Q: Since the pandemic began, many people have transitioned to working from home. I would love to be able to do this. I’m in my mid-40s with some college, no degree and no real marketable skills or talents, and the only work-from-home jobs I’ve found involve call centers.
I worked at one once but had to quit after a few years because it was ruining my health and my marriage. The company did not allow time off for doctor appointments and illness, a leave of absence or a reduced work schedule when needed.
I enjoyed working at home; I just hated the work I did. We handled back-to-back calls, so if we worked four hours, we would get a 10-minute break and earn 1 1/2 minutes of personal time per hour. We were expected to use our break to use the restroom. Using personal time was discouraged. If we worked more than eight hours, we would get a 30-minute unpaid lunch and two 10-minute breaks. If a shift was midday, it was almost impossible to eat lunch in 10 minutes. Nobody could take time off during a holiday. I missed my family’s Thanksgiving because I couldn’t find anyone to cover my shift, and I was afraid of corrective action if I just took off.
How can people with no college or special skills fit into the work-from-home puzzle without being relegated to “sweatshop” call center jobs? Going back to school of any kind isn’t really an option at this time in my life.
A: Although the company followed the legal requirements, you are correct in referring to it as a “sweatshop.” Such companies take advantage of people who are not employable elsewhere. Having a college degree does not necessarily prepare a student with marketable job skills. Many wealthy (some extraordinarily wealthy) people without college degrees have created businesses where they have thrived and commanded respect in the business world: Richard Branson, James Cameron, Simon Cowell, Larry Ellison, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Ralph Lauren, Wolfgang Puck, Rachael Ray, Tony Robbins, Ted Turner, Mark Zuckerberg and more. So, don’t let dropping out of college or your age limit you. You simply haven’t found what drives you or discovered a talent you value enough to share. And while everyone is not destined to become a millionaire or billionaire, not having a college degree should not confine you to working at a call center.
Deaths due to the coronavirus have reached 500,000 in the U.S., but the number of cases is slowly going down. As the population realizes that following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines of wearing a mask and maintaining a safe distance from others helps, the situation will improve, and people will feel more comfortable returning to work in safe environments. Until then, updating your technological skills would be a great investment of time for you.
You can choose among courses in basic web development at a community college or courses offered by individual internet sales companies focused on short-term programs for using their systems. Practical courses, unlike the esoteric college courses to increase one’s knowledge without applying it, will give you skills to increase your marketability while providing attainable goals to ensure a better work future for you.
If taking practical courses seems overwhelming at this point in your life, you may want to meet with a counselor to discuss your confidence level. Sometimes negative experiences in school, at work or in life create a fear to move forward. With at least 20 more years of work ahead, clearing hesitation about learning new information can open doors of opportunity for you. Even if you don’t need to earn money, working can help keep your mind active and interesting.
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