Sometimes, you change careers. When you’re breaking into IT -or any other career for that matter – the path of least resistance is often to start at the bottom. The problem with starting at entry-level is that you may have some financial responsibility by then and you can’t exactly go from $55k to $12/hour without trashing your finances.
Here are 6 keys to start in IT without starting over completely.
Create a plan
Probably the worst thing you can do when you try get start your IT career is to go in blind. Take some time to at least rough out a plan. Some things to include are:
- What skills that I have now translate to IT?
- What type of roles are out there that I want?
- How much money can I move over for?
- What kind of timeline would I like to get this done in?
- Who do I know that can help me?
- So I have a spouse that will support me through this?
- What kind of learning will I need to do before starting?
Start right now and rough out a chronological plan. To see basic plan elements of breaking into IT, look here.
Build your skills
To get hired in IT, you will need skills. You already have transferable skills, and you should make sure you explore those and get them on your resume.
You can learn from books and online. In fact, there is loads of free technical training on the web- you just need to look for it. I cover 6 ways to get IT experience when you have none right here.
Getting technical skills will require that you do technical things. Odds are that you have a technical affinity, but maybe not bona fide professional IT skills. It’s true that experience is king in IT.
Set up an emergency fund
A great analogy of changing careers is like jumping from the dock onto a boat.
You want to get onto the boat as soon as possible, but if you jump too soon, you’ll be all wet.
When you change careers and get into IT, I want you to get at least the same or more money as you are now. If for some crazy reason you want to take a job that offers slightly less, then you will need an emergency fund. Dave Ramsey does a great job explaining emergency funds.
Let’s say you get an offer for net less $400 per month, but shows strong prospects for higher earnings (say, $1000 more per month) after 6 months. In order to make a deal like this work for the 6 months, you would need $400 x 6 = $2400.
This will let you filter out opportunities that exceed your emergency fund’s limits.
This will also be handy because while you are conducting your job search, there is a chance that your current employer might find out and terminate you (this isn’t that common, but it happens). You will need your emergency fund to keep you afloat while you look for something else. Sometimes, getting canned will really get you hustling, so it’s not always bad.
Work your contacts
If you’re moving from one career to a new one, you just need one good break. Sometimes that break is a referral from someone you know.
I have repeatedly been tipped off to good opportunities and received offers because of someone I knew was working there. All of my consulting gigs have been word of mouth, and my first “real” IT job was as a result of a referral.
Your inner circle – Make sure the people you love know that you want to change careers into IT. They may not be in IT, but the friend of a friend may be, and may need someone.
LinkedIn – If you are already working, you need to be careful. If you have people from your current workplace on there, you do not want to blast out that you are looking, as this may get back to your boss. You can, however, use LinkedIn to identify and strike up conversations with hiring managers and other influencers.
Sometimes that break comes from someone you know.
Don’t take the first job offered to you
Ok- let me clarify. If the first job offer you get is exactly what you need, or more, sure, you can take that. Most times, however, you will need to filter out the opportunities as they come.
The best thing to do here is just to go ahead, if you haven’t already, and put together your household budget. Once you’ve done that, you can make decisions about how much money you need to keep running. As opportunities come up, you can quickly decide from the ad or the person you speak to if it’s within the range you need.
It’s a matter of keeping a cool head. You may be excited to get offers, but you need to look at it from an objective, almost clinical standpoint. Make sure you don’t accept an offer for $10,000 less than you need.
Be intentional and hustle like mad
First, when you want to change careers to IT, you have to immediately accept that it will not be easy. Most people don’t wander into IT. You have to be intentional, or it won’t happen.
Second– When you make a plan and then hustle accordingly, something interesting happens. I’ve found that each time I’ve started to make moves while I was in that job, I would get promoted. I was working in Call Center Sales Management. Basically, I managed a team of (rockin’) salespeople.
When I decided to go to tech school during the day before my 3pm to 11pm work shift, I ended up getting a promotion to Supervisor from the sales floor.
…make a plan and hustle accordingly…
I still hadn’t found a job in IT, and I started to explore programming. I took some college classes to get started (not always the best course of action, but…). When I got into school, I started getting noticed by a company, and before I knew it, I received a good offer and took the job.
Something happens to you when you start to take action. Circumstances start moving in your favor and those around you start to notice. It’s as if people can smell hustle on you, and they act accordingly.
This is probably the hardest part. Most people don’t like to hustle- but you’re not most people, are you? People who don’t hustle stay in jobs they hate and take lower job offers.
If you want things to happen- contacts to start talking, interviews to happen, and offers to be made, you have to hustle.
Ready to make your start in IT- but don’t want to start over? Make sure you create a plan, build your skills, and set up emergency funds. Don’t forget about working your contacts- or about evaluating the offers closely. Last- hustle is the secret sauce that makes all this work.
Thanks for reading! Make sure you join my email list to stay up to date, and if you have a question, reach out! I’d love to help you.
Photo credit: NASA, public domain, CC0.