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time for something new

Career Hacker: Changing to a different IT field

May 20, 2014

Once you’re well-established in a successful IT career, it can be tough to contemplate a change. After all, you’re gambling on losing status, money and job security. But let’s be honest: today’s world requires constant updating of skills and the flexibility to roll with change—especially for IT workers. Staying in one position too long and letting your skills stagnate can be as much of a career risk as rolling the dice on a new career. Improve your chances of making a successful career change with these tips.

Let your network work for you. As a mid-career professional, you probably have a wide network that includes many IT pros. Let the people who have worked with you and respect your talents know that you're looking for something new. Coffee dates are a good way to catch up and make your search known.

Create your own opportunities. Are you interested in cybersecurity but your company doesn't have this function in house? Arm yourself with some research on what steps you need to take to get qualified, and the inquire about filling this role. With many in-demand IT skills, it's hard to hire new talent so there's a decent chance your company will let you make a switch, and maybe even help you get trained and certified.  

Talk to people. Meetups and active LinkedIn groups are a great way to start learning about a new IT field, and also to build a network. Yeah, it can be a pain to go to a meeting or establish yourself in a group, but do it anyway. You'll learn a lot and likely meet some great people. Both of these things will help you build credibility, knowledge and help you open doors when the right position comes along.  

Meet with a recruiter. Perhaps you are hesitant to leave a comfortable career, or still unsure about how to begin changing your career track. In this case, talking to an IT recruiter may ease your concerns. In addition to providing great advice about breaking into your chosen field, an experienced recruiter can point to toward opportunities you haven't considered. Importantly, he or she will take more time than a hiring manager to understand you as a whole person, not just bullets on a resume. And working with a recruiter can help open doors, because busy hiring managers count on trusted recruiters to screen candidates for attributes not found on resumes, such as flexible intelligence and cultural fit. Remember, a keyword-searching database is where many perfectly good resumes go to die! 

Have you considered IT consulting? It's a great way to try out new positions and build skills. Working on a variety of projects and being exposed to a variety of workplaces can help you hit on the right path while earning good money. And it’s probably the single best way to grow your professional network. Just make sure you track those contacts—not having and using a LinkedIn account would be a huge missed opportunity.

Moving on from IT? And finally, did you know that musician Elvis Costello started his career as an IBM computer operator? If you’re thinking of making the transition from IT pro to rock star, I don’t have any advice for you. But let me know how it turns out! (And send me some tix to your concerts).

Want to read more tips? Tune in each Tuesday for a new Career Hacker post for articles about resumes, salary negotiations and interviewing. And check out recent posts about starting out in IT or advancing your IT career.

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