One of the first things a good recruiter looks for on a resume for customer-facing positions is the keywords “love to help,” or some variation of it. If you don’t love helping people, you won’t last long in your support position. If you do, you’re probably really good at acting.
I’ve been in a customer-facing role for over 10 years now through several different jobs. I’ve watched co-workers become consumed by their hatred for humanity, witnessed college graduates toss down their badge and storm off after two days on the job, and endured management who didn’t believe women should even be in the workplace. The job world is tough for a lot of people, but customer-facing roles are often demeaned by people who’ve never personally experienced them. Even hard-working nurses are dismissed by some patients in favor of their doctors (who don’t really do all of the work).
A few detractors disagree, but overall the consensus is everyone should work at least 6 months in a customer-facing role at some point in their lives. In fact, I recommend you try retail or restaurant work while you’re still in college or high school. Your mind is more open to new experiences at that age, and it will help mold you into a more understanding person. Just try not to let the negative experiences weigh you down. Learn from them instead, and don’t be that jerk who yells at the waiter for the chef putting a pickle in their burger.
Most people are driven by something. Different personality types succeed in a variety of ways depending on what drives them. You have the leader who only feels fulfilled when they have people to delegate to. There’s the worker-bee who can’t stop moving and wants to do everything. Then you have the compassionate person who wants to make sure everyone is happy with their job. Each of these people work together to make up a whole company. We can’t all be leaders, and worker-bees need compassion, too.
Customer-facing workers should be driven by the desire to help, or at the very least to puzzle out situations. If you’re not that into people, but you love a good puzzle, you might consider going into a back-end job such as network admin or warehouse (you need some serious Tetris skills for some of those stacks of boxes). No job is beneath another. We all have different personalities and abilities that make us unique. Even in the same position, you’ll encounter a wide variety of people with different driving forces, all fulfilled by the same job.
I’ve read a lot of articles about the type of person who actually likes doing customer-facing work. That drive to help might be based on the desire to be needed. It could be because you genuinely empathize with someone who’s frustrated by their lack of understanding or health. Perhaps you have some parental instinct driving your actions. I even recall a meme of some sort insinuating a person had to have some sort of mental disorder driving them to it. If the job fulfills you, why argue the semantics? It works for you, so do it (as long as it isn’t illegal).
Regardless of the reason for making this sort of career choice, the role is a valuable one in society. Each cog in the great machine helps keep the whole thing running. Thank you to all of the customer-facing people out there – you help bring sanity back to those who feel lost, and your empathy has the power to brighten someone’s day.
Keep on smiling on!
This post is dedicated to a good friend of mine who passed away suddenly over a year ago. He was one of the nicest, most helpful people I’ve ever met.
Also published on Medium.