You’ve started your IT career. Now what?

So you started your IT career and you landed in a help desk position.   What now?   We wrote an article,  “It takes time in the trenches of help desk”   that tells you to do your time.   But what about those amazing salaries on Computerworld or over at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Occupational Handbook?   How do you get there?  It takes time, experience and skill.

In IT you have to do one of two things.   You can be a master at everything or you have to find a focus on one area.   In IT, you can attend school and get ready for an entry level position.   You can also become an expert in one area.   This is one of the most career killing things you can do.  Why?   I’ve seen programming languages come and go and I’ve seen technology change at the drop of a hat.

But where does your advanced education come from?   OJT (On the job training) and self-study.   Without the ability to grow, you’re job can become stagnant.   Attend seminars,  attend classes, go to college and experiment.   Most of all, network with others and watch and listen to others in the field.  Have an open mind and be prepared to continually grow in the field of IT.

Here’s our article on  “It takes time in the trenches of help desk” from  March 10, 2012

That’s right, you’ve earned your way through technical school or college only to land at a help desk job.   Take a second and look at the logic behind this. IT professionals over the years have landed at help desk and the successful ones deliver quality service to the end users.   IT Managers, Directors or CIOs just can’t put someone in their server room without adequate experience troubleshooting computers.  An understanding of the operations of your organization starts by being exposed to all of the software and inner workings of the company.     Can you land that job in the server room or as a network admin?  Sure.   Reality is that it is rare.    It takes time, trust and experience.

When surveyed, IT professionals have a deeper respect for that manager that has done their time at help desk.   Many professionals do their time in this role and elect it as a career.   If you do your time and continue your education by getting more certifications, going to seminars and electe to attend a higher educational institution, you can work your way up the IT ladder.

The stress of help desk is different than any other stress.    While you have to put on your happy face and deliver quality service to your clients, it all starts at this level.    The redundancy of calls,  end-users who are frequent callers and the general grind of problems coming at you that appears to never end causes this stress.

IT managers and upper management in this field take notice of the people who excel at customer service.   IT is a service based career and help desk is your starting point for your career.    Ironically problems in this field go up to the higher level IT professional and solutions have to be pushed down in order to keep everyone happy.

Being positive and upbeat while you do your time in the trenches will bring that recognition to you.   It also allows you to place this experience on a resume for future jobs and positions in your organization or with different companies.

After decades in this career, I can point out hundreds of students who kept this attitude and later in their careers became more successful in IT.   There seems to be a sense of entitlement going through the IT field.   See help desk as a starting point to move up.     What about an example of someone who worked their way up?

One such example is Eric Canneer.   Eric started his career in IT as level I help desk and performed well while keeping a positive outlook.   During his career he never stopped learning and later was hired by one of the world’s largest logistics company and now manages their wireless globally.    While Eric is one example, hundreds of more examples come to mind.    I’ve had students who 95% of the time start help desk and over a period of one or two years worked their way to higher level positions in some of the country’s Fortune 500 companies and in every type of business and industry you can think of.

Are you truly ever out of a help desk position?   No.   You may not have that grind of answering phones daily but you are trying to please the end user and the problems never go away.   With a society that thrives on technology, you have to accept that innovation and  new technology brings on new problems and headaches.

Handling the stress of help desk and continuing your career in IT-

  • Accept the fact that you are in customer service regardless of your position
  • Obtain higher level certifications
  • Continue your education with a higher-ed institution
  • Realize that the customer is venting at the situation and not you
  • Help other IT personnel and work as a team
  • Ignore any negative personnel who bring you down
  • IT is in the top ten growing industries and the opportunities are greater than any other career
  • Find ways after hours to relax and get away

Information Technology will continue to grow and positions will continually be added in this field.   Less than three years ago, we didn’t truly have mobile computing experts that took care of a field that is growing at an unprecedented rate.   Become an expert in several fields and prove yourself not only to your managers and company but prove yourself to to you.

Here’s a great comment from this original post.

“IT is a service based career” … “There seems to be a sense of entitlement going through the IT field.”

These are the two most important statements in the entire article. Too many of my IT coworkers look down on the users and don’t treat them respectfully, which in turn soils the reputation of IT people. We are not an elite field of nothing but Bletchley Park code breakers, even if we think we are, and even if the end users think we are just because we were able to reset a password or tell them how to setup an email signature.

Consider yourself a mechanic instead. Some of use are working at Jiffy Lube, doing oil changes and routine maintenance. Some of us are rebuilding engines at Pete’s Auto. Some of us are helping design new transmissions at TransConn Int’l. But that’s it, so get over yourself, get another cup of tea, and answer the phone politely.

I’d also add, “Acknowledge the fact that you don’t know everything about everything”.    Mike


About TCAT Shelbyville IT Department

The Tennessee College of Applied Technology - is one of 46 institutions in the Tennessee Board of Regents System, the seventh largest system of higher education in the nation. This system comprises six universities, fourteen community colleges, and twenty-six Applied Technology Colleges.
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2 Responses to You’ve started your IT career. Now what?

  1. Pingback: Tech Product of the Week: Kindle Fire HD 7 Inch Tablet Computer « What's On My PC

  2. Jason H says:

    Great pep talk! As somebody in IT full-time for a few years now, I have mostly managed to make it to the tier past the help desk and work on some of those bigger services that are more fun and engaging. What your post said about attitude and humility was all too true and I would add, “Once you make it “out of the Help Desk” don’t forget everything you learned in regards to troubleshooting and customer service. Be willing to help those in the Help Desk even if you think yourself above and beyond the ‘entry-level help desk’.”

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