Getting a job on a corporate IT service desk is a great idea if you want a career in tech. The IT service desk is a common entry-level role into the tech industry, which means that you don’t usually need fancy qualifications or a super-techy brain to get on board.
The IT service desk can be the perfect place to gain an understanding of the world of IT and will also give you a great view of other IT and business departments. This can be incredibly beneficial if you’re not sure which career path you ultimately want to take.
It’s also a great place to get to know the company you work for and the products they offer. You don’t just see them, you get right down into the depths of them – learning what they are and how they work. This will put you in great stead for internal promotions, as well as giving you transferable skills to take elsewhere when you’re ready to leave.
But how do you get a job as an IT service desk agent? What skills and experience do you need to get an interview and then land the role? This article looks at some of the essential skills that make for a great service desk agent, along with advice on the experience and qualifications that will help you to land the job.
Understanding the Needs Across Skills, Qualifications, and Experience
There are certain skills that you will need to have if you want to be a successful IT service desk agent.
While technical knowledge is desired, don’t be put off if you feel that you don’t know enough about fixing hardware, installing software, or troubleshooting PC issues. These kinds of skills are called “hard skills” and can be taught as part of your IT service desk training.
What’s more important is your ability to stay calm under pressure, be super-patient, and have an eagerness to develop your technical skills. These are examples of “soft skills” and aren’t really something you can learn on the job. Sure, you can develop them with practice, but they’re really about who you are as a person.
Check out some of the most important soft skills that you’ll need to be a successful IT service desk agent, detailed in the next section, to see if it’s going to be the job for you.
The dictionary definition of soft skills is the “personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.” Breaking this down, I would point to specific skills such as:
Patience: You’ll often deal with end users who are not technical and will struggle to follow your instructions, no matter how clearly you feel that you’re giving them. You’ll need to have “the patience of a saint” to work on the service desk; without it, you’ll likely get frustrated quickly, and your customers will sense your annoyance.
Positivity: The IT service desk can be an incredibly negative environment. You’ll deal with people’s issues day in and day out. And when you see the same issues coming through, as well as hearing complaints all day, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Thus, you really need a positive outlook if you’re going to thrive – to see issues as a challenge to resolve, rather than a frustration to deal with. Plus, negativity breeds negativity; so if you’re showing irritation toward work, your colleagues and customers will pick up on this, too.
Passion: You need to be passionate about what you do. Wanting to understand how things work, striving to develop your technical skills, and really getting a kick out of helping others will set you in good stead. Life on the IT service desk is very fast-paced, the IT environment changes quickly and often, so you’ll need to love what you do if you want to keep up.
Empathy: Sometimes you’ll deal with miserable customers. It’s frustrating when you have a job to do but your required tools aren’t working to the standard needed. People who have deadlines to meet can be under immense pressure, so they might not be in the best frame of mind when they call you. Thus, you’ll need to show empathy when dealing with each and every one of them. Even if you’ve seen the issue one hundred times before, it’s new to your customer, and they need your help and understanding. If you can’t show empathy to your customers, you won’t last long in a technical support role.
Calm Under Pressure: The IT service desk can be a pretty hectic environment. You have calls waiting in the queue, emails to answer, tickets to resolve, and potentially people walking up to your desk to complain. If you can’t stay calm under pressure, then you’re in the wrong job. When customers are losing their heads around you, it’s important that you don’t do the same. If they can see that you’re calm, and have a handle on the situation, they’re more likely to calm down with you. (Plus, if you don’t stay calm, then you’ll lose the ability to prioritize, trying to tackle everything at once, and you’ll eventually end up stressed, burnt-out, and miserable.)
Helpful: You should have a genuine desire to help others. The IT service desk can be a hugely rewarding role; after all, you’re helping people to resolve their issues every day. When you genuinely want to help someone, that desire comes across in your customer service. You have the opportunity to really brighten someone’s day, which is a pretty cool job to have if you ask me.
Technically speaking, you don’t necessarily need any specific qualifications to land a job on an IT service desk, particularly if you demonstrate the above skills.
Here are a couple of suggestions, though, that would make your CV stand out from the crowd:
ITIL V3 Foundation Certificate: This might be desirable to some organizations, but certainly wouldn’t always be a requirement. Not all IT service desks follow the ITIL approach, and some will offer the ITIL v3 Foundation Certification to new employees as part of their training package.
CompTIA A+: This is an entry-level qualification into the world of technical support, and probably the most universally applicable. Having this on your CV shows that you’re serious about your career choice.
There’s a huge variety of experience types that can help you to become an IT service desk agent. If you don’t have any formal, related work experience, try to think of experiences in your personal life where you’ve had to use the soft skills detailed above.
Example experiences, which will help you, include:
Customer Service: You’ll be dealing with end users/customers daily on the IT service desk, so any experience you have in this area will help you. Plus, be prepared to talk about a time where you had to handle a difficult customer, including the outcome.
Teaching: As a teacher, trainer, coach, mentor, etc., you’ll have developed the ability to explain issues clearly and concisely. You’ll also need to do this when talking customers through their issues; and it’s likely that, as you grow in the role, you’ll be expected to train new staff members on the desk. If you can demonstrate this skill early on, then you’ll definitely be on your way.
PC Repair: Many candidates who apply for the role of IT service desk agent do PC repair as a hobby for family and friends. If you can talk about the passion you have for technology and fixing hardware, then this can really appeal to the hiring manager.
Problem Solving: On the IT service desk, you’ll face issues (or problems that need solving) every day, and so you’ll need to be good at coming up with solutions. Can you ask the right questions? Can you look at things a little differently? Prepare to speak about how you approach a problem and what you do to resolve it.
Organization and Prioritization: The IT service desk is a busy place to work. Often, you’ll have lots of different tasks battling for your attention, so be prepared to talk through how you prioritize tasks that seemingly have the same level of urgency. And how you organize yourself to ensure that you don’t drop the ball in a hectic environment.
As you can see, working on an IT service desk takes a certain kind of person. In short, if you want to develop your technical skills, love helping others, have oodles of patience and an ability to stay calm in stressful situations, then you might just find it’s the perfect job to get you started in the field of IT.
Sarah Lahav is CEO of SysAid. As the company’s first employee, Sarah has remained the vital link between SysAid Technologies and its customers since 2003.