Wouldn’t you love to know today what you knew when you chose your professional IT specialization? Whether you completed a degree, earned an advanced degree, obtained a certificate or attended boot camps, you may have chosen a different track if you had the experience that you have now. Perhaps you’ve discovered a new skill set you’d like to use more often, or you’d like to shift into a new industry that has a high demand for your expertise. Whatever the reason, it’s common for tech professionals to find themselves in a position of wanting to shift gears throughout their careers. If you’re ready for something new, leverage, this advice from Partners Personnel to navigate a career change in information technology.
Set Clear Goals For Your IT Career
There’s an old saying attributed to Yogi Berra, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else.” Funny, yes. But it’s also very accurate when it comes to an IT career change. You can’t navigate a change if you don’t know where you are navigating to.
Robert Lear, Senior IT Recruiter at Partners Personnel, believes it is vitally important for tech professionals to have a clear understanding of their unique motivations. “Is financial remuneration the number one factor? Would this be an opportunity to gain new skills that will ultimately be highly rewarding but pays less today? Or could this be the perfect opening to work in a field and in a role that is fully satisfying? One where you can’t wait to go to work each day. At different stages in life, goals will inevitably change based on personal wants and needs. That’s normal and to be expected. But it means that self-reflection is critical before considering new opportunities and, vitally, before committing to a new job.”
So first, be clear about your goals.
- Do you want to change IT specializations?
- Do you want to stay in the same specialization but advance your career with a step up?
- Do you want to stay in the same specialization but change the industry you work in?
Liz Poland, Managing Director of Createch, Tech+Creative Staffing, a division of Partners Personnel, believes goal setting is the “single most important skill to hone as a professional seeking to embark on a career shift. Developing a challenging yet flexible roadmap broken up into achievable milestones will help you achieve great things without creating overwhelm. Be sure to celebrate the big and small wins along the way – momentum breeds momentum!”
When you are clear about your end goal, you can much more easily break down the steps you need to take in order to reach that goal. Poland agrees, adding, “Whether it’s developing a new tech proficiency or pivoting your career altogether, dream, research, develop a plan, and distill it into bite-size tasks. Celebrate wins.”
Take Charge of Your IT Career Path
Your career isn’t as important to anyone as it is to you. Even if you have a fantastic mentor or boss, you are in control of your IT career path. While you always want to seek out advice and guidance from seasoned industry veterans and tech recruiters, you’re the individual who must execute on that advice, and you must weigh options against your personal goals.
However you want to shift your IT career, you’ll want to do some research after you’ve clearly stated your end goal. In some cases, you may find that you have skill gaps or experience gaps that need to be closed. Educate yourself on what employers are looking for, and then develop a plan to close any gaps that you’ve uncovered. Know that it might take you several months or more to put yourself in a position to make a career change into a new specialization or industry, but as long as you’re taking the right steps to make it happen, you’ll eventually achieve your goal.
Become A Passive Job Seeker
This sounds counterintuitive to the advice of taking your time and closing skill gaps, but you never want to be in a position where you’re negotiating a new job from a place of uncertainty. If you know the industry you work in is experiencing change, if your company is going to downsize, or if your current skill set is becoming less in-demand, search out new opportunities. As a “passive” job seeker – someone who is employed but open to new opportunities – you will actually be in much higher demand than those people who aren’t currently employed.
There are always new job and career opportunities you can take advantage of in IT, so as you’re thinking about the steps you need to take to navigate an IT career change, be ready to act. If you do find a good information technology job that could be a bridge to a new career path, take it.
Liz Poland agrees. “Don’t wait to be in a place of need or desperation to start looking for your next opportunity,” she says. “Staying abreast of the market and staying open allows you to consistently get intel on your skillsets’ market value, the tech landscape, and potentially your next big career break. You never know what lies on the other side of saying ‘yes’ to a conversation.”
Tips For IT Career Changers
Navigating a career change can be exciting, but it can be stressful if you’re doing it alone. Use these tips to navigate your tech career change.
Get On Top of Skill Gaps
As noted above, you’ll always want to have a plan in place to address any skill gaps or experience gaps that could impede your success. This may mean anything from self-guided learning to earning a new certification or gaining specific experience like supervisory or leadership experience.
Take A Career-Change Reality Check
Once you understand the requirements of your target job and you know what you will need to invest in order to get there, it’s time for a reality check.
If you’re looking to leave a specialty in which you are currently a seasoned expert, switching to something new may mean you have to take a lateral move in terms of position and salary, or you may even need to take a slight step backward.
Taking a lateral move or a step back can feel demoralizing, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of, and it often means greater success in the end. If a lateral move or step back is required, you should do a gut check. If you can’t afford a temporary pay cut, that particular shift may not be right for you, for example.
Stay On Top Of Your Resume
While you are taking the necessary steps to build a solid foundation for an IT career change, keep your resume and LinkedIn updated in real-time. Tech recruiters are always on the hunt for talented people, and you never know when someone may reach out with an amazing opportunity to springboard your job search.
If a recruiter does reach out, always respond even if the opportunity they have doesn’t quite align with where you are today. Be honest about your situation and your long-term goals, and ask if it’s ok to check in every now and then and update them on your education or certification progress. Keeping the relationship open ensures that you will be remembered if that recruiter comes across a good entry point for your IT career change.
Are You Ready For An IT Career Change? Work With The Top Tech Recruiters In the Industry
A recruiter can give you a competitive advantage when you’re navigating a career change in IT. Robert Lear says, “A recruiter can be a window into the market for an IT professional. He/she will have valuable data on what skills and profiles are most in demand, on market salaries, and on contrasting benefit packages. Beyond being able to introduce you to specific opportunities, a professional recruiter can be a counselor and a great networker for years ahead. The best recruiters will always be there to offer advice, not just for a quick placement fee.”
If you are an experienced tech professional that is in the process of changing specializations or industries, we invite you to send your resume to the tech recruiters at Partners Personnel, a top national recruiting firm. We partner with employers in a variety of sectors, and our team can help you advance your IT career. Browse our open jobs or send us your resume today.