Image: Jack Wallen

Working in the world of PC support isn’t like working the average job or career. Yes, it’s incredibly rewarding. But it’s also challenging on numerous exhausting levels. Many people have reached out to tell me their stories… all of which ended with them either figuratively (or sometimes literally) pulling out their hair.

During your career in IT or PC support, you will experience situations that might make you want to run straight for the unemployment line. What situations could do this? Let me lay out a few and see if some of them don’t send stripes of white cascading through your hairline.

1: The 3:00 AM phone call

“The servers are down! The SERVERS ARE DOWN!!!!!” Chances are you’ve already had this experience. Nestled in bed, you’re dreaming of your safe place: warm sand on your feet or pine trees surrounding that favorite trail… when that insipid buzzing pulls you from the dreamscape. On the other end of the line, the owner of the company or the head of the IT department teslls you the servers are down and you have to get there ASAP to solve the problem. 3:00 AM.

2: The arguing end user

They exist and they are a real challenge. You try to solve their problem and they argue against your solution. You try to placate them and they fight you on your patronizing attitude. All you want to do is help them locate that missing document or get rid of the coupon add-on they installed for IE and be on your way. But no. That’s not the way of the arguing end user. They’ll fight and fuss about every tiny detail and suck up three or four times the amount of time it should have taken to get the job done.

3: The persistent printer issues

You’ve got important things to do. Very important things to do. However, during your day of migrating servers, beefing up your security, and deploying updates, you have to babysit printers. It never ceases to amaze me how problematic printers can be—and how much time we wind up spending on them. No other piece of technology is so prone to gremlins. Any time an end user mentions a printer, an IT pro dies inside a bit.

4: The Windows upgrade

It doesn’t matter if it’s a server, a desktop, a laptop, a tablet, or a phone. Every time Windows reports it has upgraded and must restart, there is a moment of “please work, please work, please work” that every IT pro must endure. When those upgrades (or updates) go sideways, your day can easily be ruined (especially if working on a server). The best thing you can do before upgrading/updating is to ensure there are restore points or full backups of data. Otherwise, a simple upgrade could wind up costing you a half-day’s work.

5: The hacker

It happens. Especially if you’re working with a larger company. The more data you have, the more that people will want to get at that data. Because of that, you most likely spend a good portion of your day going through security logs or shoring up your network security But know this: If you happen to fall into that category of “most wanted,” it’s not a matter of “if” but “when.” Because of that, you feel the presence of the hacker looming over your head daily. It may not have happened yet, but you know that it could.

6: The long hours

Everyone in the industry knows working in IT isn’t a 40-hour-a-week job. It’s 60, 70, 80+ hours a week. At times you’ll lose sleep to work, you’ll miss meals, you’ll forget your spouse and children… you might even forget who you are. (Just look in the mirror after an 80+ hour week server deploy.)

7: The irate customer

You fixed that computer issue; you know you did. When that machine was on your bench, it was singing like a duet between Devin Townsend and Anneke van Giersbergen. A scant hour later you get “the call.” The customer is raging because he just paid you “good money” to fix his “work computer” and now he’s going to have to bring it back in because you didn’t fix the problem. Thing is, he might well have re-installed that piece of malware you removed—you know, the one that caused the problem in the first place.

8: The server migration

Did you shudder? Did you want to go fetal in a corner and weep? Server migrations are one of those things that can easily bring every IT pro to their knees. You’ll hold your breath, you’ll beg for mercy, you’ll cross your fingers and your toes that the migration is a success. When it’s not, the nightmare is just beginning. Of course, not every migration is like this. If you’ve thought the process out well and planned ahead (for every contingency), the process could be smooth and painless. But, yeah. There’s always a “but.”

9: The budget

Outside of hackers and server migrations, budgets are one of the worst reasons IT pros lose their hair. Why? Because you’re constantly battling the budget. You need more help or hardware, but it’s just nowhere to be found on that precious spreadsheet. At this point, you’re scouring that budget to find ways to make room for those little necessities… like CALs, desktop PCs, and staff salary. Is it there? Can you squeeze blood out of that turnip?

10: The CEO

How often have you butted heads with a CEO who thinks he or she understands your job better than you do? Probably more times than you care to admit. When it happens, you know the argument is pointless because, well, the CEO runs the company. And unfortunately, the CEO doesn’t always understand the role that IT plays in the company.

Your take

What advice do you have for IT pros who are grappling with these stressful issues? Share your advice and experiences with fellow TechRepublic members.

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10 reasons why IT support will cause you to lose your hair