Improve Soft Skills with a Help Desk Career
Editor’s note: This is the third in a four-part blog series called “Help Desk 101.”
Throughout the series, CompTIA Tech Career Academy explores how starting work in the IT industry as a help desk technician develops your hard technical skills and soft professional skills, and positions you for future career advancement in both responsibility and salary.
Besides being the perfect springboard to a long-term tech career, help desk jobs abound and can be readily secured with CompTIA A+ certification.
In this post, CompTIA Tech Career Academy explores how the help desk builds the soft professional skills — sometimes called emotional intelligence or emotional IQ — needed for career advancement, regardless of industry.
Ask a friend what specific skills are required to work on an IT help desk, and she likely will name technical ones: Configuring a desktop, installing software, intercepting a virus, etc.
She wouldn’t be wrong — only partially right.
On today’s help desk, workers need emotional intelligence in addition to technical skills.
“I learned soft skills that I use every single day,” said Brant Backes, SMS infrastructure administrator intermediate at HealthPartners in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and a graduate of IT-Ready Technical Support which is now part of the CompTIA Tech Career Academy. “The soft skills prepared me to work with an upset customer; I’m able to diffuse the situation.”
Another graduate, John Amakye, now an application programmer II for the City of Minneapolis, agreed that emotional intelligence is critical for today’s technologist.
“In IT service delivery, soft skills are a crucial part of your role: Listening to your customer, understanding the problem, communicating in a constructive way,” Amayke said. “Technical skills can be taught to any individual, but it’s the team-based work of IT, especially within a service desk capacity, that requires you to work well with others. Honing those softer skills behooves everyone and makes you a better team player.”
At CompTIA Tech Career Academy, soft skills development is an important part of the curriculum, said Adam Turner, chief academic officer.
“If we teach technical skills, but we don’t teach softer skills that help students communicate and collaborate effectively as professionals, then ultimately they won’t be very successful in the workforce,” he said. “Our goal is to position students for professional advancement within the IT industry, which is why we deliberately focus on strengthening their emotional intelligence.”
In a recent article for Forbes, Michaela Lindinger, the CEO and founder of brain in spa, described emotional intelligence as having four distinct characteristics:
- Self-awareness. Being aware of how we feel and think.
- Selt Management. Being able to regulate one’s feelings and thoughts appropriately for different situations.
- Social awareness. Accurately perceiving how others might be feeling and thinking within contexts of situations and environments.
- Social management. Leveraging everything above to foster productive interactions with peers.
In a 2019 LinkedIn survey of senior leaders, 57 percent said emotional intelligence among their employees was more important than hard skills, and identified these specific skills as being critical to a successful work environment: Creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability and time management.
“Building an emotional skill isn’t unlike building a physical skill; it requires practice,” Turner said. “Marathoners don’t just wake up one day and run 26 miles without any prior preparation; they make training a priority. CompTIA Tech Career Academy also makes the practice of emotional skills a priority for our students.”
CompTIA’s website offers advice for building emotional intelligence. CompTIA also offers a free online quiz so you can see how readily your current skill set might transfer to IT.
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In CompTIA Tech’s IT-Ready Technical Support program, students learn the soft skills necessary to prepare for working on an IT help desk -- from communication and collaboration to problem-solving. Applications are open for upcoming classes.