It was a hot and sunny day. It was my first official job interview and I was quite nervous. Although I’ve already changed more than a few jobs, this was my first time to have a job interview. I was 25, still studying the Italian language at the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade, my hometown. And this was the opportunity to work in an Italian company, to put my language skills to good use for the first time! That’s what I thought I always wanted and I was extremely excited. Feeling my palms sweat, I took a look at the commission of 5 people that sat in front of me. They were all young, in their late 20s or early 30s. They asked me a bunch of questions which seemed quite simple to me and I answered without any hesitation. Afterwards, one of them started testing my Italian language skills. I thought it went quite well and overall, I believed I had left a good impression. However, I was still nervous after I left that room. I wanted that job so badly because it would be the first job tied to my profession and my passion at that time – the Italian language.
A few days later, I received a phone call. They asked me to come to their offices again in order to have an interview with their CEO who had arrived from Italy the day before. I accepted of course and I met their CEO that very day. She offered me the job of a debt collector in their call centre. It was a great opportunity, the first step up to a very tall ladder, a very responsible position where I would be accountable for large amounts of money and I would take care of hundreds of their clients personally. In reality, my job was to call people from Italy who didn’t pay their electricity bills. You can imagine how happy they were when they receive a phone call from me.
Having received a short training, I was ready to start working as a debt collector via phone. I carefully observed how the other debt collectors work – their tone, what they are saying to their clients, threatening them to cut off their electricity if they don’t pay the bills etc. In fact, there was a lot of yelling from both sides. However, the clients were often very frustrated and it was quite common to hear them cursing in several Italian dialects. All in all, I needed some time to adjust to my new environment and to improve my Italian language skills, but after a month, I was kicking asses in debt collection! Metaphorically, of course. Even though our team leader and many others, more experienced colleagues, told me dozens of times that I have to be brutal when I talk to clients and to threaten them in order to make them pay, I was rarely able to do so. I was always trying to be kind and to help them in any way I can, even though if it was sometimes against some of the orders and regulations we received from our superiors.
I stayed with this company for 7 months. Why I left is irrelevant for this ebook, but what I learned as a debt collector in a call centre was priceless for shaping the rest of my professional career.