Reader Question: I like working on and fixing PCs. How do I get a job as a Help Desk technician?
Thank you for your email. Before answering your question directly, I would like to divide it into two parts; becoming qualified for a Help Desk job and then finding one.
Regarding finding a job, if you have a reasonably strong understanding of PC hardware and software, I would immediately begin looking for an entry level Help Desk job. My reasoning is you may get lucky and find an entry level position requiring relatively low current knowledge, as long as you are willing to be a quick study and begin at a low level of pay. Once hired, you should expect that you will be doing low level work, such as changing printer cartridges and preparing new PCs, laptops, tablets and cell phones for company use. That said, as your skills increase and your professional reputation grows, you will hopefully be given the opportunity to learn new things and perform more advanced tasks.
When your job search is underway, you should also do the following activates to increase your knowledge, enhance your experience and expand your skills.
1. Make fixing PCs a hobby, not just a profession
Have a hobbyist’s passion and curiosity. This is one of the best ways to gain professional knowledge. I had a PC and server tech person working for me a number of years ago. Computers were his passion. In addition to continually reading about technology online, at home for fun, he would install the latest operating systems, try to connect old Linux boxes and PCs on the same local area network, and so on. He was by far the most knowledgeable techie I have ever worked with. He was a true specialist on PC hardware, data communication, data security and operating systems. He was able to amass this incredible body of knowledge because he loved to play with it, make it work, break it, and start over.
2. Find a few old, but working, PCs and have some fun
Find a few old PCs, laptops and tablets that are no longer in use. For example, you may have an old PC in your basement that was running very slowly, wasn’t worth upgrading from XP to Windows 7 or 8, or had a small disk hard drive. Find a few of these machines, take them apart, exchange their internal parts, and try to build one big PC from three little ones. You’ll learn about memory incompatibility, device drivers, and other related items. The beauty of working/playing with these types of machines is that no one cares if you break them. In most cases, people will be happy you are willing to take them off their hands. This play can materially expand your knowledge in a no-stress way.
3. Read the Want Ads like it’s the sports page
Reading the Want Ads online on Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com, and even local newspapers (yes, the printed kind) for Help Desk Technician openings will help you gain an understanding of the different types of Help Desk jobs. It will also give you a strong understanding of the types of skills that companies are looking for and trying to hire. This will allow you to compare your technical skills with the skills in the job descriptions. This understanding will help you discover your technical strengths and weaknesses, thus, giving you a roadmap of the technologies you need to learn.
4. Fill in your knowledge gaps
Knowing your knowledge gaps (based on #3 above), dig in and gain knowledge in the areas you lack. For example, if you have a strong understanding of operating systems, but have relatively little knowledge of PC hardware, take a class, watch “How-To” videos on YouTube, or find other similar ways to expand your knowledge. The trick is that you must be willing to go outside your comfort zone and not be intimidated by technologies you don’t know.
5. Participate in online PC support discussion boards
This activity may seem trivial, but reading the discussion boards will provide you with insights as to the types of issues that Help Desk technicians run into on a daily basis. Then, as your knowledge increases, you can begin answering some of the questions that are posted. This not only expands your problem solving skills, it also documents your knowledge and willingness to help others within social media context. This will help you build your professional brand and maybe a job offer will come to you.
Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to build your professional brand.