Help desk is a starting point for many IT professionals, however some stay in this role for many years. This often under-appreciated, but very important role can be rewarding for those who like to help people, however, has a low ceiling when it comes to compensation. So many of my candidates ask; how do you get out of help desk?
How long is too long?
3 years is certainly the maximum to stay on the help desk, of course some environments may vary and be more technical then others, so one may need more time to max out their learning potential. In other words as soon as you can do your job with our eyes closed, it is time to move on.
What are the options?
For some reason help desk technicians believe that they only have two options, either becoming a help desk manager or system administrator. Sure, this seems like a natural step forward since a lot of trouble tickets get escalated in this direction, if they cannot be solved at help desk level. However, I always encourage my help desk candidates and contractors to look beyond those obvious options into a whole world of possibilities.
Leverage your position
Being on the help desk puts you in touch with literally everyone in your organization, which gives you a huge advantage of building relationships internally and learning about other IT roles. Take some time to look over your organizational chart and see who is who. As you provide support to those groups make small talk with folks you support and get a bit closer with those, whose jobs interest you. Do favors and be extra helpful to those you want to work with! Greet them in the hallway, go to lunch with them, and make a point for learning more about their jobs. When you make-up your mind and decide what team you would like to join, ask them to help you lobby with their boss. Then, when the seed is planted, meet with their manager and state your desire to be a part of their team. Be prepared to show them potential value, find out their pains through talking to their team members, and sell yourself accordingly. For example, if you learn that the team suffers from poor documentation, you can advertize your ability to document well in your current role.
Make your move
Of course transferring to another team may take a while, but it’s important to be patient. And while your future supervisor is working on their headcount approval; you should start obtaining your new skills through self-help literature and joining professional online groups. Begin building your pool of resources for your new job.
When they are ready to take you on, make sure to speak with your current supervisor about leaving, they must find out from you. In this conversation be sure to thank them for their mentoring and ask them how they would like you to complete your transition. Be sure to be most diligent and thorough, smooth transition and a warm good-bye will help you maintain good relationship with your soon to be former boss. It doesn’t hurt to have supporters and good references.
With that said, help desk techs can and should dream big. It is a lot easier to transfer to another team within your current company, then trying to change direction by looking outside. Keep in mind that your organization’s management is encouraged to promote from within and cross-train their staff. You paid your dues here and you displayed your diligence, reliability and solid work ethic, so why not benefit from your already invested efforts? With a new company you would have to do that all over again before they would invest in training you for a new role. So act now and feel free to call us for more specific advice!