Top 12 Pieces of Sage Advice from One IT Pro to the Next

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Thinking of becoming an IT professional? Just getting your feet wet in the world of customer support? That’s great! IT pros are in demand and the future is looking bright for the technically savvy. 

But a tech support career is not all butterflies and rainbows.  There’s a lot of hard work, long hours and frustration ahead, and chances are you could use a little advice along the way.  So, whether you’ve just landed your first service desk job or are the go-to techie for your co-workers, friends, family and boss, here are some words of wisdom and encouragement.

We asked over 100 IT support professionals to narrow down everything they’ve learned from all their past experiences and give us their best piece of career advice.  Here are the top 12 pieces of sage advice from one IT pro to the next: 

1. Have a little patience

There was much consensus that one of the key factors to being a successful IT pro is patience – and lots of it.  From long hours to dumb questions to intricate issues, it takes a lot of patience to deal with people and their problems.

“Remember that your end users don't speak the same language as you. Break everything down into simplest terms for them and your headache will be much smaller.”

– Crystal P., Higher-Education institution

“Be patient. Those end users don't have the experience or knowledge you have. Never assume that something is obvious.” - Gadi Ben-Avi, Malam

2. Double check everything (don't just take their word for it)

When it comes to problem solving, distrust can be something of an asset. Relying on others to describe what is happening and even what they’ve done to resolve it can lead you down the wrong path.  These professionals suggest you verify all the information given to you.

“Check and double check…the only eyes you can trust are your own.” – Geoff Turner, Nerd Deck

“Do not believe what you are told and double check what you are being told when support is concerned.” – James Davies, University for the Creative Arts

“Always verify what a customer is saying. Sometimes they lie because they think it will save them time. Especially with Bomgar there is no reason not to remote in and verify what is happening and what has been done.” – Michael M., Ivy League Higher-Education institution

3. Have a plan

When you’re dealing with complicated and critical systems or managing a heavy traffic support center, jumping in without a plan is not what you want to do.

“Remember to plan before implementation.” – Nelson C., Fortune 500 Technology organization

“Know your paths of escalation. Assuming the worst, know who you will raise an issue.” - Or Cingilli, Maclellan Foundation

“Redundancy and rollback plans.” – Deema A., Communications organization

4. Distinguish yourself with the necessary skills to set you apart 

Despite the positive job landscape for IT professionals, nothing comes for free.  Take the time and effort needed to gain the skills you need to stand out from the crowd, whether that’s a certification, new platform or business knowledge. 

“Always work on expanding your knowledge and accept new technology with open arms.” – Chris Kreamer, Centrada Solutions

“Learn to speak business or you'll forever be stuck as a tech.” – Jason Thomas, Green Clinic Health System

5. Google

Don’t fail to use the tools at your disposal to help streamline or problem solve faster.  That means it’s “okay” to reach out to Google when you aren’t sure of what to do next. Really. It is.

“Google!  Someone else has almost always had the same problem and has figured out how to fix it.” – Cam Philbeck, University of Tennessee

“Three Words:  Google.  Search.  Operators.   https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/136861?hl=en” – Michael Bartkowiak, Rowan Companies

6. Kill them with kindness

A positive attitude and some genuine concern go a long way.  Make sure that you’re not just smart; be personable as well.  In this day and age, customers are king and your end-users, whether internal or external, will respond better to kindness than frustration or sarcasm. 

“Empathy. A statement like ‘I hate when that happens to me’ can help you really connect with the customer.” – Carol Kirsch, Ideal Integrations

“Be as kind and patient as you possibly can to an end-user. Even if they aren't being so nice to you, they are likely calling you when they have hit their limit. Your calm demeanor can go a long way in diffusing an explosive situation.” - Brandi L., The JESUS Film Project

“Customers are perishable…value them.” – Clay C., Financial Services organization

7. Learn from poor feedback 

Don’t get offended when your end-users and clientele don’t give you a 5-start rating. That’s an opportunity to improve.

“You can learn the most from bad feedback. Don't dwell on it, work had to address it.” – Sarah Kennedy, University of York

8. Build good communication skills 

Don’t have good communication skills?  Get them. It’s imperative in today’s business world to be able to interact well with end-users.  Gone are the days where people were awed by “tech speak.” Today clarity and social skills are king. 

“[Learning] how to write well makes documentation clean and easy to read, but also makes a positive impact on how the person and IT department is perceived based on communication with end-users through help desk responses, notices, alerts, etc.” – Caleb Unseth, CrownQuest Operating

“Keep techie jargon out of the conversation with the end user!  It’s okay for other techies but not for the client. Jargon free chats. Explaining things in plain English helps to build trust.” - Alan Glenister, University of Lincoln

9. Don’t make assumptions 

One wrong assumption can lead to a world of trouble. Save yourself that pain and do your due diligence.

“Assumption is the mother of all foul-ups. ‘Is the power cord plugged in?’ is often a necessary question.” – JD S., Old Republic National Title Insurance Company

10. Keep records 

Speaking of saving yourself a world of trouble…don’t cut corners on documentation. Whether it’s how you solved an unusual problem or the step-by-step of what exactly transpired during that last support session, keep records! They can save you time and in extreme cases might even save your job.

“Always document your work and solutions for better communication and response times.” – Danny B., Healthcare organization

“Develop, document, and review your internal processes periodically to improve efficiency and effectiveness.” – Chris T, Non-profit organzation

11. Look for the simple 

Although there will be those moments of triumph when you solve the problem that stumped them all, 95% of the time, the solution is a simple one.  Think small before you think big to save yourself a lot of wasted time and energy. 

“Don't skip the simple answers because 'of course they made sure it was plugged in' syndrome.” – Daniel Searle, Nerd Deck Inc.

“Always think outside the box but don't let that blind you from the fact that a lot of times the solution is painfully obvious and simple.” – Kevin Baldwin, Cape Fear Community College

“Common Sense ... sometimes we elaborate and never stop to check on the basic things... just like is the cable plugged in.” - Anna S., Laredo Independent School District

“Don't skip ahead to the hard solutions first. Start with the quick and easy, even if it might not work.” – Travis G., University of Tennessee Knoxville

12. And last but not least, we leave you with this highly suggested nugget of sage advice….

“When all else fails…Reboot!” – Joe H., Denco Sales