Six months on, and with Covid restrictions only getting tighter, leaving my call centre job for bigger things feels less and less likely.
Stuck at home in the first lockdown, scraping the motivation to finish my master’s while searching job boards to get my foot in the door of any company that would make some use of my studies, uncertainty about my future hit hard.
As weeks went by, the number of appealing opportunities turned into slim pickings. I realised the only way to gain financial security was to find a stop-gap job to see me through, what I thought at the time, would be just the summer.
I detested previous customer service positions, but a lack of options meant I needed to keep an open mind – this would only be temporary, after all. I applied for a call centre job and, weeks later, had a job that I knew, deep down, I didn’t want in the first place. Of course I was pleased to no longer be unemployed during one of the toughest economic periods of modern history, but deflation soon took over.
I’m not over exaggerating in saying the phone does not stop ringing. Customer after customer call to vent their anger about the company, demand refunds and relay excuses in why they can’t pay their bills: “I’ve just lost my job and I can’t pay the full amount”, “My daughter needs the internet to finish her school work”, “the WiFi is linked to my personal alarm; what if I fall and no one can help me?”
I can’t lie and say it’s become any easier, six months on. Every day is emotionally draining. After 11-hour shifts, removing my headset and placing it on my desk feels like a huge weight off my shoulders… only for the feeling of dread for the next day to consume what little downtime I have before the next shift.
I still continue to apply for better-suited positions as and when I have the time, but it’s still proving challenging to either get responses, or opportunities are no longer available as they once were with companies reducing their current workforces.
Ultimately, I know the pandemic has severely hindered my career prospects. I try to remind myself that this very uncertain period, plus the aggressive nature of the call centre, will make me a stronger person when I do finally get my foot in the door of another company. But whenever I see one of my university peers has either been made redundant or placed on furlough due to companies having to strip back to survive – or even seasoned, respected industry professionals in my network back on the job market due to the pandemic – my faith hits yet another low.
Some friends have secured their first industry jobs, despite the pandemic working on exciting projects with reputable companies, proudly showcasing their progress and career satisfaction. Meanwhile, I’m chained to my headset, stuck with the realisation this stop-gap job will likely become an ongoing fixture in a troubled economy.
Mentally and physically, I feel trapped. I look at other colleagues in my team who have been with the company for more than a year, eager to progress their careers and will jump at any opportunity to show management they’re ready for the next step. Although I envy their drive and job satisfaction, I couldn’t be further away.
I hope this time of my life is a footnote to my employment history. It’s not that I’m ungrateful – I know there are a lot worse, more dangerous jobs I could be doing right now – but tighter restrictions mean fewer opportunities. Whether it’s people like me, people forced out of industries like travel, hospitality and leisure or the single parents and middle-aged couples I speak to everyday, when the job market eventually recovers, competition against one another and new graduates will be stronger than ever.
Our passion, hard work and self-motivation cannot go ignored.
Originally published for HuffPost UK here