The introductory period to an IT support job is similar to most office experiences — you meet people, learn some tools and watch someone work before someone watches you. But what makes IT dazzlingly different is that even as an entry-level IT specialist, you’ll get a lot more freedom than you would experience in other jobs.
“Suddenly, you’re an administrator, and you can do A through Z with your access,” said Logan Murphy, a technology consultant and developer who helps new IT pros navigate the landscape of their early careers. “It’s empowering to be fresh out of school or with a new CompTIA certification and have all those tools in your toolbox. Use them.”
Murphy offers advice on how to learn your craft, build relationships and prepare for the next step in your IT career.
Get Familiar with Your Surroundings
As a first-year IT pro, expect a lot of day-to-day issues, like recovering forgotten passwords and scrubbing a lot of viruses. As the new guy or gal in town, you’ll be the first line of incoming or outgoing support. Speed will come with experience, and remember, your job isn’t to know how to fix everything — it’s to know how to find the answer.
“People are contacting you because they can’t do their jobs, and you’re helping them get back on track,” Murphy said. “Especially when you’re starting out, don’t worry about how long it’s taking.”
Sneak a peek at other people’s tickets, and look for differences in communication styles and trends in system breakdowns.
“If you notice someone has a ticket debugging a weird issue with the wireless, you’ll know exactly where to go next time you get a wireless issue,” Murphy said.
When you’re getting started, knowing how to do as many things as possible will lead you to a role where you’re challenged and successful.
Get Interested in Other People
When you count coworkers, supervisors, other departments and outside clients, your job might have you interacting with people on a lot of different levels. Even if it’s not natural at first, over time, you’ll develop your professional persona, like any other skill.
“Get used to nonsense coming out of your mouth,” said Murphy. “‘How ’bout them sports weathers?’ It’s just practicing talking about nothing.”
On the other hand, you’ll likely develop more substantial relationships with your immediate coworkers.
“Get to know the people you work with, because you’ll be able to learn skills from them and get better at your own job,” Murphy said. “Maybe when they’re out on vacation, you’ll get to do their job for a few days.”
Get Serious About Your Future
In your first year at an IT job, take note of what works for you. You might realize you love working the swing shift, the puzzle of budgeting for networking projects or new tactics in cybersecurity. Make note of your preferences, and see if you can incorporate those interests into this job or your next one.
Promotions and new jobs come from showing your supervisors that you’re willing to learn. Volunteer for one-off projects, and take on ones that will teach you new skills. Be flexible on what you can offer, and incorporate your team to achieve big goals.
When it starts to feel stale, seek out different opportunities at your office or throughout the industry. “If you feel like you know how to fix the problem within the first five words of any helpdesk phone call, you need to look for a new challenge,” Murphy said.
3 Secrets to Success
As you’re getting to know your new role, Murphy’s advice skews simple and traditional:
- Dress better than everyone around you.
- Show up on time.
- When you’re at work, do work.
“You can’t spend all day lost in your phone,” Murphy said. “Play with the tools they’ve given you access to, and see what you can discover.”
Moving into new positions is about keeping your opportunities open. Try as many roles as you can get your hands on, watch your company’s postings, and talk with managers and other teams to understand their struggles and try to help.
“When you’re getting started, knowing how to do as many things as possible will lead you to a role where you’re challenged and successful,” Murphy said.
What was your first IT job, and what did you learn from it?