Posted February 19, 2018 by

How to get out of customer service and transfer your skills to a new career


You have worked in customer service, maybe for longer than you planned. Working in customer service can be exhausting, and you really want to launch a new career. Before you get disillusioned (or especially if you already are), take heart. You likely have many skills that will help you get out of customer service. Here we list six skills you’ve probably built that you can transfer to a new career, and we also give you a list of jobs to consider that might be your ticket out. 

The National Retail Federation released a report that claims 71% of hiring managers say that retail provides its employees foundational skills and experience that are transferable to other industries.

The report also found that for hiring managers, retail experience on a resume indicates to them that the candidate is friendly (76% of hiring managers), follows directions (72%), knows how to — and can — work with anyone (70%), is a hard worker (63%), works well under pressure (66%), can learn and pick up things quickly (65%) and takes initiative and is a self-starter (64%).

Skills you build from your customer service job that you can transfer elsewhere

1. Interpersonal communication skills

You build interpersonal skills from customer serviceWorking in customer service teaches you how to read body language and navigate personality types. You gain “fluency in dealing with a huge variety of people,” says Joanne Meehl, Job Search Queen® of Joanne Meehl Career Services. If you’ve done well in your customer service job, you know how to really understand your customers, not just hear what they say. Every organization should truly understand its customers, otherwise they will lose relevance and eventually fail. Your ability to do this is very valuable.

Additionally, you have the ability to work positively with people who are rude to you, and to turn a negative situation around. You adjust your behavior, language and attitude accordingly. This is exactly what businesses mean when they talk about interpersonal communication, and it is very transferable.

“When you master the effectiveness of your interpersonal communication, it becomes your calling card and useful in any field where one has to deal with customers directly,” says Linda Kuriloff, career coach and author of “The Charm of Confrontation: The Life-Changing Benefits of Being Frank.”

Related: Communication skills factor into who gets promoted

2. Problem solving skills

Working in customer service builds problem solving skills because you need to navigate situations quickly with people with a variety of needs. A manager isn’t always around to provide instructions or make decisions. Meehl sees customer service reps who, “depending on the level of decision-making power they’re given by their company, can make many decisions on behalf of the customer.”

3. Subject matter expertise

Meehl had a client with customer service experience from working in a phone center. “She was required to deal with doctors’ offices so she became strong in her skills around HIPAA, patient confidentiality, commonly-prescribed pharmaceuticals, and more.” If you’re interested in the industry where you work, but yearn to get out of customer service, you likely have picked up useful industry knowledge that you can transfer to another role.

4. Teamwork skills

You likely work within a team to serve customers, and you can transfer your skills in navigating those team relationships, generating ideas together and coming up with solutions. “The main lesson I learned in working in the hospitality industry was the importance of customer service and teamwork,” said Kari Grittner, Accounting/Finance Chair at Rasmussen College. “Because of the nature of the work, it is impossible to accomplish goals without the help of the entire team. If even one person ‘drops the ball’ the entire system fails and the customer suffers.”

5. Ability to keep cool under pressure

Rude customers make you want to get out of customer serviceWorking in customer service has likely put you in a number of high-pressured situations. The customers’ needs must always be met, and met right now. Meehl says, “the customer may be frustrated or upset, which adds a level of stress for the Customer Service Rep, so that’s where they develop additional resilience and the ability to not take it personally.”

6. Sales skills

Especially if you have been trained to up-sell customers, these skills would be very transferable, especially to a career in sales. Providing good customer service is part of keeping customers loyal to a company. If you’ve worked in a setting with repeat customers who you can get to know and address more personally, this is directly related to sales. Good Sales Reps understand their customers and tailor their messages to individual needs.

How do you make your first move away from customer service?

Now it’s time to start your job search. Before applying to any job, tailor your resume so that it highlights the skills we’ve listed above—IF the job calls for those skills.

Related: Avoid common mistakes on your resume and stand out [interview with Job Search Queen®” Joanne Meehl]

Use your resume or an interview to tell a success story, or proof of accomplishment, that proves to the employer that you have those important soft skills. Don’t just say you’ve developed problem solving skills. Tell a story that proves it. For example, think about a difficult customer who made demands that your employer normally wouldn’t grant. What did you hear the customer say? What was your response? And what was your action and solution? To really impress the recruiter, tell a story about when your action led to a positive outcome for both the customer and your organization. Was the customer so pleased that he posted a good review online? Did your solution lead your manager to improve a policy that more efficiently served customer needs? Those story endings demonstrate the value you can offer an organization.

In your job search, you should consider supplementing your customer skills with an internship, volunteer position, or classroom/project experience that is directly related to the jobs you want. With more diverse experience, you can offer more. “A candidate who was a waitress on weekends while also taking a special entrepreneur class immediately got fast-tracked to the final round of candidates,” said Patrick West, CEO and Founder of Be The Machine.

Also read: Why employers covet soft skills developed working in restaurants and retail

TIP: Never bad mouth your customers, regardless of how horrible they may have been. Businesses must serve their customers well to make money, and no recruiter will hire you if you speak negatively of them. Be professional. To really impress your recruiter, describe a challenge you’ve faced with a customer from the point of view of the customer. Point out why they were unhappy, and what you did to solve their problem.

What jobs should you look to next?

Start your job search after customer serviceMeehl suggests looking beyond entry-level. Instead, she says, you should build on your customer service experience. Her client who worked in a heath care phone center could “become a Project Specialist, for example, with a health care company, applying her knowledge yet going deeper with it. Or she could become a Pharmacy Tech if pharmaceuticals interest her.”

If you like working with people but can no longer stand to be in customer service, consider searching for the following jobs.

Human resources

Public relations


Nurse or Physician’s Assistant


Brand Ambassador

Financial services

Insurance agent

Compliance Officer

Program Manager

Social services

Project Manager

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Posted in Advice for Candidates, Communication, Finding the Right Job, Getting Experience, Job Search | Tagged