What I Wish I Knew Before Working in IT Technical Support

Things I Wish I Knew Before Working in IT Technical Support

As the resident “computer guy” (or gal) in your circle of family and friends, you’ve probably spent some time helping them deal with technological issues. Whether it’s setting up your grandmother with “the email,” as she lovingly calls it, or troubleshooting your buddy’s spotty wireless internet connection, you’ve probably wished you were getting paid for your time spent helping out.

The natural first step for many people in your position is to consider a job working in IT technical support. These entry-level help desk roles may not be the most glamorous tech jobs out there, but they’re essential for keeping businesses across the world up and running. But before you pursue a technical support role, why not learn from the people who’ve been there before? In this article, we asked IT professionals to share what they wish they knew before working in IT technical support.

What I wish I knew before working IT technical support

1. Not everyone wants to know the ‘why’

“Listen to [the user] and gauge their eagerness to learn and help,” says David Cox of LiquidVPN. “If they just want answers, try to provide them.”

You may be super enthusiastic about your work and want to go into great detail about what you’re doing to fix a problem or why something isn’t working, but sometimes you’re better off just providing the solution. That said, if you have a user that is eager to learn why something didn’t work and the time to teach them, go right ahead! You may just save yourself from a few repetitive service tickets.

2. Your experience really will stick with you

No matter how far you climb the ranks in IT, the practical experience you gain while working in a tech support role remains valuable.

“Even as an executive, you still need to assist the people you work with,” Leo Richardson says. “Instead of fixing printers and upgrading computers, you are now dealing with more complex systems that have multiple stakeholders.”

Cox says his experience working tech support has led to an extra emphasis being placed on testing and self-help documentation for his company’s software and services. In his eyes, reducing customer frustration by focusing on the end user will pay off in the long run with increased loyalty and happier customers.

“I love seeing the light bulb that goes on in people’s heads when they realize ‘Oh, this thing I thought was really complex is actually really simple’.”

3. You’ll learn to become methodical

“[Tech support] is as much figuring out what something isn’t, in order to figure out what it is,” says Christopher Bosma of LendUp.

It may be tempting to jump and make an assumption about what is going wrong for the user, but that can end up being very inefficient. Bosma says his method is to work backwards from the user. Once you rule out it isn’t something they’re doing, move to the hardware and wiring. From there, dive into potential software issues. You’ll be amazed by the number of issues resolved by relatively simple steps like making sure everything is plugged in and set up correctly.

4. You’ll get stumped

Sure, eventually you’ll practically be able to troubleshoot a printer or a wireless network in your sleep. But on occasion, you’ll run into particularly tricky issues that you have no firm idea of how to handle. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Bosma says there isn’t any shame in turning to the internet for help — the phrases “what is…” and “how do I…” can cover a lot of ground when trying to solve a problem.

“It’s not to say you can run your whole career using Google, but it’s a good place to start,” Bosma says.

It might feel like you’re cheating somehow, but your job is to fix the issue efficiently. It shouldn’t matter how you get the information you need — whether it’s from the internet or the expertise of a more experienced co-worker.

5. Certifications help, but aren’t the only factor in advancement

“Certifications are never something that will get you the job, but they will get you looked at,” Bosma says.

There’s a lot that goes into moving from help desk work to a more advanced role. You’ll need a mix of good timing, personality, certifications and experience to truly stand out. You’re on the right track if you plan to grind your way through and earn certifications in your free time, but don’t expect certifications alone to be your golden ticket. Show initiative in not only your desire to learn new technical skills, but also in improving your personal skills.

6. Your people skills will be tested

“Some people expect it to be always playing with fun new technologies and developing new infrastructure,” says Jason Silverglate, CEO of Continuous Networks LLC. “You will be dealing with irate, angry and sometimes mean people — you need to be able to accept that and deal with it.”

This is true of any job that requires an element of customer service; sometimes you’re just going to be stuck dealing with people at their worst. The positive to all of this is that you’ll learn how to deescalate a lot of tense situations and even make people’s day when you come through with the fix. Bosma sums it up as users being both the “bane of a tech’s existence” yet also the reason they get up every morning.

“I love seeing the light bulb that goes on in people’s heads when they realize ‘Oh, this thing I thought was really complex is actually really simple’.”

7. Your career path is in your own hands

Working in an IT tech support role is a versatile starting point for many tech careers. You’ll have the opportunity to dive into a wide variety of systems and gain valuable practical experience. That said, Richardson says it’s up to you to define your own path.

“If you want to be a software engineer, code in your spare time and contribute to open source projects,” Richardson says. “If you’re looking to be a [database administrator] begin working with that group in support of their servers.”

8. Pack your patience

“Patience, patience, patience,” Silverglate says. “A tech needs to talk to [a user] not at them while explaining things in simple terms a child can understand.”

There are going to be times where no matter what you do to simplify and explain, the client or user just can’t seem to figure it out. Other times, the user may be under a lot of stress and less-than-pleasant to work with. You’ll be OK as long as you don’t take it personally.

Move on up

The experience you’ve earned while working in an IT technical support role will definitely be a big part of what employers are looking for when hiring for more advanced roles. But that’s only part of the equation, employers will also place some value on your education level and the certifications you’ve earned. If you’d like to stand out as a serious candidate for these roles, a bachelor’s degree in IT management could help. Whatever you do, don’t stop learning.


About the author

Will Erstad

Will is a Sr. Content Specialist at Collegis Education. He researches and writes student-focused articles on a variety of topics for Rasmussen University. He is passionate about learning and enjoys writing engaging content to help current and future students on their path to a rewarding education.


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