How One Theatre Major Ended up in Customer Care

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You’ve just spent the past four years immersing yourself in all aspects of theatre—the playwrights, the history, the technical aspects of putting on productions. So when it comes time to find a job, your first choice would naturally be… in customer service?

Yep, at first glance it might seem like majoring in Theatre and working in customer service don’t have a whole lot in common. But Deirdre Quirk has found that her BA in Theatre from Reed College has served her well in her new position as a customer care representative at Chloe + Isabel.

We caught up with Deirdre to learn more about the challenges and rewards of working as a customer care representative, and how her undergrad experience helped prepare her for this position.

What is your current company name and job title?

I currently work as a customer care representative for Chloe + Isabel, a direct sales jewelry company.

What is a typical day on the job like for you?

My first priority is always to answer the phones to customers and merchandisers. When I’m not answering phones, I’m going through the email queue, answering people’s questions, creating returns, deleting spam, and responding to feedback. Finally, I’ve taken over processing returns, so I do that a couple times a day, in big batches.

What are your favorite aspects of your job? What are some challenging aspects of it?

Even though we each answer phones and emails independently, there is a definite feeling of working in a team, which I love. And sometimes people will send you the sweetest thank you emails after you’ve helped them with a problem.

As for challenging aspects, during the first phone call I ever took, the woman I was speaking to started crying. So, it can be hard sometimes to deal with people who are getting very angry or very upset, especially if you can’t solve their problem or you can’t solve it right away—it’s awful to speak to someone you feel like you can’t help.

What did you study in college? How does your major relate to your current position?

I studied Theatre in college; it definitely does not directly relate to what I’m doing now, but I think a lot of the skills are applicable. When someone is upset and yelling at you, the ability to act calm comes in handy.

But actually, I did a fair amount of customer service work during college, almost accidentally, and discovered that I really love that field. All my friends were working for the Alumni and Parent Relations office during Reunions and it looked like fun, so I applied to that job, which in turn gave me the experience I needed to be an Orientation Assistant, and then an Admissions Intern. Basically, I kept applying for jobs that I had experience in and enjoyed, and realized after I graduated that I had a very solid customer service résumé. Experience builds on experience!

What advice would you give to college students who are interested in working in your field?

Try it out! Get a customer service-type job working for your college (Admissions is great! So are Alumni and Parent Relations, Library Desk Clerk, the Annual Fund, and many more!) and figure out if that’s what you really love to do. As for getting into the field, I would say look for companies that are doing something you are interested in and believe in, because not only will that narrow down the search, the people hiring you will be able to tell you truly care about their mission.

What type of education, qualifications, or skills are needed to be successful in your field?

I would say the most important part of this field is enjoying solving problems for other people. It’s the sort of work that could easily wear you down if you do not find helping make someone else’s life easier inherently rewarding.

Homework time! Deirdre talks about getting some type of customer service experience in college to see if you enjoy this type of work. Does your admissions office (or one of the other offices Deirdre mentions) offer internships or work/study positions? Ask around on campus to find opportunities to test the waters and see if you enjoy this type of work.

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