Tips for Success at Your IT Help Desk Job

By Tyler Regas

There are a few things you should keep in mind for your IT help desk job. Making friends is great, but not everyone will want to be your friend. Don’t ignore this fact. It may be surprising, but not everyone will want to be nice to you, help you help them, or be concerned for your future. It is a cruel and real fact of life that not everyone is nice, and a deep understanding of this fact is super, super important.

It is not your job to fix people.

Your job is to fix technology for people. You will forget this distinction at your own peril. You are also not an instructor (with exception to actual user training courses). Think of the automobile mechanic who works on your car. He may be nice to you and fix something for you, but he doesn’t teach you how to fix your car, and he doesn’t try to fix you as a person.

It is not just users that you need to be wary of. You must also understand the people you work with and work for. As the newbie, you will be starting at the bottom of the totem pole, and IT departments are not unlike wolf packs. It has a hierarchy that you must figure out before you start working your way through.

Amazingly enough, your boss (sometimes called a direct report) may not be the alpha of your IT wolf pack. Make sure to feel everyone out, get to know them, engage in social events like lunches or beers at a local bar, and tolerate their pranks.

Don’t drink too much. Have a beer, but if you are the new face in the crowd, leave early to avoid getting sauced. Make an excuse, if you must, but don’t tell a lie that may come back to bite you. You could also establish the myth of a helpless, intermittent friend who conveniently needs technical help. “I promised a friend I’d help them with his website /email/ smartphone.” This kind of excuse leverages your colleagues’ empathy. Of course, when you become the boss, you’ll now be able to recognize when your subordinates are using your old excuses!

Don’t just be a shrinking violet, though. Take part, follow instructions, but don’t test boundaries — at least not yet. You are setting yourself up for the long game, so you need to be patient and take cautious, calculated steps that will move you forward.