier 1 tech support (vile, awful, the stuff of mediocre nightmares)
  • operating a beach concession (hired and trained staff, pretty much did everything)
  • retail computer sales (like tech support but worse)

An erratic and uneven work history, to be sure.

So…where should I look for work? Curiously, at a point in my life when I should be listening to country music and hating kids, I find myself more willing than ever to try new things, within the constraints of time and money. Suggest away!

I will post further colorful events related to this situation as they arise.

Internal level 1 tech support at a large company. It’s nothing like having to deal with the general public, and it sounds like you’v worked in related fields for a while, so that will help you get a job there.

Does it rhyme with SMELLUS? I worked there for 8 years doing tech support. I got sick of the pressure to upsell at the end.

How about desktop support to internal clients for mid-large business? That’s what I left phone tech support for…for government too, so it sort of pays more than private if you can swing it. Unfortunately, many departments are outsourcing to less well paying middlemen like Acrodex, Mainland etc.

Local government?

My usual reccomendation to these types of questions is to take a year or two off to teach English abroad.

Not sure how easy it would be find such a position in your situation, but I think it’s a great way to get way to earn money and experience new cultures while recharging your brain and planning for your next career move.

Do you have your degree? Apply to JET.

As someone who quit his job on a whim two weeks ago I can honestly say take anything you can that isn’t a call center. The benefit is that you now have a touch over a month the find something. Currently I’m trying for administration type roles due to the fact that it’s lower pressure, no sales and there’s less dealing with customers. The big thing is that the money seems to be a bit lower but fuck it.

I will also recommend that you stay the fuck away from call centers. I know I said that already but after quitting one months ago and moving into another I can really not state enough that once you’ve been in one, unless you really like being shit on daily, that it would be enough to never ever go to another.

I’ve seen people in your situation. Hell, I’ve managed staff members in your situation. I can probably bet that you’ve been told to improve and that’s it, no assistance, no access to tools that will help you. You’re right in saying that you need to find a new job. ( Though if you really wanted I could help you retain your employment through some tools and methods I learned in relation to selling people shit they don’t need ).

Or any government job really so long as it’s not face to face/call center based work all the time. Taxation offices, Child Services, Immigration departments. You’re sure as shit going to get the ability to make more of a change in peoples lives there than you ever did fixing their phone/computer/bank accounts than you ever will in the private sector.

Good luck.

University, school or government IT. It moves -much- slower and the people are generally -much- nicer.

You might also want to highlight an alternate or more specialized path at a large company. Instead of general support, what about application support (email, ERP, DB, CRM, etc.) Or perhaps focus on a single group type you liked (accounting support, legal, etc,) or from a specific area.

Walking away from all of that will be more of a challenge but it can be done. It’s one thing to get burned out at your current job, but it’s quite another to do a career change. It can be done, but it will be tough.

Here’s my left-field suggestion: See if there’s something like a Volunteer Action Centre in Vancouver and start volunteering at a non-profit that does work in something you think is interesting or worthwhile.

The non-selfish reason for this is organizations always need more people, and you’ll find that the kind of work you’ll be doing as a volunteer is the polar opposite of working in a call centre.

The selfish reason is that if you have even a modicum of computer skills, you are worth your weight in gold to the non-profit sector, especially if you’re the kind of dude who likes to solve complex problems in weird, lateral-thinking ways that don’t involve spending money. Now, forty-eight days may not be enough time to turn a volunteer position into a staff position, but many non-profits like hiring from their volunteer pool.

The downside is you won’t make a lot of money, but I suspect you weren’t pulling in huge bucks at the call centre anyway.

Just going from your work history, and not knowing what might personally motivate you or sound attractive to you, I would say you’re ideally positioned to find a job as a help desk specialist or network technician with a mid-large company. These positions are usually filled by people with a couple years or more in the IT support business (call centers are good proving grounds), and they do front-line IT support for internal clients at the company (i.e. you’re taking calls from sales, accounting, HR, shipping, etc. whenever they have computer problems). It far more insulated than call center work, and the clients (the other employees) tend ot be much, much nicer and easier to deal with. An added benefit to this type of work is that people who show good communication skills and responsibility in addition to their tech skills tend to climb up the ladder fairly quickly and can often get the company to pay for more advanced training and certification so they can become systems administrators. That pays fairly well and can be a very satisfying carrer for tech-oriented people.

Are you CompTIA A+ certified? It’s not a neccessity, but many larger companies will look specifically for people who are or will give your resume a closer look if they see you are.

If you’re looking for low pressure (albeit with probably low wages) work you also seem to have a great background for working in a UPS or Fed/Ex store. Shipping and receiving are only part of the job, as you’ll also be running copiers and printers (Fed/Ex Office used to be Kinkos) and other equipment. If you work at either company in that capacity for a year or so, you can apply for driver training. UPS especially has said they will need thousands of drivers in the next few years to replace those who are retiring. Drivers make really good money (as much as $70K a year) and have great benefits as well. Antecdotal evidence also suggests it’s a low pressure job, as most of the drivers I’ve dealt with over the years seemed to enjoy what they were doing and never really seemed stressed out or looked overly frazzled.

I guess it depends on the driving position. UPS and Fedex drivers are (I believe, no personal experience) extremely stressed out most of the time because they are held to very stringent schedules. Other kinds of delivery driving might be less fraught.

Is going back to school or further vocational training off the table?

Rather than just asking what am I currently suitable for you may want to ask what I want to become suitable for and determine the level of commitment you want to put into it.

You now have 47 days to reach minimum safe distance.

Don’t you have to start off as box tossing grunt at FedEx/UPS before they hand you the keys to a delivery truck?

Dude, no suggestions but good luck. I have been there and it’s a tough position to be in, with its own specific weight and heft to lug. If I think of anything, I’ll post.

Once when I was badly in need of a job, I took a position caring for indoor plants in Manhattan. The night crew was awesome because we took care of all the big atriums around the city (trump tower, the place across from where the WTC stood with the palm trees, etc) and you could just put your headphones on a dust, trim and water. I moved to the day shift to get more normal hours and it was a big mistake. Just horrible for me–a lot of discussions with unhappy people at smaller accounts about the health of their plants, which were all dying because of my lack of skill tending them.

I ended up quiting that gig, but it was a good run for about a full year, and I got it based on nothing more than some previous experience on a landscape crew in PA, essentially digging ditches.

Yes apply to JET if you can.

Jet does have an age limit though right?

Tech support people in this position should inform the customers to whom they’re talking of this fact up front.

As a customer, I would GLADLY insist on speaking to your manager in order to make my opinion of such a practice known. At length.

When I call for tech support, the very last thing I need is some doofus trying to squeeze more money out of me.

As a TEFL teacher, I actually really don’t like this advice very much. One of the problems facing the industry is ‘backpacker culture’, where people don’t take it seriously as a teaching job and instead just use it as a way to see the world.

I am not saying that anyone should not actually teach and take the opportunity to see the world with it, only that it should be taken seriously as a job, and as a teaching job every bit as important as teaching in any other type of school.

The Queen wants you…

Quoting some of the replies here. Thanks to everyone who’s posted!

No, it does not rhyme with SMELLUS. In fact, one of the guys who was hired at the same time that I was formerly worked there and got laid off after they moved their tier 1 support to the Philippines.

I had to look up JET, which shows how much I’ve checked into it. It’s intriguing but there is no way in heck I’m moving halfway around the world and away from my SO. I also hate sushi.

One of the things I’ve learned is that material wealth means very little to me. I like having an up-to-date PC but beyond that I’m happy with secondhand junk or whatever. Must be the inner Amish in me. I’d looked into volunteering when I was out of work and it’s definitely something I’ll follow up on now.

While some might debate that I am certifiable, I am not certified. The closest I got was leafing through an A+ book years ago. I am otherwise completely self-taught with my computer knowledge (or lack thereof).

In the short term it is, as I lack the funds. It’s something I’m definitely open to and pondering, though.

There are two things that give me pause when it comes to considering other tech support/IT work. The first is that I’m this weird hybrid half-geek/half-arsty fartsy college dropout (okay, I do have a journalism diploma). I’m the kind of person who handpicks all of his computer components and then builds the system himself but at the same time I like drawing cartoon vegetables and writing stories about people who die in car accidents but won’t stay dead. I enjoy helping people but call center work is like a textbook on how to eat away your soul on a daily basis. So I struggle a bit on finding something that will keep me relatively happy and employed. And doesn’t involve 4-11:30 p.m. shifts. :P

The other thing that gives me pause is that my tech knowledge is broad but not deep and I always feel like I’m a half-step away from someone telling me “You’re doing it wrong.” It’s an uncomfortable feeling when I’m getting paid by someone to find out why the office printer is shooting shrapnel into the water cooler.

Thanks again for the suggestions, though, and feel free to keep them coming. I long for the day when I don’t have to pick up the phone and hear those four dreaded words: “I pressed some buttons…”