A career change can be daunting, but with the right information, it can be a success. As a Customer Service advisor or assistant, there are many career options available to you. However, you may be wondering what you need to do to transition your career.
To change career from customer service, start with researching alternate careers for customer service assistants or advisors and decide on a path. Speak with other professionals with a similar background. Next, build foundational knowledge and get qualified in your newly chosen career path. Assess and package your transferable skills and evaluate your past experience. Then acquire new work experience in your newly chosen career and update your professional assets.
In this article, I further break down the simple steps you can take to transition your career from a customer service professional to a more successful and fulfilling career for you.
Step 1. Research Alternate Careers for a Customer Service Representative and Select One.
If you’ve decided that you want to change careers from being a customer service representative, the first thing you need to do is look for other career opportunities that you may be interested in.
When looking at other career options available to you it’s important to perform an assessment on yourself. Ask yourself what it is you would really like to do? A helpful way to answer this question is by asking yourself why you want to leave customer service.
Answering this question is a great place to start, and your answer will help you figure out what it is you’re looking for in a new career.
Are you feeling burnt out? Do you want to explore other interests and develop your skills? Whatever your reasons are, they will help you when searching for a new career.
If you’re changing from one career path to another, it’s important to make sure you’re transitioning to a career that will address any problems you had with your old one.
Here are some tips that are sure to help you settle on a choice that will be perfect for you.
Some things to ask yourself are;
- What do I dislike about customer service?
- What do I like about customer service?
- What motivates you?
- When are you at your happiest with work? And when are you most frustrated with work?
Now that you’ve asked yourself these personal questions, it’s time to ask some more career-based questions.
- What type of work-life balance are you looking for?
- What level of income is enough to sustain you?
- What type on industry would you like to work in?
Highlighting your interests, wants, and needs will help you narrow down your list when researching other career paths. You can even take a career quiz or personality test to help narrow down your list of options.
If you already have a specific career in mind, the best thing to see is seeing how your wants and needs will align with this career. Will you be able to have the work-life balance you want? Will it be any different from customer service?
Researching your career in mind is the best way to find out.
On the other hand, if you don’t have a specific new career in mind, here is a list of common jobs that former customer service reps have successfully moved on to. Let’s take a look at some of them;
- Public Relations Officer
- Project Management
- Account Representatives
- Real Estate Agents
- Social Media Management
- Sales Representative
- Human Resource Managers.
Step 2. Network with other Professionals With Customer Service Backgrounds.
When working towards a new career, it’s important to take advantage of any networking opportunities available to you. Speaking to other professionals with a similar background to yours is a great way to network.
Learning about how other professionals in the industry you’re hoping to work in were able to get in will help you to know what the right steps to take are.
Finding other previous customer service representatives who have successfully transitioned to entirely new careers will also be very helpful.
A career change is not an easy decision to make, and having someone who has already been through it and is willing to share their experiences or even mentor you can ease a lot of burden off you.
For example, a former customer service representative will have a more personal experience about the hurdles you might face as someone coming from a previous career and may be willing to mentor you.
Additionally, someone working in the field you hope to work in will have inside knowledge about the skills and requirements you’ll need to succeed in it.
Finding these professionals may not be easy for everybody. But a good place to start is with your personal and professional network.
Your professional network may include previous colleagues you may have had at one point that ended up changing careers. Your personal network is family and friends.
Professionals from any field who previously changed careers will also have a lot of relatable or common knowledge to share with you; plus, it never hurts to network; someone you know may know someone who is in a better position to help you.
But, If you’d prefer talking to previous or even current customer service reps who are in the same boat as you, then finding industry networking groups will yield the best results.
Step 3. Build Foundational Knowledge and Get Qualified
Building foundational knowledge on the skills and traits, you’ll need to be successful in your new career should be the next step in your action plan. For example, real estate management is related to sales and marketing.
A person that’s interested in pursuing a real estate career should ask themselves if they are any good at either of those things and if they’re not, they need to learn these skills fast.
How does this apply to you and a career change?
The odds of finding a new career with requirements and experiences that exactly match those you’re bringing from customer service are very low. This is where building your foundational knowledge and getting qualified comes in.
Let’s picture it. Imagine a customer service rep trying to transition into a Human Resource role. The role will require soft skills, sure, but it will also require some technical certifications or qualifications—for example, a customer relationship management certification.
The customer service rep can build on their foundational knowledge by researching what the requirements to be a successful Human Resource manager are (this can be done by looking through the candidate requirements for human resource manager job listings) and then set out to achieve them.
I recommend starting with Udemy. It’s cheap and of good value.
Building your foundational knowledge on the field you hope to get into and aligning your skills, experience, and qualification with what is required will bring you up to date for your new career.
Step 4. Identify and Package your Transferrable Skills
Take a moment to identify the transferrable skills you have and can easily bring with you to a new career.
Soft skills are often overlooked by a lot of people, which is a big mistake. But they are just as important as hard skills.
It is true that employers will require you to have experience and certifications, but they also want to know that they’re not just hiring a robot or textbook candidate.
This is where your soft skills come in. They’ll help to show you as a “Full package” candidate and will complement your more technical skills.
These transferrable skills will show you as a fully rounded individual who will add value to an organization apart from just carrying out your job description to the tee.
It also means your years of experience as a Customer Service professional is not wasted. You definitely have skills there that you can apply to any other role.
You may also have performed other responsibilities like sales or following up with customers.
These talents and skills of yours can easily act as selling points for other careers and can easily increase your value to potential employers as well.
Let’s look at some transferrable skills that a typical customer service professional will possess.
- Communication skills: Your communication skills will most likely have developed while working in customer service because of having to deal with customer complaints. Communication is a core skill that is needed in every industry and will give you a good foundation for your new career.
- Problem Solving Skills: A big part of customer service involves handling the complaints and queries that customers may have. Problem solving is a skill that can be transferred to any other profession.
- Relationship Building Skills: Customer service reps have to identify and manage their customer’s emotions; this leads to great relationship building skills. An example of another profession that will value this skill is human resource.
- Multitasking: Handling different customers while trying to make each one feel as important as the last is an example of multitasking you’ve probably done as a customer service rep. A lot of employers look for applicants that are able to multitask without cracking under the pressure or making errors.
- Collaboration, professionalism, reliability, and interpersonal skills are also transferrable skills that can be utilized in a lot of other professions.
Highlighting any of your transferrable skills in your CV when applying for a job will help to show you as a strong candidate for the role.
Step 5. Evaluate and Reframe Your Work Experience
Evaluating and reframing your work experience is the next step in transitioning out of a customer service career.
Evaluating your work experience helps to put in perspective what you learned on the job as a customer service rep and how these may fit into your new career. But more importantly, it makes it easier to reframe your experience to present yourself as the perfect candidate for a job.
Try asking yourself what particular technical and interpersonal skills you have developed through your job? Will these skills benefit you in the new position you’re looking for?
For example, you may have used your problem-solving skills to develop an innovative solution for some problems that customers in your organization were facing.
Now that you’ve identified these skills and experiences, what areas of your job did they affect? For example, your attention to detail or result-oriented nature may mean that you always had satisfied clients and candidates and, as a result, was made team lead on a huge project.
Putting the fact that you were team lead on a huge and successful project on your resume will stand out and do wonders for you.
But even if you feel your work experience doesn’t really relate to the new role you’re looking towards, you can easily reframe your work experience to help justify and amplify your skills to make you a better fit for the position. Perception is reality!
For example, suppose an employer is looking for a public relations officer. In that case, you may never have worked as one, but as a customer service rep, you will have had experience networking and forming relationships with people. You can point out how your experience is similar to that of a public relations officer and show how valuable this experience will be for the role.
Step 6. Acquire New Work Experience.
In tip 3, I mentioned building your foundational knowledge and how it is very necessary when transitioning to a new career.
Knowledge is great, and some people even say it is power. But I always expand that to say that only knowledge application gives you power, not just the knowledge in itself.
Employers are not just interested in your acquired knowledge. They want to see how you have applied your knowledge to produce value.
To demonstrate you have knowledge that can produce value, you need to get some relevant work experience for the role you’re applying to.
Some ways to acquire new work experience include;
- Volunteering: One way to get more work experience is by volunteering for professionals in the new field you hope to work in. You can ask for permission to shadow them and help in any minor tasks they may have.
You will be able to build your network, pad up your resume, and shadowing a professional in the field you’ve chosen will give you an inside look into the industry.
- Working on other company projects: Another way to gain more work experience is by volunteering to work and help out on related projects going on at your current company.
For example, if you’re working as a customer service rep in a marketing company and are inspired to transition into a career in the marketing field, you can volunteer to assist in projects they may have. This will help you develop your skills and may even open an opportunity for you in the company you already work at.
- Work on side projects: In the evenings after work or on days off, you can spend your time working on side projects that can help you pad up your work portfolio.
For example, If you’re hoping to pivot to a more digital marketing focused role you can start running and promoting campaigns. You can even offer your services to non-profits or small businesses that may need help in gaining an online presence.
Acquiring new work experience will not only look good on your resume, but it will also give you an inner look into the industry you may be working in in the future, just in case it may actually not be the right fit for you.
Step 7. Update Your Professional Brand Assets.
Changing your line of work will most likely require you to change and fine-tune the way you present yourself professionally.
Your professional brand assets include your CV, Linkedin Profile, and personal website.
Reviewing your CV, personal websites, and Linkedln profile can go a long way in making your career change experience smoother.
Personal branding is all about marketing yourself and attracting recruiters and more job opportunities for you. Some good places to start are;
- Your CV: Highlighting your skills and experience on your resume in a way that fits the new career options you’re looking into is important. Using a functional CV that lists your relevant skills will shift the focus to what you can offer the company and what they stand to benefit from having you fill that position.
Your CV is an effective way to show employers how you will be a great asset for the position you’re applying for.
- Your Linkedln Profile: Your Linkedln profile is one of the first places that a hiring manger will check; this means it’s important to match the information on your CV to that on your Linkedln profile.
When updating your CV with any new work experience or certifications, you may have gotten, do not forget to update the same information to your LinkedIn profile.
Optimize the headline section of your profile by listing major skills that will be required in your new profession. Highlight your work experience, certifications, technical skills and expertise.
- Your Personal Websites: This is a little extra but your personal websites is the best way to really stand out, tell your story and showcase your personality. It is your home online and you can make it whatever you want without sticking to strict rules like with CVs and Linkedin.
Bonus Tip: Take Action.
Now that you’ve drafted out an amazing action plan and gotten the planning part out of the way, the only thing you can do is start putting the action in an action plan. Prioritize yourself and your future by investing your time and energy into making this career transition work for you.
Even though it may be a big and scary decision to make for most people, if you’re intentional about what it is you want, and you’ve drafted out your action plan on how to achieve what you want, the only thing left to do is believe in yourself and finally put your plan into motion.
Need to build your foundational knowledge? Acquire more work experience? Great, get started right now. Look for online courses or certifications and start your journey.
Need to connect with other professionals in your field? Great start using your social media to network and reach out to people.
Identified and packaged your transferrable skills? That’s great; now incorporate those things into your CV and Linkedln profiles stat.
Do not hesitate, do not procrastinate. The best time you have to make this career change is now. Commit to putting into the work, and your efforts will definitely yield results for you.
But also, be patient. It’s important to know that no shortcuts exist. Take small steps, even if they are imperfect ones. When starting out in a new career, you may need to take entry-level jobs to be able to acquire experience.
And although talking to other professionals with similar backgrounds may yield a lot of help and advice, remember that your journey is unique to you and does not need to go exactly as it went for other people.
Just think about it. The pros will definitely outweigh the cons. You’ve planned everything out; now trust your instincts and go!
Changing careers can be difficult, but you can make it happen with the right tools and attitude! The eight tips in this article are tested and proven when making the action plan that’ll you’ll need to make this career change a successful one for you.
Do some research into what careers best fit your experience, skills, personal needs and wants. Network with professionals who have a similar background as you build on your foundational knowledge by acquiring more work experience, skills, and qualifications you’ll need for your new role.
Update your professional brand assets to align with the new career you’ve decided to pursue and market yourself as a perfect candidate for roles in your new career path.
Finally, take action and treat your career change as a job in itself. Make sure to invest your time, energy, and any other resources you require into turning this dream of yours into a whole reality.
There are many opportunities out there open to people with backgrounds in customer service; the key is finding these opportunities and equipping yourself with all the experience, skills, and qualifications that are sure to make you perfect for the role.