A. Recognize that you are in the dues-paying stage that the training center or those self-study books didn't tell you about. Two to three years from now, with experience under your belt, your career situation will be much better. The server room is not all fun and games. When you make a mistake working on the help desk, you will probably inconvenience only one user and you'll probably easily recover and get the user back online. In the data center, you might make a mistake that will hose several thousand users, and it could take hours (days?) to get them back online. You will then have the joy of meeting with your boss to explain the stupid thing you did and how it won't happen again. It can be a very high-pressure atmosphere. Don't rush it. Your day will come.

Many inexperienced people, certified or not, start out with the user help desk team either as a company employee or as a contractor through an IT temp agency. Many employers view this as the testing ground for employees. If you do a good job here, you might be able to gain advancement, free training, and-- someday--a key to the server room. If you are a temp employee or contractor, you might get a full-time employment offer as the reward for proving yourself. If you mess up the opportunity by having an attitude with users or give management the impression you are working beneath your skills, you will limit yourself.

If you are doing user support, have users rate your performance. User evaluations might be a part of your formal review process, but if it isn't, be sure to ask users to email your boss with evaluations. When I'm done helping users with an issue, I'll follow up with an email asking them to evaluate my work and send their reviews to my boss. This approach helps me have the right perspective when I'm helping people because they will give feedback directly to my manager. This approach also gives me positive visibility with management.

Often users will add you to the distribution list on their complimentary notes to the boss. If you got into the IT field so you could hide in the server room and never have to deal with people, you have picked the wrong occupation. You will be relating to users even at the very highest level of IT. Develop a servant's attitude, not a superior attitude. Users will sense your good attitude and appreciate it, and you will be rewarded. I can't overemphasize the importance of developing your people skills along with your IT skills.