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How to Transition to a Career in IT in 3 Steps

February 26, 2013

Winston Churchill once said “There is nothing wrong with change if it is in the right direction.” Changing your career is no different, so if you’re considering a career switch, don’t be nervous. The fact is, you’re not alone: one in three workers has recently considered switching careers, according to human resources consultancy Mercer. There’s been a lot of buzz about positions in the IT field, with IT jobs taking 4 out of the top 10 positions in U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of the100 best jobs for 2013.

So how do you transition into a career in IT? If you think your job skills don’t transfer well or that it’s too hard, I have great news: you’re dead wrong! Butchers, meteorologists, accountants, and other professionals can (and have) transitioned into IT. Here’s some advice from professionals who’ve made the switch:

Develop an appetite for learning

Whether you’re a system administrator, software developer, or project manager, you’ll need to learn at a fast pace. Shawn Rutherford went from being the top meteorologist at KXAN in Austin, Texas to landing a job at Dell. So how did he make the transition from reporting the weather on television to marketing the enterprise software at Dell, one of the largest tech companies in the world? One of Shawn’s biggest tips was about the willingness to learn, and learn quickly. “My advice?…No matter where you work, let them know that you are eager to learn…take good notes…and believe in yourself. Even when you fail and fail again… get up, dust yourself off, take the fussing as ultimately positive and keep pushing forward.”

Look for opportunities at your current company

If the current company you’re working at does anything with technology (so, in other words, if you’re not a cobbler) there is a chance you could create an opening for yourself in the IT department. Don’t be afraid to ask if there are IT-related projects you could do. If enough of them arise, you could leverage them into a new role at the company. If not, you can still be a part of them and add that experience to your resume.  Jamie Smith, a current IT director at a manufacturing company, said he got his first job in IT because of the projects he worked on at his previous position in accounting/operations. “I was lucky in that I was working at two locations where IT was based out of corporate so they were more than happy to have a set of willing and interested hands on site, so I learned a lot that way,” Smith said. “And because IT appreciated the help and I didn’t screw anything up I got exposure and some tutorials about the DBA end of things as well – which was great. So my next position was a System Analyst at another place. It was a natural transition.”

Paul Gillin, former Editor-In-Chief of tech publication Computerworld, suggests turning your potential weakness (lack of technical knowledge) into a strength. “I’ve met so many people over the years who got into IT because they were the de facto computer experts working in another department, such as accounting, manufacturing or even marketing, and they grew into the role by virtue of understanding the context for the technology,” Gillin said.

Don’t forget the two P’s: Persistence and Patience

If you’re preparing for an IT certification test, stuck on a problem you can’t troubleshoot, or up until 4 in the morning trying to find the right IT position for you, don’t forget that hard work does pay off. Take Eric Pasco for example; Pasco spent seven years in student ministry studying to be a youth pastor of all things. In fact, the notion of going into IT never entered his mind. “I never really considered a career in IT until I couldn’t find a youth pastor job,” Pasco said. “While I was looking for a job I had to pay the bills so I got a job working at a national bank data center as a ‘data security guard.’ I knew I was good with technology so I thought it would be a good fit.” As it turned out, it was merely a regular security guard position located at a data center. Even with that limitation, Pasco made the most of his opportunities there.

“The whole time I worked at the data center I would interact with the different computer vendors – people working for HP, Dell, CISCO, & EMC – and I thought ‘I could do what they do.’” After over a year of looking for ministry jobs, Pasco considered switching careers. A friend recommended he obtain his Comptia A+ certification, so he spent all his extra time at work and at home studying. He passed the test with flying colors and was planning to take the Network+ test when he received a job lead. “I interviewed for a system/network administrator position at a law firm,” Pasco said. “I would be the only IT person for 50 users. Servers, SAN, phone system, Active Directory, the whole shebang. I didn’t have high hopes, but they took a chance with me and I got the job.”

Stories like Pasco’s prove that anyone, with the right skills, patience, and an open mind can make a successful transition into a career in IT. How did you get into IT? Share your story and offer advice to those looking to make the switch in the comments section below!

Posted By: James Sweeney


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