When I graduated college, my first job offer was for a position as a service desk technician. I was overjoyed, feeling like I was about to enter into adulthood with a “real job” because it had a salary and benefits. (I was very young and naïve to think those were the only defining characteristics of entering into adulthood.) However, this opinion is shared by most young adults entering the work force—happy that their resume got selected out of the hundreds submitted, ecstatic to be chosen for an interview, and elated to hear the words, “You’re hired!”
Working in tech support or in a call center is a great place to begin a career in technology. It allows you to get your foot in the door with an amazing company and learn about its value directly from the customers. But after a year or so on the job, that enthusiastic cheer of heading into work each day can turn into a dull grumble. Like most things in life, lackluster routines get boring very quickly. In the world of frontline service and support, standard operating procedures, authoritarian leadership styles, and rehearsed phone scripts can leave much to be desired for ambitious individuals. But the boredom is not the only de-motivator service support staff might face.
Standard operating procedures, authoritarian leadership styles, and rehearsed phone scripts can leave much to be desired for ambitious individuals.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be a steady decline in service support staff roles because of automation. Innovations like internet self-service, interactive voice-response systems, social media, and mobile applications enable customers to perform simple tasks and resolve problems without speaking to a representative. As technology continues to evolve and improve, the number of automated systems will continue to increase, and they replace more complex tasks with each evolution. This can seem like a bleak future for anyone on this career path.
So, what are the job prospects for these individuals? Unfortunately, this leaves most service support staff asking themselves one of two questions:
- How much do I really need to keep this job in order to pay my bills?
- How can I leverage this job to get a better one?
I recently found myself giving some career advice to young adults who found themselves in this very position, specifically asking themselves that latter question. Here are some tips I shared with them about leveraging their current position in order to find their next great job.
- It is critical to develop a game plan for ensuring that you have the right set of skills and business acumen to progress your career forward. LinkedIn is a powerful resource. Search people who have jobs that you find interesting and would possibly like to do one day. Review their profile to see the types of positions they had before their current one. Message them and ask them how they got there. You will be surprised about how much free advice you can get just by asking around.
- Go to networking events and don’t be afraid to talk. Relationships are so important and often those relationships will let you know about opportunities that may be the perfect fit for you.
- Identify industry conferences, associations, and publications, and keep up to date with all the information they publish. Oftentimes, they will provide information on the latest industry trends (which will help with #4) and you can find companies that are heavily entrenched in those fields. That may be a great place to look when trying to find a potential future employer.
- When discussing your experience with potential employers, distinguish yourself by being able to demonstrate that you know, understand, and recognize business trends, particularly in your current industry. This will serve as a benefit for two reasons. First, you are able to leverage your current years of experience to accentuate your depth of knowledge in the industry. Second, by recognizing and detecting industry trends, you are able to highlight your breadth of knowledge.
- Lastly, whenever you talk about your experience, never speak in terms only highlighting your day-to-day tasks. Discuss how your tasks contributed to the company’s or organization’s overall objectives. For example, if you are a front-line analyst, your primary responsibility was to ensure that customer satisfaction remained at 97% for each call you managed, which was above the 95% organizational targets.
This advice has always served me well. If you ever find yourself asking those two questions, try using it and hopefully you will find it beneficial, too. Provide me with your insights and keep the conversation going. Find me on LinkedIN, and let’s talk about it.
Dr. Alma Miller is an enthusiastic entrepreneur, speaker, and educator with more than 15 years of experience in the IT industry. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Catholic University, a Masters in Electrical Engineering from George Washington University, a Masters in Technical Management from Johns Hopkins University, and a Doctorate in Engineering from George Washington University. Dr. Miller considers herself a relationship counselor between development and IT operations teams. Her consulting company,
AC Miller Consulting
, provides services to government and commercial clients across multiple industries. Dr. Miller speaks at industry conferences and events and teaches graduate courses for Johns Hopkins and University of California Irvine. Connect with her on
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