Best Career Advice for Help Desk Technicians

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The IT industry is on a roll, and help desk technicians have many opportunities to catch the wave.

If you’re not happy with your present position for any reason — anemic salary, few advancement options, lack of professional development — there’s no need to settle for the status quo. Here’s some career advice to boost your chances of landing your help desk dream job.

Understand industry trends

Three major IT trends that will have an impact on help desk technicians in the near future are mobility, “bring your own device” or BYOD, and real-time support.

With so many workers using mobile devices (and many of them self-supplied through BYOD policies or in spite of them), help desk professionals are seeing a rapid increase in the number and variety of gadgets they need to support.

Businesses are pushing the boundaries of mobile and cloud computing, but some IT departments and management systems are struggling to keep up. While smartphone and tablet apps are a positive consumer trend, delivering value at a lower cost and with shorter lag times, they can challenge the help desk.

When technology allowed more workers to telecommute, help desk professionals found themselves supporting user-supplied equipment. But mobile devices broke the floodgates. Even for companies that do not support employee devices, the mobile market is changing so quickly that it is an effort just to keep up with company-provided mobile devices.

One example: OS X is no longer a niche operating system (OS). Although Mac desktops and laptops are still more commonly found in education and creative fields, the dominance of iPhones and iPads means help desk professionals need to know both Windows and iOS systems. And if the Apple Watch takes off in the corporate world, as some business analysts expect, IT support personnel can add wearable tech to the BYOD list.

Real-time support expectations have put an additional burden on help desk professionals. With a user waiting on the other end of a phone, chat window or screen-sharing session, there is a much higher expectation that help desk technicians have the answer on hand. They also need to have outstanding customer service and organizational skills to handle the pressures that a real-time support situation requires.

The career advice here is simply for help desk professionals to be flexible and willing to learn. Instead of being resistant to change, see it as an opportunity to add to your tool kit and further your career. Look at what tools consumers and corporations are using, and be prepared to support them.

Expand your skills

Help desk technicians usually enter the field with general computing knowledge and receive further training from their employer. To rise up through the help desk tiers or someday land a leadership position, develop the IT support skills — including the nontechnical variety — that can help set you apart from the crowd:

  • Experience with networking protocols and widely used OSs
  • Knowledge of common software and apps
  • Familiarity with cloud-based platforms on a variety of web browsers and OSs
  • Customer-focused temperament, including friendliness, courtesy, patience, initiative and a sense of humor
  • Problem-solving skills, such as analyzing a client’s situation and researching solutions
  • Excellent written and verbal communication, especially to explain technical issues without using jargon
  • The ability to listen with an open mind

Tier 1 positions call for general troubleshooting and minor triage. To meet the qualifications for upper-tier support jobs, it doesn’t hurt to specialize. Some in-demand fields today are mobile, networking, data security, cloud products, healthcare and advanced server hardware.

Get training

Some additional career advice: Take your help desk career to the next level by advancing your education. You’ll likely find most employers prefer IT support staff to have at least a two-year technical degree, and relevant certifications are a big plus. Some of the most in-demand credentials are CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, Microsoft Certified Professional, HDI and Cisco. If you don’t have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, earning one can be a good way to unlock opportunities higher on the job ladder. Some employers offer tuition assistance.

Earning a certification opens the door to more choices. In a recent CompTIA survey, 86 percent of hiring managers polled said IT certifications are a priority.

They’re also a way to net a higher salary. The Robert Half Technology Salary Guide reports that IT professionals with an HDI certification earn 5 percent more than those without.

Don’t miss out on greater job satisfaction and a higher salary in the help desk profession. Our best career advice: Whether you’re after a promotion, raise or a new position this year, set yourself up for success by attaining the skills, specializations and certifications IT employers want most.