Odd Jobs #5 – phoney me

When I wrote my first “Odd Jobs”-blog in September 2015 I was just starting to settle in at the job I currently still work at and was still very much in the honey moon phase. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my job and am not planning on leaving any time soon, but things have changed since then, which is logical and good for my development (or so people keep telling me).

full-caterpillar-to-butterfly-transition

Looking back across my CV and the different jobs I’ve done, I see one big trend: the telephone. The odd one out in that sense, is my time at the notorious tax office (aka the most miserable you have ever seen me). And thinking about it now, I think I only said yes to that job because it involved no phonework whatsoever and I had decided I needed to take a big and conscious step away from call centery work if I wanted to move forward.

When I started taking my frustrations from work out on my favorite people, I changed my mind quickly and ran back to the first phone I could find.

My current job involves picking up the phone but is very un-callcenter-like in every other aspect. My previous work experience made this part of my job a walk in the park and very gradually shaped me into the company’s unofficial “phone coach”, as a surprisingly large group of people is either not very good at this or genuinely afraid of the ringing machine… Helping my co-workers find their telephone courage taught me several things:

  • Maybe, perhaps, probably, possibly, could and should are words that express doubt and avoiding them not only makes the person on the other end of the line feel more confident about the message you are communicating, but also has a positive backfire-effect on the person who speaks them.
  • “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer (when it is true) and is more helpful than offering a solution you are unsure about.
  • A sincere “I am sorry to hear that” is sometimes all that is needed.
  • Words are powerful things and should not be underestimated.
  • There are many ways to say “No”.

An interesting transformation I have seen happening in “newbies”, that I recognize now in myself as well, is the following:

  1. The beginning:
    Internal dialogue: So much new information, I will never get the hang of this!
    I feel unsure / hesitant / overwhelmed / Argh!
  2. One month later:
    Internal dialogue: Customers are not calling to make my life miserable and I actually know quite a bit!
    I feel more confident / proud / relieved.
  3. Getting the hang of it:
    Internal / external dialogue: “Yes, yes, no need to finish your sentence, I know what you want. Probably better than you do. Let me get into my flow and tell you everything I know so you can be on your way.” Next!
    I feel over-confident / impatient / repetitive / superior / judgmental.
  4. Slightly frustrated
    Internal dialogue: I’m quite sure I was giving customers the information they needed but now that I’ve been told to try a different approach I feel like an idiot.
    I feel insecure again. I feel like my words sound insincere and unnatural. I feel rebellious.
  5. Telephone zen
    Internal dialogue: First, I’m just going to listen….
    I feel relaxed / open minded / self-confident / ready

What I disliked about callcenter work:

  • most-important-call-center-metricsScripts.
  • Being evaluated using silly standards such as
    • Did you mention the client’s name the right amount of times?
    • Did you ask the client if there were any further questions (even when the client has clearly said he / she had no further questions)?
    • Did you say all the sentences in the right order?
    • Did you manage to keep your average conversation time under 3 minutes?
  • Strict break times.
  • Good hair days turning into bad hair days after constantly getting entangled with headphones.
  • The constant buzz of people talking around you, for 8 hours straight.
  • The unhealthy air / lighting.
  • The clear limit there often is to the amount of critical thinking that is tolerated.
  • Crappy tea (and apparently also bad coffee, but that doesn’t affect me)
  • The fact that I can’t pick up my own phone without automatically mentioning my employer’s name as well.

What makes my current employer different:

  • No real script, apart from the greeting when you pick up. The rest of the “script” consists of general pointers and tips (that by now have mostly been written by me).
  • Break time is very flexible (up to the point that many of us forget to take a proper one).
  • Relatively small budget, so pretty crappy phones & underlying technique.
  • It is encouraged to come up with alternative ways to do things and every idea will be looked into seriously. Disappointment when your plan disappears into the bin after one (or two) looks, is not really allowed though. You must be able to get yourself together quick and move on.
  • No evaluation (or none that I notice).

What I hope to master in time to come (or at some time in my life):

  • Time keeping
  • Making decision with “the bigger picture” in mind
  • Making a plan and sticking to it.

My final conclusion is that call center work is often seen as the bottom of the career food chain, and yes, any slacker could probably do it… but people that are really good at it need to know so much about so many things, starting out with empathy. I think that it every human being would work in customer care for a while and would really make an effort, the world might be just a little more friendly…

Advertisements

Cocoon crashing in the nineties

When I was in my teens, K’s Choice was one of the bands I listened to religiously.

My love for this band was recently revived after a friend had posted singer Sarah Betten’s singing one of their best known songs earlier this year with one of my other teenage heroes: Skin.

The album Cocoon Crash includes so many songs that I felt very much intertwined with at the time and that still speak to me. I think “cocoon crash” is  probably a very appropriate way to describe puberty in general, and mine was no different.

One of my absolute favorite songs, despite its slightly confusing lyrics is Now is mine.

Other personal faves are Butterflies Instead and Believe. Oh yeah, and If you’re not scared. (Choosing, not my strength…)

A song that still gives me crazy goosebumps every single time, is the live version of Shadowman, one of the few K’s Choice songs attributed fully to Gert Bettens, instead of his sister and lead singer Sarah Bettens. It’s a long version, but I recommend you watch it. It’ll hit you right in the feels.

After having gone their own separate ways for a couple of years, K’s Choice, has reunited and is making music again and I think they’re even doing some tours. So glad to hear that (and not only because it makes me feel young).

Rock on.

Dutch nationalism: Je maintiendrai

Those who have ever been to the Netherlands and / or have read some of my blogs must already know this: we are not big on nationalism.

Sure, we have our symbols.

Tulips-in-Holland.jpgAs far as our flower goes, I suppose it must be the tulip, all though I don’t think that’s actually official. But the rest of the world associates us with it, and we carry it with pride.

Our national bird is somewhat of a mystery to me. I think we might not have one. All the cool birds of prey were already taken, I guess, and claiming a bird of paradise didn’t fit with our Calvinist attitude, even though we could’ve adopted one from our colonies

Our coat of arms looks like this:

wapen-van-nederland-met-motto-je-maintiendrai-2622a3-1024.jpg

….which brings me to our motto: Je maintiendrai, which is French for We will hold on

Yes, you heard me: French.

If we speak French in the Netherlands, you ask? Not a word! We speak Dutch, and if anything else it would be Frisian. Our English is pretty good on average, followed by German. Our French; deplorable.

I guess our founders decided it was better for PR to avoid the guttural sounds that are inherent to our own language when presenting ourselves abroad. And French is sexy enough, non?

But let’s proceed… Because let’s be honest, the choice of language is not the only thing that’s off…

Let’s look at some other country’s mottos:

  • Ordem e progresso; it may not be a very accurate description of the current state of the country, but it’s something to strive for: Order and Progress. You can do it, Brazil!
  • We’ve all heard of Cuba‘s: Patria o Muerte: Country or Death! A bit over the top maybe, but I’m definitely fired up! (no cigar and or rum pun intended)
  • And what to think of Egypt‘s: Ankh, uza, seneb, which translates to Life, health, well-being. Beautiful!!! Makes me want to move there.

Now, back to the Dutch motto: We will hold on.

crickets chirping.gif

Are you inspired yet? No, me neither….

It sounds like the motto of a slightly apathetic and bored teenager at her great-aunt’s 97th birthday.

I’m still hoping there is some historically interesting and motivational story behind it, but I think that what it all boils down to is a peoples that has struggled to make a living on a marshy bit of land that keeps flooding.

I mean, I get it. It’s super demoralizing to have to keep rebuilding your house and loosing all your livestock and all… But maybe that wasn’t the time to design that coat of arms…

Because look at us now! We battled the elements, built ourselves some pretty sturdy structures and have kept our fields dry ever since (*knocks on wood*), making it possible to feed and breed the best bloody dairy cows IN THE WORLD. And don’t forget the tulips!

So, we didn’t merely “hold on”, we whooped the sea’s ass! How about we write THAT at the feet of those fierce looking lions??

*pushing my luck here, knocking on wood again*

One of the Dutch provinces that we pumped dry, for example, has Luctor et emergo as a motto, which is Latin for “I struggled and emerged”. Something to be proud of, no?

I suggest we update our motto, as it was clearly written by the same people who thought our national anthem should ignore all things Dutch, and focus on some German guy, loyal to another king, as explained in a previous post.

First contender: If it ain’t Dutch, it ain’t much.

Still open for suggestions…

Supporting Arnold Schwarzenegger

In my mind, Arnold Schwarzenegger never really rose above the status of “ambitious meathead”. I always joked about how tragic it really was he had reached a point where his English was now as good as it was ever going to get and that his German was actually not very good anymore either. There aren’t very many people that aren’t fluent in any language…

I know that he was the governor of California for a while and that people called him the “governator”. He seemed popular enough but I really know nothing about his political legacy, other than that he served two terms and is a republican.

So, when he dedicated a video message to president Trump earlier this summer, with an anti-hate message, I was very pleasantly surprised. He comes across as a very wise man, actually!

 

 

 

I’d vote for this guy based on this!

And then after Trump pulled out of the Paris agreement, he posted another video:

 

So yah, if he would drop his support for the death penalty, I would totally buy this t-shirt.

terminate hate tshirt.jpg

Margaret

The Canadian prime minister may look like a fairy tale prince, but it turns out he has a mother, just like the rest of us. And reading about her life and feelings in the interview she recently gave on a local US radio channel, made me respect him (but mostly her) even more.

The fact that he is one of the youngest prime ministers Canada ever had and simultaneously one of the most balanced and mature politicians at present, makes total sense. He has been a grown-up since he was a child. He had to be.

In the interview, his mother Margaret speaks openly about her life as both the wife and the mother of a prime minister. Her life in the lime light was especially challenging for her, as she suffered from mental illness, fueled by the frustrations that must come with such a position. She explains:

I was becoming a very angry woman. I felt used and not useful. As a wife of the prime minister — as opposed to your first ladies in America — there is no position, there is no office, no assistant. I’m just supposed to be, as I said, a rose in my husband’s lapel. But I really was fighting since I was a little girl for the right to be equal. My mother raised her five daughters that way. And then I found myself in this very old-fashioned marriage, with the press using me as political fodder, and I was angry.

I think she is very eloquently putting a feeling into words that many women have felt at some point in their lives, especially in that era. These are things that are starting to change only now and we are just learning how to discuss it fairly and openly. I can imagine there must have been people that thought she had it all made and thought her ungrateful for wanting even more.

One of the biggest fears in my life is probably to be reduced to something as insignificant as “the wife of”. I crave for acknowledgment as much as I do for social invisibility. It’s a miracle I haven’t gone mad, all though I guess it may be up for discussion…

All though I joke  about “going mad” in the previous paragraph, I do not suffer from mental illness in any (diagnosed) shape or form, all though some of my most beloved people have in the past or still do in the present.

And that is exactly why I applaud Margaret Trudeau for stepping up to the plate and broaching the subject of mental illness. Most of all, because of the encouraging words she spoke at the end of the interview:

So if you can stop both the denial and the blame, there’s only one person who can help you. And that is yourself. You have to find the courage to say, ‘I want to have a better life,’ and then you reach out for help. You don’t know how many people are out there just longing to help you.

margaret-trudeau01-1000x666

Such a beautiful woman. He has her eyes.

Dutch nationalism – the anthem

The Dutch National Anthem, aka “the Wilhelmus” is said to “date back to at least 1572, making it the oldest known national anthem in the world”.

Noteworthy! Something to make a mental note of in case you ever end up at some random pub quiz.

So the anthem is basically a poem, written from the perspective of our founding father, William of Orange.

The lyrics however, sound bizarrely unpatriotic. The first line is:

Wilhelmus van Nassouwe ben ik, van Duitsen bloed.

This translates to:

William of Nassau am I, of a German bloodline

I’m all for knowing and honoring your heritage but did you really have to put it in the very first line, mr of Nassau?? It kind of feels like talking about your awesome Ukranian ex and her super fit body on your first date with me… How about we talk about ME?

(LOL, that never happened to me, no worries)

 I dedicate undying faith to this land of mine.

Ok then. The second line is better, all though I am not sure which land you are speaking of exactly, as you thought it necessary to start out by emphasizing you weren’t from here, originally.

I am a Prince of Orange and quite fearless

Yes, sir William, you are indeed a prince of Orange; a title you inherited after your cousin died. Well done.

The king of Spain I have always honoured.

WHAT THE HELL? Why would you bring that up, WILHELMUS????

I’m just sort of getting over your shady mention of your German blood and now you straight out tell me in my face you are actually loyal to another bloody king?? That’s fucked up, Willy, I’m not gonna lie…

Yah, I know they grow oranges down there, but that’s not what your title means!!! (Not sure what it DOES mean, but that’s for a different day.)

The End

I kid you not, that’s it.

Or no, not true. There are actually 14 verses more, in which he mostly praises god and his family. A sort of Oscars acceptance speech, I suppose…

But yah, the part we Dutchies sing before international soccer matches and after winning medals at the Olympic games, is just this:

William of Nassau am I, of a German bloodline
I dedicate undying faith to this land of mine.
I am a Prince of Orange and quite fearless
The king of Spain I have always honoured.

Needless to say, the Dutch are not very attached to their national anthem… I dare to say that more than half of people under 30 would struggle reciting it correctly off the top of their heads. 

So you can imagine the whole US discussion about dishonoring the country, by dishonoring the anthem, by kneeling in silence, is pretty hard for us to grasp…