The IT help desk was once seen as a low level entry position that offered very little skill development. With the evolution of the modern help desk and implementation of best practices such as ITIL this has changed. The IT help desk is now seen as an IT career launching platform.
By working on a modern IT help desk you interact with all of IT and most of the company you work for. This opens doors to building relationships with managers and others who can have an influence in and help you with your career.
The skills required and taught to modern IT help desk workers transition well to other positions. Some of the skills developed on the help desk include:
- Analytical skills
- Incident management skills
- Trouble-shooting skills
- Communications skills
- Knowledge management skills
- Customer management skills
- Crisis management skills
- Technical knowledge of software and hardware
- A greater overview of how IT and the company works
Overall that is a nice set of skills that can lead you up the IT ladder to other positions. The skills you develop on the help desk can help you move into technical positions such as data center operations, network management and systems administration. Other positions such as project management and business analyst require good problem solving skills and a broad understanding of how IT and the company work.
Help desk managers can find their career path wider as well. Not only do they have the above listed skills, but with added management skills they are a valuable resource for the company.
One thing you should not do is stay on the help desk too long. If you do you will become stereo-typed or seen with a lack of ambition. Two to three years is a typical stay for a help desk worker. By then you should have adequate skills to move on to other positions.
You should continue to develop your skills with training. While the skills you learn on the help desk are valuable, any that you can add such as project management training, network security or one of the other high demand skills will help you. If you are looking to move into management the time spent on the help desk allows you to take courses to develop those skills.
For someone coming out of college or someone with little technical or IT experience the IT help desk may be your best entry position. Often there is a high turnover of quality help desk workers into other positions in the company. This leaves the landscape open for someone with ambition and commitment to improving themselves and their career. If you are interested in a particular area of IT, use the relationships you build to find out what skills are needed.