CXO

Not all IT managers manage technology

A manager of desktop services wants to leverage his management experience to manage other IT areas. Find out what other IT job titles would be a good fit for this manager, and learn how to side-step title-myopic HR departments.


Question
I’m a former director of desktop services from a larger organization. Simply put, there doesn’t seem to be all that much demand for this skill set as of late. I’ve attempted to leverage my management experience to manage IT functions in other areas (IT manager of a small shop or a network manager) without success. Is it time for a career change?

Answer
Don’t give up yet. I have a couple of suggestions for you that may enable you to stay in the IT world. But first, I have a few words of wisdom about what to say when you’re attempting to change the HR world’s view of what you can do as an IT manager.

Unfortunately, there are two problems that IT managers have when they go to look for another job that isn’t exactly like the one they hold presently. The first is that the title of the position is likely to be different, and HR departments don’t like to hire someone who hasn’t had the exact same job (right down to the title). This is true of all corporate hiring, but it is particularly irksome in IT because titles don’t always mean much in IT.

The second is that many corporate hiring departments confuse technical expertise in a particular area with management ability. This means, in your case, that since you don’t have a clear technical expertise, corporate hiring departments don’t have a clue how to place you in their management hierarchy.

So, when you apply for jobs in IT management, clarify what it is that the company is looking for in a manager. Do they want someone to manage technology or someone to manage technically oriented people? Not all companies know there is a difference, so make sure the company you’ve approached understands and appreciates the difference. If not, move on; with your background, you’re wasting your time if they want you to manage something other than people.

Find the job title you want
Here are some specific suggestions of IT management jobs that you might be able to persuade a company that you can do. You may need additional training or certifications for some of these positions, but that’s just the way it goes. The more times you can get the appropriate words on your resume, the less title-myopic the HR department will be.

The term “desktop services” is often paired with “help desk” in IT job descriptions, so I was really surprised that you’ve had no luck getting a job as a help desk manager. Perhaps you haven’t tried that; if not, put this option at the top of your list. The Help Desk Institute’s (HDI) Web site has a free online job board and information about the Help Desk Manager Certification.

If you don’t want to be a help desk manager, you could probably take your skills and experience and put them to good use as a help desk senior analyst. This training would help you get a job planning new help desk centers and might even help you get a job as a consultant. HDI has a certification for senior analyst in the works, so you might consider earning the certification after you’ve taken the training.

If you do decide to go the senior analyst route, make sure to learn all you can about automated and self-service help desk systems. I think many companies will be interested in these types of systems in the next few years because they help cut down on labor costs.

Knowledge management is an up-and-coming area of IT that you might be interested in and would easily qualify for, with a little training. If you can help a company record, track, and retrieve more of its intellectual assets, then you will be able to keep yourself gainfully employed over the next decade. To learn more about what knowledge management is, search for the phrase on the TechRepublic Web site.

Whatever you end up deciding to do, make sure it’s something that is intellectually interesting and challenging to you. Make sure, too, that your next employer is a company that understands that not all IT managers manage technology. IT employees might be intelligent and resourceful folks, but they still need good managers to help them do their best.

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