7 Things You May Not Know About Working in IT
Wondering if a career in IT is right for you? It's certainly a lucrative and fast-growing field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of computer and information technology jobs is projected to increase 12 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. And many IT jobs offer exceptional job security, high salaries, and benefits that contribute to enhanced work-life balance. You've probably heard that an IT job is a solid gig, but what's it really like? You may be surprised to find out that you don't need to live in Silicon Valley, be a Millennial or be good at math and science to succeed. Keep reading for more facts about working in IT.
Soft Skills Are Just as Important as Technical Skills
No matter what the role, IT professionals need a good balance of technical and soft skills. In fact, four of the top five skills cited in core IT job postings are considered soft skills. Technical skills simply aren't enough to truly succeed in an IT job, which means the soft skills you already have could be what make you stand out to hiring managers and to your supervisors once you're hired.
Many IT jobs require good communication, problem solving, project management and, yes, customer service. It's true – your retail, food service or call center jobs have set you up for success in IT! These skills help you work better with others, overcome business challenges and complete projects on time and on budget.
Not Everyone Who Works in IT Has a Computer Science Degree
There are many ways to get into IT. Some IT pros have a computer science degree, but some have a liberal arts degree and gained hands-on experience that led to an IT role. Others earned IT certifications or participated in boot camps to hone their technical skills.
In fact, less than half of IT support workers (43 percent) have a bachelor's degree at all. They acquired the skills they need to perform their duties at work without jumping through the hoop of a four-year degree. Don't let a lack of computer science degree hold you back from pursuing IT. You have other options that can lead you to the job you want.
IT Pros Don't Have All the Answers in Their Heads
With as frequently and quickly as technology changes, it would be impossible to know every answer and anticipate every challenge. While the IT staff at your organization may seem to know it all, that doesn't mean those answers are already in their heads.
A good IT pro is resourceful. If they don't know the answer, they search the internet, they ask colleagues and other IT pros, they reference manuals and guidebooks, they call vendors. They do whatever it takes to find an answer and a solution.
An IT pro who is resourceful is just as valuable, if not more so, as one who knows everything! Plus, problem-solving is a huge part of any IT job. You arguably have to love solving problems to do well in IT. There are few, if any, IT pros who know how to fix every problem. The ones who excel are the ones who don't give up until they've found solutions.
Not All Tech Jobs Are in Silicon Valley
Yes, there are many tech companies and startups in Silicon Valley. But you don't have to move to northern California to get an IT job. Los Angeles, New York City, Washington, D.C. and more all have thriving tech markets. And hip, up-and-coming cities like Austin, Seattle, Fort Collins, Portland and Denver have technology sectors that are all booming with growth right now.
So, don't give up on your tech dreams just because you live in the Midwest, South or on the East Coast. Tech jobs are everywhere. You may even find a remote IT job you can do from anywhere. Increasingly, IT jobs are going to remote workers who live all over the world. If you live in a small town of a thousand people, don't let that stop you from trying to get your foot in the door in technology.
You Don't Have to Be Young to Work in IT
If your perception of IT careers is all startups and social media and mobile apps, you may think that all IT pros are young. But that's not the case. In 2016, the average age of the core IT worker was 42 years old.
You can start an IT career at any age, and in fact, you may have gained skills in previous jobs that make you an attractive candidate for an IT role. Remember that soft skills and transferable skills matter to hiring managers. If you have the drive and determination to beef up your technical skills, you can start an IT career at 40…or any age! It's all about the work you're willing to put into it to pursue your passions and take your career to new, more satisfying heights.
You Don't Have to Be a Math Genius to Succeed in IT
Just as it's a misconception that you need a computer science degree to work in IT, it's also a misconception that you need to have stellar math skills. If calculus wasn't your strongest subject in high school or college, don't despair. You won't need it for most technology jobs. In fact, all you usually need are basic arithmetic skills to get started learning the skills you need for most IT jobs.
Much of what you'll need for your job in IT, depending on your role, can be learned from hands-on experience, training courses and tinkering around on your own computer. If you're willing to put in the elbow grease, your algebra skills likely won't make much of a difference.
Your People Skills Will Distinguish You in the Technology Field
As mentioned, certain soft skills can give you a major edge in IT. Interpersonal skills are arguably the most important skills you can have in a number of IT roles.
If you're a help desk worker, a large part of your job will involve interacting with and helping your colleagues. Being able to hold a conversation and build a rapport is integral.
Similarly, if you're a developer, you're likely going to have to work on teams and with creatives to create new websites, apps and products. Being able to work on a team will be the secret sauce to your ability to thrive. Have your sights set on becoming a project manager? The nuanced abilities to manage people, put out interpersonal fires and keep the crew happy are a must.
IT is an ever-evolving, diverse field, with almost endless opportunities. Whether you're into coding, infrastructure, analysis or something else, there's likely a tech job for you based on your own unique skills and interests. Now's a great time to start exploring your options if you're thinking about a career move. You might just find that IT is what you've been looking for all along. Take our quiz, Is IT Right for You? to help you decide if you would thrive in an IT career.