If you have decided that it’s time for a change, or lost your company or job due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, you may be considering changing careers. A midlife career change could be beneficial because learning tech skills can improve your career (regardless of the job you choose) and because full-time employment in the Information Technology sector is projected to reach more than 62 million jobs by 2023. And even if it may seem daunting, changing careers in IT is definitely within your reach. If you want to get a tech job, you can find one that suits your skills, interests, talents, and preferences. When it comes to soft skills, there’s a good chance that many of those you already have apply to an IT career.
Another great thing about IT careers is that you can choose among dozens of them. Therefore, you will have to identify which one suits you best and then make a plan to acquire the skills and experience you need to be able to market yourself. MyComputerCareer has created this complete guide to changing careers to help you understand what lies on the road ahead of you, as well as why you shouldn’t let age prevent you from achieving career satisfaction.
How the COVID-19 Changed Public Perception of the Tech Industry
In March 2020, as coronavirus began to affect and reshape our lives, tech companies responded with readiness and alacrity. The pandemic will have a long-lasting impact, and many of the changes we’re experiencing involve technology and connectedness. The areas that have experienced the most profound change (and will continue to change in the future) are work, entertainment, and education.
Businesses have moved into suburban mansions, high-rises, townhouses, and apartments. Many of their employees are learning new career tools and new ways of working. There are no firm stats available on the exact number of people working from home, but the increased internet traffic suggests that the number is quite high. According to Comcast, their upstream traffic increased 33%, while wireless data usage increased 40%. For some, working from home has been the norm since the appearance of the internet. However, new wave employees are finding better ways to work.
As for education, universities have suspended classes and started offering online classes. For example, when the first staff member tested positive for the COVID-19, Rice University had only three courses available online. In late March, when its classes restarted, the number of online courses was 1,906. Teachers and professors around the world started teaching online, and many of them have never done that before. Yes, online education has been around for some time, but many colleges have not embraced it.
Online shopping, robot deliveries, contactless and digital payments, remote work, online learning, telehealth, online entertainment, supply chain 4.0, information and communications technology, and many other tech solutions have demonstrated their importance during times of global health distress. The coronavirus has pointed out the importance of digital readiness, which is why many businesses focus on staying current in the latest technology and building the infrastructure to support a digitized world.
Breaking into Tech
Today, the IT sector offers staggering employment opportunities, and that’s no secret. Nevertheless, too many job seekers miss the opportunity to jump on this wagon. Indeed reports that about 86% of businesses are having difficulties finding tech talent. Other reports show that only 400,000 qualified applicants are expected to be available for hiring, while there’s more than a million vacant tech positions. It’s a huge gap that needs to be filled. And the best thing about it is that you don’t have to possess a degree in computer science. Thanks to the availability of courses, training programs, and online communities, you only need to be an eager and open-minded learner.
Despite the fact that a tech career is attainable for people from different walks of life, it can be challenging to envision the right pathway to an IT job. The truth is that the path to an IT role must be cumbersome. Despite all the online learning options, bootcamps, and college degrees, there are shorter ways to secure yourself an IT job. If you are a problem solver or a creative looking for challenging projects and steadier employment, you can break into tech.
Working in Tech: What It’s Really Like
IT roles usually involve reducing complex processes and ideas into bite-sized pieces, as well as a strong focus on problem-solving. The stereotypical image of a coder hunched over the computer, typing 6-8 hours a day while sipping gallons of coffee is not even close to reality. Life in the IT sector can be far more exciting and diverse because solutions are not achieved by employees slogging alone, but by teams working together through action plans. Even though work is performed solo, IT employees are not “doomed” to work in a vacuum. With that in mind, that’s why musicians and artists could be great coders because they understand what it means to take a concept and bring it into reality. Also, IT jobs are often very flexible and appealing to specific lifestyles and personality types.
Tips on Changing Careers in 2020
As the IT industry keeps growing, it offers attractive, high-paying jobs. These jobs are not out of reach, even if you don’t have a background working in the tech industry. With perseverance and hard work, it’s possible to successfully transition into it.
- Is it the right choice?
The first thing to do is to decide whether it’s the right choice. To switch careers is a big decision, and it’s crucial you are sure that it’s the right one. If you feel bored or stuck in a rut, it is easy to leave your current job. You may feel like you need a huge change to break the monotony, but starting a new career may not be the answer you need. Give it some good thought and do some self-reflection. If your gut instinct tells you that a career change is the right step to make, then you should prepare for all the changes that await you.
Talk to your friends, family, and people you trust. Seek advice that can make your career move smoother. Also, you can scan your LinkedIn connections, find people who have the job you want, and talk to them. Reach out to set up a call or ask if they would like to meet up for a short talk or informational interview. They can tell you about how they got the job and help you by clarifying what steps you should take to land a similar job.
- Do you have what it takes?
You may be thinking about transitioning into tech, but how do you know whether you’re cut out for it? Before you begin working on your new goals, you should think about whether you are willing to continuously expand your skill set and learn new skills.
Another factor that you need to consider is the cost of transitioning, which is higher than in other industries. People who pay to learn new skills required for working in IT spend about $38,500 (on average). But since these jobs can really pay off, most of the IT career changers managed to recoup their investment. To work in IT, you don’t need deep technical expertise or strong math skills; you only need to understand the key fundamentals of computer architecture, database systems, object-oriented programming, and networking. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, information security analyst is among the fastest growing occupations.
Depending on your desired career path, you could tinker and try out things on your personal computer. For example, build your own personal computer or a website, build a database, or experiment with open-source software. A great deal of what you should know for an IT job can be learned using the tech savvy you already have (through trial and error).
- What do you want out of an IT career?
What makes you happy in a professional sense? Being able to put your creativity to use? Solving problems? Helping others? How much money do you want to be earning? What are the things you’re passionate about? Are you after a better work-life balance?
When you begin to research career options in the IT sector, these are all questions you should ask yourself. You should pick a job role that aligns with your values and desires. Talk to IT professionals, read IT job descriptions, and attend informational webinars about tech trends and IT careers to determine which position meets your needs. You can also attend alumni events and find success stories of the events’ alumni. When it comes to research, there are many ways to do your due diligence.
- Identify a potential crossover job role
This is probably the most important tip for any older job seeker. Networking and research can help you figure out the general path that you want to pursue. Yes, there probably are several clear career paths, but the good news is that you don’t need to follow any of those. Just get a starting point and begin to build from there. Take note of your transferable skills and strengths as you explore roles and specialties that will allow you to combine existing knowledge with new concepts and experiences. Once you get into a company, you can always change positions once you have the opportunity to see what you are really good at.
Finding the right crossover role will help you choose the right training courses and meet teachers, role models, mentors, and career coaches who can provide career advice, be your community of support, and help you with career planning. You’ll want to have a support system before, during, and after your decision to change careers because not everyone is going to understand or be supportive of your decision.
If you are having difficulties identifying the career that suits you, you can even take an online career quiz to help you discover what career path is best for you (or at least get some indication). Once you identify the job roles you’d want to pursue, narrow the list down to a few roles. If you commit your job search resources and reskilling to one general area, you will achieve better results.
- Training and certifications
Many IT jobs don’t require a two-year or four-year degree, but just a proof that you can do the job (through prior experience and certifications). Hiring managers don’t reject potential candidates because they don’t have a degree. What you can do is figure out what training you need, then enroll in that class or training program. There are also various applicable certification options that you can go for; just determine what kinds of certifications you need to make yourself a more marketable job candidate. If you are changing your career drastically, having the right certifications can make a huge difference.
For example, if you’d like to land a dream job in cybersecurity, you will need to demonstrate experience in a networking, technical support, or help desk role and complete cybersecurity training. Hiring managers typically prefer candidates with certifications such as CySA+ (CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst). If you are a novice to IT, but want to land a cybersecurity job, you should start with CompTIA A+, CompTIA Security+, and CompTIA Network+. Once you build enough experience in the field, you can validate your skills by earning a CySA+ certification.
Remember that some careers in IT might require you to go back to college. If that’s the case, you may want to explore all options for yourself at a university. More and more universities offer online classes (especially today, in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak), and those can be a more flexible option.
- Identify skill gaps
When you finish a training program and get the right certifications, assess which skills you have acquired. Then, compare your current skills to those listed in most job postings. If you are still lacking in any areas, fill the gaps by using additional career resources. There are various resources, such as articles, tools, case studies, and career guides on all aspects of making a viable career change plan.
- Get yourself some hands-on experience
If you are without experience in your desired IT role, you can get hands-on experience from internships, part-time jobs, apprenticeships, and volunteer positions. It doesn’t have to come from a full-time position, so reach out to organizations that could use your help while allowing you to learn on the job. Most IT jobs don’t offer training for those at the beginning of their employment, but some companies do. When looking for a job, see if training is a possibility.
Besides training, finding a mentor, and setting up informational interviews, you should focus on networking. Introduce yourself to as many tech professionals as you can by attending conferences, networking gatherings, and professional association events. LinkedIn is a great platform to begin with, but make sure your profile is built properly and contains up-to-date information. Be sure to send a connection request on LinkedIn to all the people you meet at networking events. What can benefit your job search is knowing the right people in the IT industry who can introduce you to hiring managers. The majority of job seekers on LinkedIn find their jobs through networking, so get to work and start expanding your network.
- Adjust your resume to IT
Reinventing your career means that you should revamp your resume to be in line your job search in the IT field. Much of your experience is still relevant, even if it is in a totally different industry, because many skills are transferable (especially soft ones). For example, if you’re making a successful career transition from a business administration, human resources, fashion design, or real estate sector, your leadership abilities and organizational skills are going to be applicable.
When adjusting your resume, be sure to focus on the skills you possess that relate to the jobs you want and use the same language you see in job descriptions. Make sure you highlight your soft and other transferable skills and learn how to write a proper career change cover letter.
IT is an Entire Economy
Big data, cybersecurity, cloud, system and network administration, mobile, social media, and other areas in tech have influenced everything from how we run our businesses to how we socialize. When we think about careers in IT, we often tend to narrow our focus on the startups, such as Uber, Snapchat, and Airbnb. But the truth is that the tech industry is no longer separated from the rest of the economy. For example, having a mobile app has become necessary in the service industry. E-commerce is ubiquitous, while a website is a prerequisite for most organizations today. Since people search and spend time on Facebook and Instagram, digital marketing experts have to find customers online. Companies that are considered giants in today’s markets are fighting the young, innovative startups for talent with the skills to build and manage digital tactics and assets.
Since you are thinking about breaking into the IT industry, this puts you in a position of advantage because your career options aren’t limited to tech cities or startups. If working in a startup is not for you, there are more than enough vacant positions in established, stable corporations. And if you want to relocate to Atlanta, Dallas, San Diego, Denver, or Minneapolis – there will be IT jobs waiting for you. With the right skill sets, certifications, experience, attitude, and portfolio, there will be many opportunities for you to grab.
If you have never thought of yourself as an IT expert, don’t get discouraged because you don’t have to be an expert in math to do programming or become a cybersecurity expert. Things are getting easier to digest and are becoming more accessible. It is always the best time to start out because everyone else is learning all the time, too. What will help you stand out from the rest is your unique combination of skills. Hiring managers can always hire people with excellent tech skills, but your career and educational experience is what ultimately sets you apart.
For those looking for IT certifications (such as CCNA, CCENT, CompTIA A+, CEH, Microsoft Certified Professional, etc.), MyComputerCareer is a technical school with great IT courses taught online and at our seven campuses. If you are new to the IT industry or are after career advancements, contact us for more information.