Have you been considering making the jump into a career in IT but aren’t sure if it is the right move? I had the same questions and concerns when I decided to pivot from Inventory Control/Project Management in Warehousing. One of the reassuring things I found once I started researching was that some of these are common questions and concerns for folks not only transitioning to tech, but ANY new field. Here are a few things to know before changing careers to IT.
#1 You don’t need to be a programmer
Thankfully, you do not NEED to be a programmer to land a role in IT. Although understanding basic programming is nice, it is not required to work in many positions outside of being a developer/programmer. In fact, the majority of the IT jobs revolve around supporting the work programmers do. The sheer amount of non programming jobs related to IT means there is plenty of non coding work to be done while the developers do their thing!
#2 You aren’t too old
This was the biggest concern I had when I decided to take the plunge into IT. The one thing that held me back the most was worrying how I would change careers mid 30’s, and transition into a world that is perceived to be dominated by people younger than me. This type of thinking is a waste of time, you are not too old! In fact a lot of your experience in other industries is going to be an advantage in IT. I was pleased to find out the average age of workers in tech is 38 years old. Be willing to work alongside people younger than you, be flexible and adaptable, but do not let your age prevent you from a rewarding career in IT. Plenty of people who are in their 40’s and 50’s have taken the skills they have learned over their early career and used that to pivot into a successful role. Life begins at whatever age you decide to start living, a number doesn’t decide that!
#3 You don’t need to be good at math
Boy am I grateful that there wasn’t a math test on my first IT job interview. In fact, the majority of math calculations I do on a daily basis is figuring out my time card!
IT of course does have certain roles where a high proficiency in math would be required, but not ALL roles require this. Working on a help desk, so far I have not been asked to calculate anything that I can’t do with a basic calculator. Do some research on your desired career path, see if math is required for it and if not go for it.
#4 You don’t need to be a nerd(tech enthusiast) anyone can learn
This one was a shocker to me, and I didn’t learn this until I hit the service desk. Apparently, not everyone in IT builds their own PC’s, writes their own programs, and has a command center in their house that can crack the longest passwords in a few seconds. In fact, a lot of people that work in IT are simply good at process and procedure. Would you believe me that some folks I have met in IT, who have been working 10+ years do not own a personal computer? If you can understand how to follow written instructions, and effectively communicate with someone over the phone/email then you have the majority of the skills you need to work in IT.
#5 You don’t need a degree – but it is helpful
This is one of the things that attracted me to a career in IT, the fact that a degree is often not required! This field has so many opportunities for someone without a degree that it isn’t even funny. Now does a degree help? Absolutely, but oftentimes you will see job listings asking for a degree less and less, especially for entry level roles. Also, if you happen to have a degree in a different field, that is usually considered equally to a degree in Computer Science. Don’t let a lack of degree hold you back!
#6 You don’t need a certification – but it is helpful
In my experience, IT certifications rank above degrees in most cases. With that being said, certifications are NOT required so long as you can prove that you have the skills to do the job. There are plenty of people working on the service desks across the country, who only have customer service experience. These individuals are typically less technical savvy than their certified counterparts, but no less valuable. I have seen many people on the desk with nothing but good customer service skills crush it and take the leaderboards for positive customer surveys on a daily basis. If you are interested in certification, Comptia Net+ is a great start.
IT is a much larger field than what the TV shows and movies give it credit for. There are so many different positions you can get, and leveraging what you learned during your previous years in the workforce is going to be the best way to succeed in this move.
Your greatest asset will be your experience! Knowing how to work with people is huge in IT because it is not all about TECH, people are at the heart of IT and knowing how to work as a team is critical. Did you ever work in customer service? If yes, capitalize on that as customer service experience is huge in IT. If you have ever managed a team outside of IT, then you have leadership skills! Project Management and collaboration are all non IT specific skills that can land you a job working in this field. By leveraging these soft skills along with some foundational technical knowledge/certifications you would be amazed at what you can accomplish!
If you have been thinking about making the change, go for it! I did it at 36 years old, with no degree, a few certifications and very limited experience. I can safely say it was the best career decision I ever made. Good luck!
I really needed to read this, as a fellow “Old Guy” the thought of moving to a new career is daunting to say the least, I greatly appreciate this insight!