A Career in Collections? Consider the Possibility!
Originally published: May 2014
Now is the time of year when the job market gets more crowded, as most colleges and universities adjourn, and a new crop of students graduate and enter the workforce. The National Association of Colleges and Employees estimates, there are approximately 1.6 million Americans graduating with their bachelor’s degree in 2014, but according to AfterCollege Inc., only 17 percent of the Class of 2014 has a job lined up. “What’s next?” is going to be a common question for many of these graduates.
The National Association for Colleges and Employers (NACE) surveyed nearly 10,000 college seniors who were on track to earn bachelor’s degrees in the spring of last year (mid-February through the end of March). The data was pulled together from students graduating in 17 different majors, and all were looking for full-time jobs. Results of the data gleaned information into which majors produced the most job offers, and conversely, which produced the least. Consequently, students who majored in Visual & Performing Arts, Education, Environmental Science, English, and Communications or Journalism fared the worst.
So what should graduates in these majors do if they can’t find a job in their field?
The U.S. Bureau of the Census indicates that only 27% of recent college graduates are working in a position that is directly related to their degree. This means that the majority of graduates went in a different direction when embarking on their career path. This story is not unfamiliar to a number of the team members here at ABC-Amega – most never ‘planned’ for a career in business-to-business collections, but found this a great opportunity.
ABC-Amega employs a large team of commercial collection representatives. Most have come to us from a variety of educational backgrounds including: Finance, Communications, Liberal Arts, Business, Political Science, and those with a foreign language specialty. Recently, three of our team members shared their experiences as to how they ended up working in collections and why this is the career path they have chosen to stay on.
Frank Battaglia, Assistant VP of Collections Services, has been with ABC for 33 years and has worked in collections for nearly 40 years, Rachel Radecki, Senior Collection Representative, has held her position for 7 years and Jeff Tharnish, International Team Leader, has been with the company for 4 years on a full time basis and 3 years prior to that as a part-time employee during college.
Q: How did you end up being a collections representative?
Frank Battaglia: I graduated from college with a degree in Sociology and was looking for a stepping stone until I figured out what to do. The opportunity with ABC was lucrative - and I was making a decent living, and through the years I was getting promoted. One thing led to another, and I have a career in collections.
Rachel Radecki: I was looking to get out of the retail job that I had been working when a friend suggested this position to me. I had the necessary customer service skills, and the salary and benefits were much better than what I was accustomed to, so I made the transition. This position has allowed me the flexibility to obtain my bachelor’s degree, which I recently completed, so it has worked out very well for me. Not many of my friends have been working for the same company for seven years.
Jeff Tharnish: My father has been ABC for over thirty years, so I began spending my summer breaks from school working part-time. I was very happy with the work environment, and after earning my bachelor’s degree in history, I was able to transition into a full-time position.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your position?
Frank Battaglia: You get to interact with a myriad of clients - no two calls are the same. Part of what makes this job fun is speaking to different people and allowing your creativity to flow when you speak with a debtor as you work out a plan to get their account settled. There is also a lot of freedom with the position. We are given appropriate guidelines, but we are able to deal with the situations in our own way, which can make things more manageable as you work through the day.
Rachel Radecki: I have a great time working with my coworkers, there is a team atmosphere which makes coming to work enjoyable. If there is ever a time when you need any help for any reason, someone is always willing to pitch in and help out, which I did not expect coming in.
Jeff Tharnish: I like the steady hours and stability…there are always going to be people who owe other people money! I feel lucky that I have the unique opportunity to speak with people all over the world on a daily basis, and I find that fascinating.
Q: What challenges have you faced in this field?
Frank Battaglia: When I began working in collections in the 1970’s the process was slower moving, a letter would be sent, and it could take up to 30 days before you would touch that account again, today 98% of what I’m doing is on email and I might touch an account four or five times a month.
Rachel Radecki: When I first started, I had some difficulty because everything was so new to me. It took time to train and learn about the business, which is to be expected anywhere. I also find that some clients can be upset when I contact them, but I feel as long as you have a soft approach, most situations can easily be toned down.
Jeff Tharnish: Changes happen quite a bit, so you need to stay on your toes. This job definitely keeps you mentally fit!
Q: What advice would you give to someone thinking of a career in collections?
Rachel Radecki: Make sure you have the type of personality that likes working with other people and communicating for the majority of your day. Having solid computer skills is also a must.
Jeff Tharnish: You have to be able to work independently and have the discipline to focus on achieving your goals.
It is always difficult deciding on your career, Job Search Central indicates that the average person will change career paths four times throughout their life. If you are a recent college graduate or a professional looking to make a career change, you may want to consider the possibility of a career in collections. It could be just the answer you’re looking for.