Want to Win Earlier in your Career? Author Alma Angel makes the case to get a job in customer service.


Have you ever shopped at REI for outdoor equipment? If you’re like most people who’ve ever bought camping equipment, hiking boots, or a bike helmet from the store, you’ll remember how friendly and helpful everyone working in the store is. REI’s former CEO Dennis Madsen got his start at the store as the ‘lowest man on the totem pole’ at seventeen years old as a shelf stocker and customer service team member before rising to the CEO role.

And it turns out, in high-performing organization after high-performing organization, author Alma Angel finds that the best and most successful managers, leaders, and executives all got their starts in some customer service role.

Angel shares her own story of her first job in customer service being cursed out by an irate customer for a return policy he didn’t like.

Writes Angel, “I just sat there thinking, ‘Wow, this just happened to me.” And nearly a dozen years later, Angel reflects on how important those experiences were to her career success.

“I still work in customer service twelve years later,” she shared. “It’s just not called customer service — as I’ve learned, every job is customer service.”

Alma Angel’s new book, Skilled: Why Customer Service is More Than a First Job (New Degree Press, 2021), discusses how customer service jobs are not just “first jobs.” Perhaps the most powerful element of the book was her ability to reframe jobs in restaurants, telesales, retail, and customer support through the lens of core soft skills:

  • Active Listening
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Managing Stress

Writes Patricia Haddock, Organizational Communications Consultant and NLP Practitioner, about the book,

“Alma delivers a top-notch book on customer service that explores many of the challenges customer service employees face daily. She uses concrete, practical examples, and excellent research to deliver concrete advice and help for the many obstacles inherent to public-facing jobs.”

And in today’s dynamic economy, many of us may have our first jobs in roles that don’t necessarily align to our expected career path or roadmap. Angel offers a powerful reframing sharing stories of executives like REI’s Madsen, who find the development of soft skills critical for leadership only can be built in customer-facing roles that are handed to us early in our career.

The book is a terrific read for anyone looking to reframe and better understand the customer service ecosystem — what these roles entail, how they prepare us for challenges, and why these roles often lead to some of the highest potential employees and managers inside organizations.

Skilled: Why Customer Service is More Than a First Job provides the reader with insight into the transferable skills employees develop and how these skills can be used in other careers too. Read this book to learn about all of the soft skills that people who work in customer service and why your stepping story or your next great hire might be working in a role that you never anticipated.

About the Author

Alma Angel has over ten years of customer service experience, an A.A. in business administration, a B.S. in finance, and an M.B.A. in business administration. As a first-generation Latina and the first in her family to pursue a college education, Alma is no stranger to hard work and perseverance. Knowing the importance of soft skills, Alma branched out from simply working in customer service to sharing her knowledge with others through her writing. When she is not busy working, Alma loves to travel and connect with other first-generation students. She also has a passion for snowboarding and can often be found with her sister “”shredding snow”” in Lake Tahoe during the winter months.”