So you’ve decided customer service is the career for you! That’s great news, particularly if you’re a people person with a talent for handling different personality types. But be careful: the nature of your day-to-day work can often make it feel as though your career isn't progressing forward. You’re so busy hopping from customer interaction to interaction, putting out fire after fire, that at the end of the day it seems like you’ve hardly made it closer to the goalposts. They seem to reset in the same place every day.
If you're along for the ride on this rapid-fire, non-stop, go-go-go ride, it can be really easy to get too burned out to try and plan your future career growth. Here are a few things you can do to make sure you’re moving forward, and not just treading water.
First, decide where you ideally want to land.
The field of “customer service” is actually relatively new, and is evolving at a rapid rate. There are tons of options available for you. Schedule yourself time on a recurring, frequent basis, to ask yourself what you actually want to end up doing in the longer term. Do you have a particular position or company you'd like to pursue? Then talk to your boss (or a trusted mentor) about how you can work toward your bigger goals. Don't waste your time—if you don't know what you want, it's impossible to start planning how to achieve it. The sooner you figure it out, the sooner you can begin working towards more specific goals.
Then, devise a specific plan.
Whichever direction you choose, start strategizing and networking until you figure out a rough game plan of how to move that way. If you're interested in management, for example, you can talk to people who’ve started where you are on the front lines and made it up to leadership roles. Ask to hear their stories. And if managing people doesn't interest you, that's fine! Start honing your skills in your area of speciality, building your resume (and pursuing opportunities that will help you do just that), and building your brand. Become the go-to person in the industry that interests you the most.
Finally, make the most of your time—wherever you are.
Just because you’re in support now and don’t want to stay there indefinitely doesn’t mean it isn’t an important stepping stone to further opportunities. Starting out at entry-level is actually an asset. Having a support job on your resume shows that you've been in the trenches and know what it’s like to interface with clients day in and day out. Plus, in interviews you can talk about how you've honed the most important soft skills and tricks of the trade—empathy and patience.
And just remember: even if you end up making a career just where you are—in support and interfacing with the customer—you can still work toward finding the most ideal position within that domain. If this is where you end up, you won’t necessarily have stagnated—you’ll have grown.
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