In Summary - Telephonist / Switchboard Operator
The Work - Telephonist / Switchboard Operator
A telephonist connects an organisation's incoming and outgoing calls through a switchboard. The work can be hectic when several people 'phone at the same time. When the switchboard is busy, the telephonist needs to work calmly but react quickly and efficiently. They frequently need to use initiative because the caller may not be sure whom they need to contact or who is responsible for dealing with their enquiry. Sometimes callers can be distressed or aggressive.
The job may involve answering enquiries, helping callers to find out whom they need to speak to, taking messages, or paging someone. In a large company, a telephonist may arrange telephone conference facilities. This enables a group of busy executives to 'meet' together, not in person but by using their telephones.
Telephonists must understand the structure of the organisation, especially the names and responsibilities of employees. In some firms, telephonists also have reception duties. They may operate a fax or telex machine, and have typing or word processing tasks.
This work normally involves sitting down much of the time and wearing a headset. Telephonists may work alone in a small company or with a group of other telephonists in a large company or exchange. Some telephonists work on directory enquiries, using a computer to find numbers when callers give a name and town. If working on emergency calls, they put callers through to the police, fire or ambulance.
Most commonly reported Work Tasks
- Answer incoming calls, greeting callers, providing information, transferring calls or taking messages as necessary.
- Operate communication systems, such as telephone, switchboard, intercom, two-way radio, or public address.
- Page individuals to inform them of telephone calls, using paging or interoffice communication equipment.
- Relay or route written or verbal messages.
- Place telephone calls or arrange conference calls as instructed.
- Perform various data entry or word processing tasks, such as updating phone directories, typing or proofreading documents, or creating schedules.
- Process incoming or outgoing mail, packages, or deliveries.
- Perform administrative tasks, such as accepting orders, scheduling appointments or meeting rooms, or sending and receiving faxes.
- Record messages, suggesting rewording for clarity or conciseness.
- Monitor alarm systems to ensure that secure conditions are maintained.
Most commonly reported Work Activities
- Interacting With Computers Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
- Getting Information Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
- Communicating with Persons Outside Organization Communicating with people outside the organization, representing the organization to customers, the public, government, and other external sources. This information can be exchanged in person, in writing, or by telephone or e-mail.
- Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
- Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
- Performing for or Working Directly with the Public Performing for people or dealing directly with the public. This includes serving customers in restaurants and stores, and receiving clients or guests.
- Documenting/Recording Information Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
- Processing Information Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
- Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
- Monitor Processes, Materials, or Surroundings Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
Interests - Telephonist / Switchboard Operator
This occupation is typically suited for people with the following Career Interests:
Administrative people are interested in work that offers security and a sense of being part of a larger process. They may be at their most productive under supervisors who give clear guidelines and while performing routine tasks in a methodical and reliable way.
They tend to enjoy clerical and most forms of office work, where they perform essential administrative duties. They often form the backbone of large and small organisations alike. They may enjoy being in charge of office filing systems, and using computers and other office equipment to keep things running smoothly. They usually like routine work hours and prefer comfortable indoor workplaces.
Enterprising people like situations that involve using resources for personal or corporate economic gain. Such people may have an opportunistic frame of mind, and are drawn to commerce, trade and making deals. Some pursue sales and marketing occupations. Many will eventually end up owning their own business, or in management roles in larger organisations. They tend to be very goal-oriented and work best when focused on a target. Some have an entrepreneurial inclination.
The Social person's interests focus on interacting with the people in their environment. In all cases, the Social person enjoys the personal contact with other people in preference to the impersonal dealings with things, data and ideas found in other groups.
Many will seek out positions where there is direct contact with the public in some advisory role, whether a receptionist or a counsellor. Social people are motivated by an interest in different types of people and like diversity in their work environments. Many are drawn towards careers in the caring professions and social welfare area, whilst others prefer teaching and other 'informing' roles.
You will need good communication skills, including a friendly, helpful and professional telephone manner. You will need a clear voice and good listening skills. You must be quick thinking and able to use your initiative, to find the appropriate member of staff for a caller who doesn't know who they want to speak to.
Telephonists should be able to remain calm; the switchboard can become very busy when lots of people telephone at the same time. You must be able to remain professional and assertive with impatient or aggressive callers.
You may need some basic computer skills and, depending on your duties, the ability to use standard office equipment such as photocopiers and fax machines.
A smart appearance will be important if you also have some reception duties. Good hearing and clear speech are essential.
Entry Requirements - Telephonist / Switchboard Operator
Pay & Salary - Telephonist / Switchboard Operator
Salary Range (thousands per year)* 18k - 32k
Last Updated: March, 2017
* The lower figures typically reflect starting salaries. Higher salaries are awarded to those with greater experience and responsibility. Positions in Dublin sometimes command higher salaries.