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Forever a Telemarketer

Updated on March 13, 2013

I've been working in telemarketing for a long time, about ten years now, and not because it's what I wanted to do when I grew up (who the fuck would?) but because it's the only way I knew how to make any decent money without a proper college education.

I slacked off in high school, blamed it on my parents, my less than ideal upbringing, my angst and financial constraints, and voila - here I am. I had tried going to college, but had a meltdown, couldn't swing it emotionally or monetarily, and moved back in with mom. I then got into working in telemarketing, saved up, moved out, tried going to college several more times but couldn't swing it because of work, and I guess that's where this part of my story begins.

I work for an online "university"; for those of you unfamiliar with the terminology and the mocking parenthetical, it means I work for a for-profit college that offers completely online degrees. The money is fantastic, I'm really good at what I do (using my sales experience and training to get people to enroll), and I got to get my Bachelor's degree for free. Sounds great, right?

I'm sitting in a football field sized call center right now. Our cubicle walls are not quite like the ones you see in most call centers. The walls of the cubicles are low, and you're able to see the entire office from your station. The place is empty. There used to be close to 500 people working here, before the shit hit the fan. At this point, thousands of people have lost their jobs at this company. Most were laid off, but many were fired due to under-performance, and miscellaneous compliance and business needs issues. You see, this company - er, university - blew up in terms of profitability and popularity by being grown on the paradigm of metric-based compensation. In plain English, everybody on the Admissions end of the business had a monthly enrollment goal; they got the number of enrollments they needed to place them in certain tiers of dollars-per-hour pay (for management, they had tiers as well but were on salary). This ultimately turned out to be a disaster. If you dangle a carrot for the horse, the horse is going to run and run and trample over anything in its path to catch that damn carrot (we salespeople are the horse, money is the carrot).

We talk to the most down trodden folks in America. People, like me, from less than ideal upbringings that carry their angst and financial constraints like a badge of stratification that curses them to perpetuating their plights, most unknowingly, few conscious.

We sell them the American dream. We sell them snake oil school.

I am miserable.

I should be grateful, they say. You're living the dream, they say.

This might be the time to mention the fact that I got my degree from this place prior to working here, and I'm straddled with debt I can not repay.

More to come.

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