Switching careers after spending a couple of years working in a particular industry can seem intimidating, especially when changing from a non-technical to a technology-related role that covers areas such as cloud computing, programming, software development, business analysis, and data science. With the desire to get in such roles one might stumble upon a lot of questions: What if it’s too late to make a switch? Do I even stand a chance? Are tech roles for young people only? According to an Indeed report, 92% of new tech workers reported they were happier with their jobs since making the career change, despite the commitments necessary to make the switch. A switch to a tech career can seem like a roller coaster ride but it is not undoable, many have successfully done it post their 40s. It is possible to achieve a high-paying job and get opportunities in the tech industry, with the right direction, and by acquiring the right set of skills. Whether you are passionate about technology, want a better-paying job, are seeking a new challenge, or are unhappy with your current job, these tips will help you to effectively transition to your dream tech career post-30s.
1. Know what you want and plan
This step requires some serious thinking and brainstorming, you need to be firm on what exactly you aim to do and why you want to do it, are you doing it just because everybody around you is in that field, or if you are doing it for the shining paycheck or is it out of passion. Make a list of what you would like your tech career to look like. What interests you? And where do you want to be? What are your strengths and capabilities?
If you have a full-time job, a family to support, or financial debt, such factors should be considered while planning to make a switch. Make a pros and cons list and plan out what will work best considering your current scenario. Also, think about the sacrifices that you might have to make in terms of family time, and even entertainment or leisure, to prepare for this switch. If you are unsure about your switch to a tech career, talk to people with the same background as yours who have made the change that you are aiming for, and ask them how they did it /planned to do it, and then plan accordingly.
2. Start small but with the right mindset
As the famous saying goes, Rome was not built in a day, you should know that any career switch will not be easy and will not take place overnight. Also, this process can get overwhelming and frustrating at times. The key is not to lose patience or be hard on oneself. Know that small steps create a large impact, and your efforts will pay off in the long run. There will be times when you will be stressed, exhausted, and maybe also get criticised for your decisions. You might even question your own decisions and throwing it all away can seem like a tempting option. It is best to stay bold, confident, and firm. It’s your journey, if you don’t believe in yourself, beat yourself up for making mistakes, diminish yourself and think about what other people might think of you, then you are preparing yourself for failure. A lot of your friends and family might be baffled if you tell them about your decision to switch, but there will be some others who will understand and provide support.
3. Tech skills
In today’s era, it is not mandatory to have a Computer Science or an IT degree. The main criteria is to have the relevant tech skills combined with the right soft skills. You can build tech skills without taking a heavy debt or a year gap and quitting your job. Caroline Wellingham, a career change coach advises not to put all your eggs in one basket. “The riskiest option is to quit your job and put all your energy into your career change,” she says. “You can work in your current job and figure out your next career action steps at the same time. When you are happy with your decision, then you can move on.”
There are a wide variety of courses and certifications offered by Microsoft, Amazon, etc. available online to help prepare for your dream tech job. For example, Apps2Fusion courses offer self-paced online learning help for those who want to be an expert in the cloud technology field irrespective of which background they come from. When preparing to build your skills don’t simply just watch shortcut tutorials and popular videos and assume you have acquired those skills. It is essential to choose a course that has a well-structured curriculum and offers practice material and assignments. The course should also offer an environment to apply what is learnt by doing stuff.
Take up minor side projects, it could be something like building a friend’s business website. Do these projects with interest irrespective of whether you get paid or appreciated; remember that these projects will help you build your portfolio. You can find freelance projects online on sites such as Fiverr, and Upwork. To build up skills you can consider other options like enrolling in tech bootcamps, flexible work, remote projects, and even certain technical tasks in your current industry like automating certain processes.
4. Being organised and consistent
Even if you have access to all the information, courses, and preparation material, unless you are organised and consistent, achieving your goals might be difficult and tedious. You might have to juggle your present job, family responsibilities and course assignments. Hence, it is very important to build study schedules, use planners and to-do lists to stay on top of your game. Create small goals for larger impact.
“Slowly is the fastest way to get to where you want to be”
– Andre De Shields
Stay up to date – Since the tech industry is constantly undergoing changes it is vital to be up to date with the latest trends and latest skills that employers are looking for.
Make connections and network with the people in your target tech industry, online as well as in person. Follow people who you aspire to be, and connect with people having the same goals as you. Participate in tech discussions, join groups, attend events, interact with people, tell them what you are doing, and ask them relevant questions. There might be people working in your present company who have the same role that you desire, reach out and find a mentor to guide you.
6. Social media effect
You don’t have to be constantly active on social media, but it will play an important role when you want relevant information, follow the latest tech trends, and connect with people in the tech industry. Follow thought leaders and company pages on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Meetup, Twitter, and Facebook. Social media will prove to great advantage when it comes to skill sharing too, consider joining Facebook and LinkedIn groups, and Twitter lists. Participate in tech discussions, forums, virtual events, and webinars. Share your skills, achievements, experiences, articles, blogs, and projects on social media, for example, you can write a LinkedIn article on how you used a certain software or programming language on a project. Read stories of inspiring people to keep you motivated and even share your own stories, you can also find more areas of interest. For coders, create a GitHub profile to showcase your work to potential employers. Listen to podcasts to follow what’s trending in technology. Go through job descriptions and profiles of the role that’s on your target what are employers looking for on job sites, if you don’t understand a term, research it.
7. Applications and interviews
Be aware of the latest trends and formats used in cover letters and resumes while applying to roles in the tech industry and prepare an updated portfolio of your projects. Highlight your newly acquired tech skills and the skills that are transferable from your past years of experience; you should be able to justify and know where to apply them. Apart from tech skills consider listing the relevant soft skills that you have mastered over the years. When it comes to interviews, chances are they may not go as expected initially and you may face rejections. Let that not bog you down as these interviews are useful for testing the waters. Instead consider improvising, identifying your shortcomings, and preparing better for the upcoming interviews. Employers in tech may give you home assignments or whiteboard assignments and ask you questions such as, ‘why are you considering switching to a tech?’. Be well-prepared and have a clear answer to such questions.
8. Ageism – The bitter truth
Ageism is a reality and one has to learn to deal with it. A lot of employers prefer young candidates over older ones, but this is not a reason for you to avoid joining the tech industry. The best advice is to forget your age and not be intimidated by the young competition and the potential they showcase. If employers make a big deal out of your age, then know that it is not the right place for you to work. It is alright to ask for help and learn from others irrespective of how many years of professional experience you have. You might even have to start in a junior position or face a salary cut in your new tech job, let that not demotivate you. Enjoy your work, learn new stuff, and be open to opportunities.
Apart from these tips, you need to realise that you’ve already built a career, be proud of yourself for having come so far, and since you are working hard to switch to a tech career, stay confident in the decision you have made.