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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

8-10-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians -- Starter Job #174 (Working Temp in NYC: Answering Phones/Reception)


So today, let’s explore one of the clerical/secretarial tasks in more thrilling detail. Let’s start with answering phones/reception. Being in the age of the push button reception phone system -- no longer patching in the cords like you see on old movies with phone operators -- in some places, being temporary receptionist was almost a breeze.

But if the large phone console on the reception desk was poorly marked with names or at all dysfunctional (sometimes buttons stuck or there were broken connections wired internally), beware.

Such a thing happened at a small company I once worked for in midtown, Quantum Science Corporation. I took the receptionist temp job because that was all that was available on that particular day and even though it paid a few bucks per hour less, I was feeling industrious and needed the work.

My temperament wasn’t ideally suited to working a busy reception desk, though -- I got easily flustered and when the heat was on I was brusque with some callers, which I instantly regretted but there, it happened, harm was done. Oh well. I never said I specialized in reception but could be a pinch player.

“Hello, good morning, Quantum Science Corporation, how may I help you?”

“Looking for Mister Coodleschnook.”

“Ah, um, just a minute.” I’d put the caller on hold and try to find that button and the instructions on how to transfer the call (each phone console was slightly different each place you went, it seemed). Then I’d go to the phone list which was key to what extensions went to which employee ‘cause the phone consoles weren’t always marked accurately.

“I’m back, thanks for holding, transferring to Mister Coodleschnook,” I’d say, and deftly make the transfer. Well, on a couple of calls, the transfer button stuck so they didn’t go through, and I had a few irate callbacks.

Then, in the middle of all that mishigas, one of the queen bees of the office sashays by and tells me what a crappy job I’m doing on reception, wondering aloud where they get the awful temps from. Of course I tried to bite my tongue, but being the type A communicator, I tried to explain to her that the list wasn’t updated, the buttons were sticking etc.

Frankly, my dear, she didn’t give a damn.

At any rate, if that was the nightmare scenario, there were better ones, too.

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