The ramblings of a self-proclaimed call center veteran - on surviving the Philippine Call Center industry.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

TIPS ON - GETTING A COLLEGE DEGREE WHILE BEING A CALL CENTER AGENT: PART 2


Once you make the decision to get a college/vocational degree, how do you actually accomplish it?  A typical call center agents salary is 15k, and there are other expenses -- is it really possible?

As I mentioned, I managed to work my way through college as a call center agent while providing for my siblings -- so that proves it's possible.

And here are some tips from my personal experiences.  This should help you in earning that degree.

1) Save money for tuition
First thing you need to do is make a budget plan.

Know where your money goes with every paycheck you receive.  Write every expense you make and be aware of every peso.  When you write your expenses, you become more aware of how much money you spend.

Immediately allocate a small amount of money every payday for your college tuition.  Saving little by little makes your money grow.

Try and open another account for your so called college fund so that you will get less tempted to withdraw your money from your main atm.

Save money when you can -- this includes walking short distances, bringing packed lunches (which will always be cheaper), and saying no to outings and gimiks.

2) Find schools with less tuition fees/deferred payments.

Lots of universities have lower tuition fees.  Be realistic and find a school like the Polytechnic University of the Philippines and transfer there if you can't continue to pay for your previous college.

You can also check out different colleges in your area -- community colleges are much cheaper than the famous schools.  It may not be Lasalle or Ateneo, but any school is better than none.

Some schools also offer deferred tuition fee payments.  AMA colleges have a 60k tuition fee that is payable in 1 year.  Explore different schools and find easy pay options.  Do not feel ashamed of asking for tuition schemes -- most schools already know how poor Filipino's are and have designed tuition/financial aid schemes.

3) Try the Open University system

I got my degree through the open university.

What you do is you enroll in a particular course, and you get modules that you may take home and answer at your own pace.  You get lessons and submit projects through the internet.  Exams are usually just once a semester at special venues.   Once you pass a certain subject-- you earn the corresponding units for your course. You also have the choice on how many subjects you will take per semester.

It took me years to get my degree but it was worth it.  The tuition at that time was 10k for one semester.

***Note that some Schools charge more for Open University enrollees since they target the working class undergraduates****

See this link for details on the Open University system in the Philippines:
http://en.wikipilipinas.org/index.php?title=Homeschooling_and_open_universities_in_the_Philippines

“Homeschooling and open universities have proliferated in the Philippines over recent years due to the ease of long-distance communication over the Internet and the rising cost of education and other resources. They permit study at the student’s own pace and allow a more flexible schedule that enables the student to pursue work or other interests while studying. Such programs are supported by Article IV of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, which decrees that quality education at every level should be made accessible to all Filipinos, including self-learning, independent, and out-of-school study programs.”
Source: WikiPilipinas

Other open universities in the country are below:

Cap College Philippines easily offers several undergraduate programs.
CAP- LEGASPI BUILDING
5th Floor, 149 Legaspi St., Legaspi Village,
1229 Makati City, Philippines
Tel Nos. : 812-6923; 810-9142; 892-6395
Fax No. : 818-0560
http://www.cap.com.ph/college/home.htm

The Up Open University system is where most of my friends graduated from, you can choose from a 2-year Associate’s degree course to a 4 year multimedia arts course.
UP Open University
Los Banos, Laguna
(049) 536-6001 to 06
Diliman Office 9207117
http://www.upou.org/

The Polytechnic university also offers distance education.
Just google their number
www.pup.edu.ph

My friends also mentioned this to me.

ASIAN INSTITUTE FOR DISTANCE EDUCATION
Address : Unit 302, Greenbelt Mansion, Perea St.
Legaspi Village Makati City
Metro Manila 1229
Telephone : (02) 810-0968 ; (02) 819-3286
Fax Number: (02) 813-0565

4) Apply in call centers with a College assistance program
Some call centers have college loan programs, they pay for your tuition or for a part of your tuition.  In return, you have to work for them for a certain number of years, or you pay the tuition fee via a percent of your salary.
Try to find a call center with this benefit, ask your friends or call the HR department.

*Sykes is one of the call centers with this type of program.*
http://www.sykes.com/careers/philippines.aspx
For inquiries, please call:
(Manila) - 02-8178781

5) Find extra sources of income
When you decide to study, you will need all the money you can get -- so start finding rackets and sidelines.  Have an Autoload business, or sell pastry.  You can also try selling items on Ebay.  You may also find a second job as long as it's easy.  Apply as a part time barista, or a waiter.  Be a home tutor or someone who washes cars.  Try to go for sales and be an Agent for Boardwalk or Avon.  Find legal ways to make money.  Do not sell drugs or sell your body just to get by in college.

***

All in all, earning a degree will be very difficult.  Sometimes, you will lose heart and will want to give up.  So remember that you are not alone and that a lot of us fellow pinoy agents have gotten college degrees while working as agents.  Some are still continuing to do it at this very moment.

I have a friend currently working at Convergys.  She works at night, and she goes to regular classes in the day.  She only gets about 5 hours of sleep, but she says it’s worth it.  She often jokes that she will sleep 8 hours everyday after she graduates.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

TIPS ON - GETTING A COLLEGE DEGREE WHILE BEING A CALL CENTER AGENT: PART 1



Lot's of call center agents are undergrads, because the call center is the only industry that gives decent wages for undergraduates.

I am one of them -- my father passed away and I had to stop college and provide for my family.   The call center industry gave me chance to provide for my family, and save enough for college.

And after years I finally managed to get that degree.

So for those agents who dreams of getting a college degree, I have 4 words for you-- it can be done!  I did it, and so can you.

Here are some tips from my own personal experiences that I would like to share with you.

PART 1: What's the proper mindset?

1) It is not impossible to get a degree

It may be hard, but not impossible.  There may be lots of sacrifices along the way -- but you must always sacrifice something to gain something.

2) Make it a Goal - so have a deadline

Once you get that paycheck, you then start to think "why should I finish college when I'm already making money?"

You will then make up excuses like "I really can’t find the time to finish college.” or “It can’t be done in my current situation.” Or the classic, “It’s my goal to finish college, so sometime soon, I’ll find a way…”

Remember that "soon" is often equal to "too late".  Therefore, make it your goal to actually finish college.  A goal will always have a deadline -- so give yourself a hard date on when to actually accomplish this.

3) The call center is not a permanent career
I personally know how hard it is to motivate your self to finish college -- so realize that the call center industry is not a stable career.

I have been an agent for 4 years now and I can guarantee 100% that your position as an agent, team leader, quality analyst etc., is only as good as the next end of life of the account.    When the contract expires, or when the American companies decide to transfer the account to India, you need to find new work.
You may gain experience and apply for a new job based on your previous position -- but remember that you can also get replaced by the younger generation.  It's the naive and stupid who say that call center careers are forever.

So finish a degree/vocational/diploma course -- it will be safer in the future when you are a bit older.

4) Philippine companies measure you based on your educational attainment
As I mentioned, the older you get, the harder it is to get a job without a degree.

Get those rid of thoughts like -- “its not the education that counts but how capable and experienced you are.” 

This statement can be true for other countries (and for some lucky people).  But if you live in the Philippines, you get measured based on educational attainment.

5) Attaining a degree builds character
It shows that you faced the challenge and just did it.

It’s not really just the piece of paper that you get, but the struggle and the effort it takes for you to gain a degree will definitely build you as a person.

(Continued in Part 2)