By: Joycelyn Cabrera, EAW Student Digital Reporter

Customer service centers provide hands-on work experience and professional development for college-level students, who can take various skills with them onwards in their careers regardless of their fields of study.

Each student can acquire skills needed in any full-time professional setting no matter their major.

Hanifah Muhammad, a freshman from Arizona State University, studying biological sciences has worked for EAW as a customer service representative and technical support specialist for the past five months in partnership with a global technical support program.

“Working here doesn’t only give you technical skills that apply directly to what you’re doing, but it also gives you skills in learning how to look for information to solutions for specific problems,” says Hanifah. “Which is something I am going to need to know how to do in the future if I am going to have a career in the natural sciences. My goal is to create cures for diseases. I’m going to need to learn problem solving.”

Out of 418 Arizona State University students at EAW’s site in Arizona, countless majors and fields of study can be found – ranging from business communications to performing arts.

A 2018 report from Indeed Career Guide listed customer service representative as the sixth-best job out of 25 for college students to have part-time. According to the report, factors considered included flexibility, stress levels, and skill development.

Customer service and support centers can give a student experience in hard skills such as IT support, account management, and troubleshooting. However, these places of work also provide practical skills and professional development to students at the same time, including time management, professional conduct, and productive communication.

Niyon Pamphile, a student coach for Education at Work, says he learned a lot about time-management while on the job in a financial support and account management program. Niyon is majoring in organizational leadership and global management.

“I had two clubs I was involved in and I was working, but the issue came with the fact that I’d wait until two weeks to get these projects done, and the professor would say, ‘make sure you get this done early,’ but I thought ‘I have so much time,’ until I didn’t anymore,” Niyon says. “One of my supervisors sat me down, we created a schedule, color-coded, and categorized everything. It has definitely helped. I notice I don’t have as much stress, because I can look at the calendar and say, ‘OK, tomorrow this is what needs to get done, and if it doesn’t, here is where I can work on it the next day.”

The leadership and communication skills taught to students is hands-on and ever-evolving. William Taylor, a Student Supervisor for Education at Work, and a geography and geology major at ASU.

“There’s so many different leadership styles here. You’re going to get exposed to so many different strategies and techniques, you don’t know what kind of boss you’re going to walk into,” William says. “By moving and working with different supervisors, you’re getting exposed to different leadership styles which will help you in the work place.”

College students working as customer service representatives get real-world experience in professionalism by speaking with customers, supervisors and upper management in a controlled environment where coachings take place to support students.

Education at Work supervisors and leadership will specifically run mock interviews, resume overviews, and huddles to improve communication skills with the intention of professional development in students.

Madelyn Sugg is a junior at Arizona State University studying business communications. She is a student coach with an internship from Education at Work’s financial support and accounting management program under her belt.

“A lot of customer service skills translate across the board. There’s a level of intensity to the customer service interactions that happen, where you face a lot of de-escalation, like conflict negotiation. Even being able to hold yourself accountable to metrics – that’s the sort of thing you’ll be able to take with you in whatever industry you’ll be working,” Madelyn says.

According to records, half of all students at Education at Work in the state of Arizona have majors that are related to business communications, accounting, or technologies. The other half are inclusive of arts, psychology, sciences, and language majors, among others.

Lucas Rodriguez is an Education at Work supervisor who has been with the company for two years. Lucas says that while there is a general mix in majors and studies from the student body, he finds that the diversity in students positively impacts the learning environment while working.

“We have students from all over the country, some from different countries all together, so it’s a real opportunity to interact with different personalities, different backgrounds, and learn to be understanding of other people and how to work with people in general,” Lucas says.

Centers for customer service and support are often known for the tight-knit communities that are created among employees. One major benefit to this occurrence for students is networking. As students become tenured within the program, they get connected with supervisors, lead technicians, and upper management for the service centers, as well as for Education at Work itself.

“Networking goes as far as having off-the-cuff conversations with the president of this company,” William says. “He comes in, he’s asked me about my major, he’s asked me all these different things. Just having a conversation with somebody like that, he’s told me I could put him on my resume as a reference, and that’s huge.”

Customer service centers offer more than technical or management skills to students who are working their way through college – they offer professional building, personal growth, and improvement in communication – all of which are necessary in every career path.

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