You may be looking for your first helpdesk job? Maybe it would be your first job. You may also have one or more positions already in your resume but would like to switch to the IT sector. In all of these cases, you probably want to know what competencies are desired for this kind of position.

Let’s start with the most obvious skillset. What everyone expects the helpdesk to do is solve computer issues. The obvious capabilities necessary for a good helpdesk specialist would be computer configuration and computer fixing skills. To be more specific these skills should cover the areas of computers hardware and printing devices maintenance and fixing, operating systems and applications configuration, the basics of network configuration. These are the main technical areas where a helpdesk recruitee should have some capabilities. But is it everything that is needed?

Helpdesk is too often treated as nothing but “computers fixers”. As I’ve written in the article The real value of the Helpdesk for organization and IT this interpretation is far from complete. The helpdesk service is where the most human-to-human interactions occur between a business and an IT department. The helpdesk team is usually an ambassador of a whole IT team. The atmosphere and quality provided by the helpdesk employees have a crucial impact on the visibility of all IT divisions. It means that soft skills or – if you will – social skills are at least as important for helpdesk team members as technical literacy.

Assertiveness, sense of humor, positive attitude, and empathy make users’ interactions with the helpdesk much more pleasant. The ability to provide the desired amount of proper feedback in the process of solving the issue can calm affected users down along the process of solving it. Helpdesk staff can solve very complex and laborious issues by calming the users down and persuading them that the issue isn’t as harmful as they perceive it. They can show the user that if the issue is not that important then maybe it’s not worth so much cost and effort. By creating friendly relations they can generate a lot of empathy from the user even while solving his or her issue for many days. Solving tickets quickly and effectively can be evaluated much higher too if it is served in a friendly and positive manner.

The first activity performed by the helpdesk after receiving the ticket is troubleshooting the issue. Analytical skills are crucial to troubleshoot the issue correctly. As the most of other helpdesk tasks, this one also means working with people. Who to troubleshoot the issue with if not the affected user? Patience, listening skills, and empathy seem very useful again to find out what is really working incorrectly. Helpdesk employee needs to find out this information and understand it much better than the user mainly as a result of a conversation with him or her. Asking the right questions and hearing the answers properly can speed the troubleshooting up very significantly.

Another crucial class of tasks provided by a helpdesk team in a distributed IT environment is ticket dispatching. Finding a proper support team to solve the more advanced issue may seem trivial, but as also described in the article The real value of the Helpdesk for organization and IT, can be quite challenging in bigger organizations and need some competencies. If you have a list of hundreds of support teams and a few of them looking almost exactly the same, finding and choosing the proper one is not that simple. Resourcefulness may help to effectively search the catalog and find clues about the right choice. Finding the proper team and assigning the ticket to it may seem like the job done, but is it? The ticket lands in the queue of other cases and waits for someone to take a look at it. Here is where social skills come into the role again. The ability to build trust, rapport and real relationships can improve performance on this step dramatically. It helps to assign tickets not only to proper teams but to identify skilled, hard working and motivated individuals for the job. Maintaining great relationships with correct people around support teams makes it much easier to repeatedly persuade trustworthy and diligent specialists to instantly solve tickets that are assigned by this particular helpdesk guy instead of letting them wait until someone noticed that their SLA is coming up.

Tickets approaching helpdesk not only need to be solved or distributed to other teams. As in many other areas, the amount of work in IT is bigger than available resources. Tickets have to be prioritized. Prioritizing helpdesk also tells other teams which tasks are more important to business than some others. And helpdesk employee has to make this decision based on input from a user again. Of course – like in troubleshooting – analytical skills are desired in this process to interpret the information input correctly. Some business awareness is quite useful too to understand the real impact of the issue on the business. The helpdesk employees have some guidelines provided on how to assign priorities but understanding a way that particular issue affects a single user, a group of users, a whole project, or even a company makes a quite big difference in the prioritizing process. Social skills like assertiveness and empathy are crucial here again to persuade users that all of their tickets cannot have the highest possible priority every time as it would put all sense of prioritizing…

Communication skills, resourcefulness, social skills… It’s not easy to develop this set of competencies in one mind and one body. It takes some time, some experience, and some maturity to shape them, especially consciously.

Staying in the helpdesk service long enough to gather this experience and next utilize it at least for a few years requires some abilities too. Without the proper mindset and attitude, performing relatively repeating tasks may quickly lead to burnout and frustration. Facing dissatisfied users on a daily basis isn’t very encouraging too. Having a positive attitude and understanding all of the different ways how helpdesk service improves the whole business operation on a day-to-day basis prevents negative emotions leading to attrition. It’s really hard to be burned out and frustrated when you see your service as an integrated part of the great, meaningful value provided by your organization.

As you can see, the helpdesk requires so many different skills from its employees. Is there any of them which is more important than the others? As mentioned in the above paragraphs, social skills seem quite important in most cases by raising the helpdesk service to a higher level in so many aspects. But there is something even more important. Similar to virtually all job positions the biggest difference between an average and a great employee is the desire to self-develop. Trying every day to become better than the day before makes it possible to build all of the needed competencies and strive in every position. Even as demanding as the helpdesk team member.

Hands photo created by –

0 0 votes
Article Rating
1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

[…] described in The Most Valuable Skills In The Helpdesk Job article, the first line employees can build relationships with engineers in the specialized higher […]