Many people view working as a help-desk specialist as the first step in launching a successful career in tech. While the job features its share of stressors—yes, you really did reset that one employee’s password ten times this week—it can also provide valuable skills, including an increased aptitude for troubleshooting.
Fortunately, you don’t need an incredible amount of in-depth knowledge for an entry-level help-desk position; a year or two of technical training, along with some experience in solving problems, are the fundamental qualifications of many jobs. Many companies offer some level of on-the-job instruction; in addition, help-desk software makes it easier than ever (at least in theory) to log tickets, look up answers to vexing issues in an internal Wiki, and study analytics via support for Google Analytics and other platforms.
Indeed, working the help desk can prove invaluable to one’s later career, as it offers the opportunity to strengthen some core “soft skills,” including:
Your Troubleshooting Knowledge
While many help-desk issues are straightforward, anyone who’s worked the phone knows there’s always that weird problem that seems beyond any conventional solutions. At those moments, it helps to possess ninja-caliber troubleshooting skills. But how can you boost your ability to think up an effective answer?
The short answer: Don’t focus on the problem.
While that sounds counterintuitive, letting your brain obsess over the nuances of an issue is a very good way to stress yourself out. Instead, shift your thinking toward the actual solution. Visualize the best possible result, and begin working backward—what do you need to get there?
In addition, there’s often more than one pathway to a solution. Open your mind and ask yourself, “What if…?” The best answer may prove unconventional—and that’s okay, so long as you have a happy client at the end.
Work on Your People Skills
Help-desk specialists deal with a lot of aggravated people every day. If you’re not careful, the tension can really get to you—remember to take breaks and “de-stress” as often as possible. All that negativity, though, provides an opportunity to rapidly boost your people skills: If you can survive a bad week in tech support, you can handle pretty much any of the negotiations that await later in your career.
Things you can learn at a help desk include:
Communication: The ability to clearly communicate concepts is key to working in tech—and the help desk is a great place to learn how to do this. Chances are pretty good that your clients don’t understand technology, which means you need to explain everything in as simple terms as possible. In turn, learning how everything works will give you a good knowledge base for when you begin studying more advanced concepts on your own.
Engagement: It’s hard for many people to engage with others on a constant basis. Working the help desk can build up your aptitude for interacting with others, which can only assist your career later on.
Adaptability: When it comes to the help desk, every day is a new challenge. It’s a good introduction to the flexibility needed to succeed in the tech industry.
Once you’ve done enough time at the help desk, you might feel ready to jump to the next stage of your career. If you want to advance within your current company, take the time to identify mentors you might want to work with, projects that seem interesting, and jobs you really want. By taking steps to specialize your skills, you can jump to anything from management to systems administration.