Switching Careers into IT: A How-To Guide
Switching to a career in IT is within your reach, even if it may seem daunting. Anyone with the desire to get an IT job can find one that suits their unique skills, talents and interests. There's a good chance that many of the soft skills you already have apply to a career in IT. One of the best things about IT careers is the sheer number of them. You just have to identify the right one for you and make a plan to acquire the experience and/or training you need to market yourself to hiring managers. Here are some specific steps you can take for successfully switching careers into IT.
Determine What You Want out of an Information Technology Career
What are you passionate about? How much money do you want to be earning? What makes you happy in a professional sense? Helping people? Solving problems? Being able to show off your creative side? These are questions you should ask yourself as you begin to research possible career options. You need to take a personal inventory of everything you desire out of a job and really ask yourself, “what career is best for me?”.
Pick a Job Role That Aligns with What You Want
This involves research. Read IT job descriptions and talk to IT professionals to figure out which technology job best meets your needs. Do your due diligence in terms of research. This could entail watching day-in-the-life videos on YouTube and on the CompTIA website, or attending informational webinars about IT careers and technology trends.
Talk to People Who Have the Job You Want
Scan your LinkedIn network and talk to friends and family about your desired career change. Find someone who has the job you want and reach out to them to see if they'll meet up for an informational interview. This will help you figure out how they got the job you desire and help you start thinking about how you can replicate the steps they took to successfully secure the position.
Consider Getting a Mentor
You can seek out a mentor in your desired career role by joining a professional organization. A mentor can help coach you through doing what you need to do to properly make the switch to your dream career. A mentor can also help you network with the right people and set the right goals for yourself as you acquire skills and look for jobs.
Research the Training You'll Need and Compare Training Options
You may be able to self-study in your spare time at home and pick up necessary skills using resources like Lynda.com and MOOCs. You may also benefit from enrolling in classes or tech boot camps or reading books that teach IT skills. You can even try out CompTIA CertMaster for IT Fundamentals to start picking up key IT skills today.
Consider Getting Certified
Research and identify any applicable certification options. Check out our 4 Steps to Certification and our Get into IT digital brochure to start figuring out what kinds of certifications are out there and how those certifications can help make you a more marketable job candidate. The right certifications on your resume can make a world of difference if you're changing your career drastically.
Try out new things on your personal computer. Depending on your desired career path, you may want to do things like build your own website, experiment with open-source software or build a database. A good portion of what you need to know for IT jobs can be learned through trial and error using the technology you already have at home.
Explore Other Educational Options
Although many careers in information technology don't require you to go back to college, a few of them might. If this is the case with your desired career, you may want to find the right option for yourself at a university. More and more reputable schools offer online classes, and these can be a more flexible option, particularly if you're not ready to quit your current job.
Get Hands-On Experience
Hands-on experience does not have to come from a full-time, paid position. You also can get it from volunteer positions, apprenticeships, part-time jobs and internships. Reach out to companies that could use your assistance while allowing you to learn on the job. Most IT jobs don't offer paid training at the beginning of your employment, but some do. Look into your desired field and see if employer-sponsored training is a possibility.
Identify Additional Skills Gaps
Assess which skills you've acquired and compare them to the skills listed in job postings. If you're still lacking in any areas, find additional educational resources to help you fill gaps. Take our free career quiz to see what IT careers are a good match for the skills you already have.
Tailor Your Resume to IT
Use the same language you see in job descriptions and focus on the skills/experience you have that relates to the jobs you want. Read up on how to select the right kind of resume and get the attention of more hiring managers, and when you get down to writing, make sure you highlight all of your transferable skills.
In addition to setting up informational interviews and finding an IT mentor, you should cast your net wider and introduce yourself to as many IT professionals as you can. Attend professional association events, networking gatherings and conferences.
LinkedIn can also be a great tool for digital networking. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and that you connect online with the people you meet at networking events.
Knowing the right people in the industry who can introduce you to hiring managers when positions open up can benefit your job search considerably. In fact, according to LinkedIn, a 2016 survey revealed that 85 percent of jobseekers find their jobs through networking. Never doubt the power of expanding your network!
Set specific, actionable goals and do your best to achieve them on a set timeline. Even if you encounter hurdles as you're venturing into the realm of information technology jobs, keep going and don't give up. With the right amount of effort and persistence, switching careers into IT is possible, and so is conquering all of the career goals you set for yourself.
Remember that changing careers takes time, patience and practice. You also don't want to overwhelm yourself by trying to take on too many new things at once. You can learn new skills in small doses over time, and be patient with yourself as you learn. Remember that everyone learns at their own pace, and no one has ever become an IT pro overnight.
Still trying to decide which careers in technology could be right for you? Take our quiz to see which IT career is right for you.