I usually start these career guides with an anecdote relating to the job at hand. And, to some degree, I have enough stories about customer service and service desk specialist jobs. Many a year ago (for what now seems like forever), I did work as a service desk specialist. Despite it often being seen as a tumultuous job for those with thick skin and strong tongue-holding ability, I found it quite enjoyable. The idea of helping people and solving problems was fun and fresh every day. There was always a new issue arising. Always a new puzzle to solve.
And after 3 years of working remotely after the pandemic ravaged the world, the job seems even rosier in tint. I miss speaking with customers and interacting to find a common point, even if a majority were ripped with irritability and frustration-based biased. There is, somewhere deep down, an attribute or skill that makes people built for customer service. Some people are naturally great at it. Some are in love with it.
If you are one of those people that simply crave customer service roles, then diving into the IT realm is the best place for you. Despite global tech businesses laying off almost 150,000 workers in 2022, jobs still continue to grow at a comfortable rate.
On the contrary, 267,000 jobs were added to the tech market in 2022.
Every day there are new products being crafted in the labs of tech specialists. Therefore, there will always be service desk specialist positions blooming to help customers with new products. And IT jobs continue to be the most lucrative of all job realms. The average of IT-based salaries is still higher than any other industry in the country.
So, if you love customer service and want to start a role in it, your best bet is to move into the tech sector. There are customer service roles in every industry, sure, but IT may be the highest-paying and most reliable.
But how do you start a career as a service desk specialist? What do you need and where do you begin?
Well, as a staffing agency that started in tech, we know our stuff. You are in the right place. Here is our kinda-quick-but-ultimately-ultimate guide to becoming a service desk specialist:
- What Is a Service Desk Specialist?
- What Schooling Is Needed?
- Customer Service Is the Most Important Factor
- Make Connections, Always
- Take Other Entry-Level Jobs, If Necessary
- What Skills Are Crucial?
- Work With a Staffing Agency
- Need More Job-Search Advice?
What Is a Service Desk Specialist?
Recently, we posted a career guide to becoming an IT Help Desk professional. In it, we noted the confusion between all of the roles and their similarly-vague titles.
In it, we noted:
When discussing tech jobs, it’s easy to get confused. As noted, there are always new roles on the horizon. And with the tech lexicon being just as limited as the human language, you can find some overlap of description and title. So, before we even begin to break down the tips to become a help desk technician, we need to clearly define the role.
Overall, IT help desk technicians can easily be confused with service desk workers, call center representatives, IT support workers, and so on. And, to be fair, they all do have similar tasks and responsibilities within the team. Usually, the difference is a matter of medium.
All of the titles start to sound the same and hold very similar meanings. In regard to Service Desk Specialists, the job and duties are usually what people think of when they hear all the alike titles (like we just mentioned). Service Desk is the stereotypical customer service role.
Service Desk Specialists are the representatives that speak directly to customers. If a customer has an issue with a product or service and contacts the company’s customer service department (Service Desk), they are put in contact with the Service Desk Specialist. This position then assists with technical support of desktop computers, applications, and related technology via phone and remote desktop tools. Activities require interaction with application software and operating systems to diagnose and resolve unique, non-recurring problems. The position utilizes one-on-one consultancy to end users via phone support.
While other roles like IT Help Desk involve dealing with tech issues inside of the building, Service Desk is communicating and helping end users. The customers. The clients.
- Installs and repairs desktop hardware and software; installs/uninstalls voice and data systems; and processes work orders for voice, video, and data users.
- Performs technical support in a formal or informal help desk setting. Helps users with complex and non-routine hardware and software problems, which includes: logging, troubleshooting, testing, adjusting, resolving, or referring problems to the appropriate Information Technology resource.
- Oversees and provides instruction regarding assigned duties to lower classified IT staff.
- Acts as a liaison between the user group and the Information Technology unit to communicate problems and possible solutions.
- Researches new technologies and procedures to meet the growing needs of users.
- Provides training to user groups on how to identify and prevent problems.
- Works with other professional IT staff to develop and maintain technical procedures, documentation, and operational instructions.
- Tests in-house or vendor-developed software and software upgrades for user requirements. Also documents errors or discrepancies for corrections.
- Creates customized reports from a work tracking system to use in the analysis of hardware or software problems.
- Maintains a computerized inventory of voice and data equipment and specialized services for users.
- By position, coordinates work for large-scale upgrades or replacements of hardware and/or software.
- By position, responsible for the development of policies and procedures for special IT projects.
According to GlassDoor, the average salary for a Service Desk Associate is $49,678 a year.
What Schooling Is Needed?
Now, you always hear the cliche that any great job requires a degree dipped in gold. You cannot find a lucrative career without a college degree, regardless of the industry. When speaking of getting into the tech sector without a college degree, you may be scoffed at by most.
Fortunately, becoming a service desk worker does not require finding a fancy college and piling debt onto your already-loaded shoulders. Does it help? Absolutely. For resumes with illustrious schooling will always be looked at in a more positive and attentive light than those without. Is it impossible? No.
The role is often considered an entry-level job. Oftentimes, those hired for support roles, like customer service representatives, have no prior experience in the exact field. They may have experience in a customer relations role and are then trained to handle inquiries regarding the employer’s specific products. You may need some experience in the field, but a degree is not often required.
If you really want to go to school, do it. We will never tell you not to. Degrees that would help you with the position would be information technology, computer science, communications, or network administration. Unfortunately, there isn’t a degree in customer service specifically. Not yet, at least.
Can You Go Without a Degree?
So, we will note it again: you do not need a degree in any related field to get a role as a Service Desk Specialist. If you have experience in customer service and a background in tech skills, you are likely to get looked at for the job. Then, it’s a matter of winning the interview through sheer charisma.
With a willingness to learn, you could quickly pick up the tech-based skills needed to fulfill the role. It’s not as if you need to become a technician or engineer on the product to succeed. Most times, the company will have a strong orientation or procedural process in place to make sure all of its associates are skilled in the specific product.
You don’t need to know tech overall, per se, but the product specifically (we’ll get into that later).
But, as noted, a degree will always help put you above the entry-level competition. It’s as simple as that. It looks good to commit to college and earn a degree. It always will.
Certifications Are Always a Plus
In the tech field, certifications stand just as tall (if not taller) than expensive degrees. They show actual knowledge behind a technical aspect and often require frequent re-certification, meaning you are never allowed to become out-of-the-loop. A degree does not require re-schooling, meaning a person with a tech degree from the 90s doesn’t necessarily mean they have remained up-to-date.
Luckily, there are a ton of entry-level IT certifications that would look amazing on your Service Desk Specialist resume. And they are exponentially cheaper and faster to get than a college degree. They often require a remote course and test. They show your commitment, knowledge of the field, and determination to grow in the role.
As a customer service representative, you don’t truly need to worry about high-level certifications but can work on the ones related to basic IT knowledge. Obviously, if you want to go beyond the entry certs, you can. It will only help. You can always move up through a company after working as a rep, and further certifications will only help.
Here are the 3 most relevant certifications for entry-level IT jobs (like service desk specialist):
The CompTIA A+ certification is an ideal IT credential for beginners, especially those working within an IT help desk. Overall, the certification assures that the candidate can install, configure and maintain personal computers, mobile devices, printers, and laptops. It demonstrates both basic technical abilities and troubleshooting skills, things crucial for help desk support.
An ITIL, or Information Technology Infrastructure Library, certification demonstrates that the professional understands the basics of information technology and has learned how to apply it to both customer and business needs. The basis of this certification surrounds IT-related assets, accessibility, and resources that deliver value and benefits to customers. From delivery to maintenance, the basic ITIL certification shows that the candidate understands the interworkings of the related software or hardware.
Google IT Support
Google provides associate certifications for all of its pillar software and general IT support. Through a Google class and certification program, the candidate will learn the basics of computer setup, troubleshooting, binary systems, and other basic IT methodologies. Simply put, it’s a crash course for general IT support provided by Google professionals.
Customer Service Is the Most Important Factor
Remember earlier when we noted you could win the interview process through charisma? We weren’t joking. In customer service roles, having the gift of gab is the hands-down most important intangible for the role. What separates a great customer service rep and a bad one is not their knowledge of tech, but their ability to speak and emit empathy.
Due to the nature of the position being entry-level, employers will be looking for candidates that they can mold. Therefore, they may not be as hyperfocused on your IT abilities, for they can teach those to you. They will be worried about the intangibles they can’t teach you. The skills you have naturally. The main skill is customer service abilities.
Overall, the basis of the job deals with communicating with both upset and irate customers. Therefore, the ability to handle high-stress customer scenarios is key to becoming a great Service Desk worker. Ultimately, the candidate must be able to empathize with customers, understand their problems, and defuse upset situations. Once defused, they must be able to explain the solutions or next steps with clarity and brevity. No one wants to get stuck on the phone with a customer service rep that can’t express the solution directly.
An employer can teach you the ins and outs of the product you will troubleshoot. They will have a harder time teaching you how to communicate. Therefore, going into a Service Desk job with customer service abilities is a must.
Zippia found that 17.3% of service desk specialists have customer service skills listed on their resumes. Simply put, you likely won’t land a gig without some customer service skills on your resume and experience history.
If you don’t have customer service jobs and skills on your resume, place them ASAP. If you don’t have customer service skills from previous jobs, you may want to begin building them elsewhere.
You don’t need customer service experience to get an entry-level position, but it will certainly (and we mean certainly) help.
Make Connections, Always
They always say jobs are about who you know, right? There’s a sad truth to that cliche.
Look, we can’t lie. Even the best resume may be overlooked for one that was appointed by a friend within the company. If you know someone in the hiring company and they are willing to put in a good reference for you, you may be a lock for an interview. It’s as easy as that. If a company respects an employee or former employee and trusts their opinion, a reference is worth its weight in gold.
Therefore, building solid connections is always a plus for any job hunt. You never know where it will lead you. So, shake those hands and take those business cards.
Connect with other IT workers over social media and forum platforms, reach out to experts for advice, and send emails to other specialists for help or tips. Build a network of other people for education and advice. This networking may always lead to references, new skills, or potential job openings.
Furthermore, keep an eye out for service desk conferences, workshops, and online meetings. There are always a ton of ways to meet other professionals in the field. Go meet people, ask questions, and be pleasant. You never know where your new friends may lead you.
Take Other Entry-Level Jobs, If Necessary
As we noted, having experience in customer service is key to winning any Service Desk job. Having experience with the main task of the job is obviously an important part of winning the exact job. Duh.
Luckily, there are tons and tons of jobs that involve customer service. Roles in retail, office associates, and other direct sales positions all involve communicating with customers. While they are not exact customer troubleshooting roles, they still involve speaking and directing customers, the main skill transferable to Service Desk Specialist roles.
We aren’t here to wonder or dictate the way you live or your monetary situation. It’s entirely possible that you will not find a job as a Service Desk Specialist quickly. It may take time, even though it’s an entry-level position. That all depends on your location, resume, and willingness to relocate. Therefore, you may need a job in between to fill the financial gap. If that’s the case, we recommend working with customers in some facet to build that resume.
Furthermore, you can always look for tech-related roles. Ultimately, if you have your eyes on a Service Desk position but are in need of an immediate job, you can’t go wrong with something in tech or something involving interacting directly with customers. Due to the nature of these two roles being the most important intangibles in the Service Desk requirements, you should build your resume with either while applying to Service Desk positions.
For example, you might find an entry-level trainer or analyst position. Though it isn’t service desk tech, you should still apply. This work will give you experience in both tech and customer service.
What Skills Are Crucial?
At this point, we’ve already beaten the customer service drum to death (and we’ll mention it again here shortly). If you are attempting to start a career in IT support, you have to be great at customer service. We’ve made that abundantly clear.
There’s got to be more to it than just customer service, though. Right? What other abilities are hiring managers looking for when filling customer service roles?
You are entirely right. Customer service isn’t the end-all-be-all skill for Service Desk workers. Is it the most important? Absolutely. But even those with silver tongues still need other skills to make customers happy.
Here are three skills to make sure your resume includes, whether in a skills section or throughout your correlating work history. If you have experience and great abilities in these categories, you are on your way.
Overall, the job deals with communicating with both upset and irate customers. Henceforth, the ability to handle high-stress customer scenarios is key to becoming a great Service Desk worker. The candidate must be able to empathize with customers, understand their problems, and defuse upset situations.
But communication is more than just making customers feel comfortable and heard. It also involves the ability to clearly and colloquially explain tech terms and solutions to customers with less experience.
Think about it this way: say you have a customer calling for help on their software. They use the software every day but aren’t necessarily technically inclined. You can’t just start barking terms at them like cache, coding, and force close. You have to be able to explain those steps in terms they can follow. If not, you end up in a world of miscommunication and frustration.
Therefore, communication and explanation are key.
Earlier we noted that Zippia reported Customer Service was on 17.3% of Service Desk resumes. Remember that? Okay, good.
Here’s the thing: that wasn’t the most common skill in that study. The number one skill on a whopping 17.6% of specialist resumes was, kid you not, Service Desk.
Okay, what in the world does that mean? Isn’t the service desk just a call center?
Mostly, it refers to the act of working with tech support instead of just customer service. One can work with customers but not as a Service Desk worker, obviously. The Service Desk is using company programs to look up customer information, report issues, and detail troubleshooting procedures and solutions. It’s the platforms you use to help keep support tickets in order and operating.
While all companies may use a different set of software for this, having the experience in one will help boost your resume.
Knowledge of Product or Service
How can a Service Desk Specialist help a customer with a program or product they don’t understand?
Therefore, the employee must understand all aspects and lingo surrounding the company’s product. With this knowledge, they can then go through the correct troubleshooting and explaining processes. Without it, the entire service process will screech to a halt.
Ultimately, the specialist may not have this knowledge before getting the job, but they will need to learn it during the onboarding process to become affluent in the company’s product.
If you do have the knowledge and personal experience with the product, that’s a plus.
For a broad example, let’s say you are looking at a customer service role for Microsoft Office. If you have used Microsoft Office for your last few jobs, you already have colloquial knowledge about terms and usage. You are already ahead of someone that hasn’t used the product.
Work With a Staffing Agency
Here comes some self-promotion. Shameless, nonetheless.
If you are having trouble findings gigs as a new IT worker, or need more information on where to start, you can always reach out to a staffing agency. Despite misconceptions, working with a staffing agency as an employee is free. We help you find a job and then receive payment from the employer. We don’t get paid until you do. It’s always free to reach out to us. One of our dedicated recruiters can provide both career advice and resume edits free of charge.
How to start a career in IT can be as simple as. Well. Starting!
Need More Job-Search Advice?
We can break down every facet of Service Desk Specialist and other customer service gigs, but there is more to finding a dream job than just having the correct background. You also have to be able to nail the interview, negotiate the salary, write a cover letter, and a plethora of other job-winning techniques.
Luckily, we’ve been at this forever. We have already covered hundreds of topics regarding finding a career. From interview examples to sample cover letters, you can find an array of job-winning advice throughout our site.
Let’s win that dream job together.
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