Close the Deal: How to Change Careers from Sales to IT
If you are in sales and are considering a career change, an IT job may be just the change you're looking for. Many skills transfer well from sales to IT. For example, you have to be focused on the customer and their needs, while also sincerely touting the features and benefits of your product. You also have to be willing and able to take initiative and communicate well. In the world of IT, all of these things translate to marketable skills to get you going in a new career.
IT Careers vs. Sales
In sales, you may be used to thinking on your feet and problem solving. You know your product backward and forward and rely on that knowledge to help you in your job. Sometimes things can be stressful and fast paced, but you handle it well. You have good communication skills, good organization skills and you are a people person.
In IT, you also need job skills like problem solving adeptness in a high-stress, fast-paced environment. Things can change daily, or even hourly, and the field is always in need of people who can go with the flow and thrive off the challenges.
And, despite what you've heard, not everyone in IT sits in a dark room in front of a screen and despises interacting with people. Actually, most IT pros need good customer service skills and the ability to relate to people, which may be your biggest asset coming from sales. Whether you are a manufacturer's representative, territory manager, commissioned sales associate, account specialist or door-to-door salesperson, your skills in sales mean that you have what it takes to succeed in the tech world.
What's It Like to Work in IT?
What sort of careers in technology can you get? Think about these two entry-level IT positions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a help desk technician is expected to grow by 12 percent between 2014 and 2024, while a position as a computer support analyst is to grow by 10 percent. Both jobs require skills you most likely already have!
|Help Desk Technician||Computer Support Analyst|
|Salary||$52,160 average||$52,160 average|
|Availability||“Normal” work hours||Generally requires some nights and weekends|
|Work–Life Balance||Can leave work at the office||Can leave work at the office|
Possible Career Path
|Help Desk Technician → End User Support Specialist → Network Administrator*||Computer Support Analyst → Coder → Software Developer*|
|Training||College degree not necessary, but certifications are beneficial||Associates degree or post-secondary classes often required|
|Job Outlook||12% growth expected||10% growth expected|
Estimated Time to Career Change
(Statistics and information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; items marked with an asterisk (*) are from itcareerfinder.com.)
The Skills You Need to Get into IT
Your people skills will take you far in IT. Remember, at the other end of the computer (or phone or tablet or device of your choice) is another person. The ability to relate to people and solve their problems is something not everyone has; but in sales, you definitely do!
Also consider what it takes to get the job done…sometimes your day ends much differently than you thought it would. Things pop up, fires need to be put out and your main task for the day can be interrupted. The ability to move through different tasks easily and seamlessly is something that IT people need to do, and in sales, you are already doing it. Take our free career quiz to see how your skills transfer to IT.
And, if you're someone who's always on the go, visiting customers and making sales, chances are you may already be comfortable using (and possibly troubleshooting) mobile devices and other technology, which, of course, is absolutely necessary in IT.
Careers in information technology need people who are goal-oriented and team players, and someone looking for a second career after sales could very well be someone an IT company would be interested in.
The Way to Your New Career
Your experience is going to be what sets your apart from others as you transition into your new career. Besides your people skills and problem-solving savvy, you are going to need some actual experience in the tech world to get you going. It's not as daunting as you may think. Talk to someone in the field about their job, and benefit from their wisdom. That person may have career advice for you as you consider quitting your job and making a career change.
While you are gathering information, take our free career quiz to find out what IT job is right for you and then start getting some experience. Are you the person your friends and family call when they get an error message? Or the one your friends seek out when they don't understand something on the screen? This translates into IT experience. You could also teach a class at the local library or community center for people that don't know much about computers but want to learn.
What about volunteering your time and expertise with a nonprofit group? Charitable organizations need volunteers of all sorts, including someone who can help them with their technological needs. Consider doing a few hours a week of paid side work to get your feet wet in the field. And don't forget about the value of learning at home by tinkering with your own computer – teaching yourself is valuable, too! All of this translates into marketable experience.
How Long Will It Take to Change Careers?
While you may be really excited to hit the ground running in IT, it's important to remember that a career change takes time. Corinne Mills, author and managing director of Personal Career Management, suggests patience when transitioning to a new career.
“While some people want to radically reinvent their career instantly, it is more realistic to work toward a new career over time. This might mean making changes in your current job, studying a course in the evening, shadowing someone in the role or learning new skills to make yourself more attractive to potential employers,” she told The Guardian. “It might also mean that you gradually move into your new career via a series of jobs rather than one giant leap – and this is important if you want to protect your salary rather than going back to entry-level wages.”
The amount of time will be different for everyone, depending on your transferrable skills and experience and the amount and type of training you need. Career coach Daisy Swan says you'll need to allot time “to (re-)educate, to develop a new network in that field and to gain meaningful experiences that introduce you as a player... which then leads to gathering credibility and accessibility to your new work and new career.”
For some, it may be a few months, but for others it may be longer. Regardless of how long it takes, remember to go into the process with patience and a list of SMART goals that will keep you steadily on the path to a career in IT.
Where to Go from Here?
Once you have taken our free career quiz to figure out which IT job would be a good fit for you and your special set of talents, talked with others in the field and gotten your feet wet practicing, do a little research to figure out what your next steps will be.
- Will you need a degree?
- Can you take just a few classes?
- Will you need a certification?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, start researching online to see what you need to do to receive get what need. And when the time comes for you to get your first job in the IT field, remember to lean on your sales skills to wow the employer – highlight your background in sales (and problem solving and customer service) to show your future employer that you are more than just a resume!