Better Late Than Never

Usually, people make whatever plans they have for the year in December or January — with any luck, in February at the latest. But our forums recently saw an IT professional announce his plans for 2007 five months into the game! Nevertheless, the posting received some interesting responses, as other regulars did likewise. CertMag.com forum regular wagnerk got it started with a thread called “Goals in 2007 – post a bit late.” First, he listed his goals in IT:

1. Achieve the MCTS (Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist) status

2. Achieve the MCITP (Microsoft Certified IT Professional) status

3. Get another person in my department

4. Achieve the MCT (Microsoft Certified Trainer) status (maybe — if I can be bothered)

Then he listed his goals outside of IT:

1. Achieve a higher wage (overall)

2. Have a kid (currently trying)

3. Get the Nintendo Wii

Some of these goals are already on track for wagnerk:

“So far, just short of half a year, I’ve: (in IT): Achieved MCTS & MCITP status. Didn’t get the MCT status but did get the IC3 Authorized Instructor status and still waiting about another member for my team. (Out of IT): Waiting about wage, wife is pregnant and got my Wii. So, how are your goals coming on?”

Another CertMag.com forum discussion board regular, masterssullivan, posted his plans, as well:

“In IT: Get a new job, get more certifications, meet more people in the field (aka networking). Out of IT: Finalize my divorce, start a club, become a Mason, eat a sandwich with a Guinness on the side (yum yum), buy a motorcycle and ride it till the wheels come off. 2007 is going to be MY year at last!”

That’s the spirit, Masters! Elsewhere in our general discussion board, masterssullivan posted his own “Strategies for getting started.”

“How do you all get motivated to start a new project? I know some people like to dive right in because a job’s a job, but does anyone have any rituals they follow before they sink their teeth into a new assignment? Myself? I usually eat a large breakfast every day, and on the special days, I’ll cheat and cook up some extra links of Canadian sausage. I always finish with a cigarette. Calms the nerves and soothes the mind and puts me on a plane suitable for focus and concentration.”

Career Development
People often enter IT midway through a career in another industry. It’s generally seen as a growing market that draws on skills that will likely remain concerns for the foreseeable future. People contemplating whether to make the change to IT often stop by our forums for some advice on how to best make this transition.

This month saw such a visit from new member jamies, who posted a thread titled, “Career change at 44.”

“I am new to your wonderful forums and have spent the last couple of hours reading through all your threads. I have found them informative, yet I’m discouraged about my prospects of becoming an IT professional,” jamies wrote. “I’m currently employed as a mortgage consultant, but I am looking for a career change — the mortgage business is unstable. I have had profitable years, as well as lean years. I’ve decided that I need to find a career that provides a steady paycheck.

“I am currently doing research to find out what it is I need to do to land an entry-level job as an IT professional. I have an appointment with an admissions counselor this week at ITT Technical institute. However, after reading through your threads, I have discovered that many experienced IT professionals are having difficulties acquiring jobs. This makes me wonder how I can possibly get a job with no experience. My brother-in-law mentioned that he may be able to help me secure an entry-level job, even though I have no experience. Is this possible? Is it too late for me? Is the job market flooded? I live in southern California, and my youngest sister and her husband both work in the IT field. My sister has a four-year degree in computer science, whereas my brother-in-law only took a one-year course. However, my brother-in-law gained his employment just prior to 2000, when they were aggressively hiring IT techs. Can you IT professionals please give me some counseling? Is there any hope for me in the IT profession?”

CertMag.com forum regular Wayne Anderson was quick to counter jamies’ concerns about entering the IT field.

“I personally would not be so melodramatic as to say that the IT job market is flooded, nor that there is no hope, as it were, for the IT profession,” he wrote. “In an interesting twist, though, in recent years, the entry-level job market in moving into the IT industry has become far tighter than the progressive markets for advanced skill sets.

“It is an interesting dichotomy caused, in part, by globalization providing Internet-based methodology to move lower-skilled jobs into other countries. There are still lower-level positions — they are just harder to find than in the peak of the Internet boom and tend to be with smaller institutions. There are a few keys to successfully moving into a job within the IT industry. Getting into the industry cold with no past experience or skill set is hard, and if you are looking for more-stable income, be an accountant. The IT industry can be dynamic, depending on the firm that you are employed with, with wide variances in job security from company to company. Even with large firms like IBM that historically have been known for stability and loyalty to employees, job security seems to be going the way of the dodo bird.

“I would strongly caution you to know what you are getting into before investing in going down that road. Is this really what you want to do? Do you have a passion for technology, or is this just going to be a job for you? Making this transition from mortgage lending to IT with no pre-existing skills or experience is tough. Not impossible — just tough. Also, do you have the flexibility to have a few crappy-pay jobs for a year or two to get experience established and then move up the pay scale? It sounds like this is still something being considered, not acted on.”

The next IT professional to respond, new member rvannoy, advised jamies to just start small.

“If you are serious about an IT career, my advice is to find a small company to work for,” rvannoy said. “Not only is it easier to get your foot in the door with minimal skills, but you’ll get a lot of good, broad experience in many areas. Many small organizations have a very limited budget to hire IT folks. In this environment, be prepared to be all things to all people IT-related. There will be a lot of long hours and hard work — IT is generally not a 9-to-5 job. For those in this business, the payoff is the challenge, knowledge and satisfaction of being an integral part of a solution.

“The other advice when shopping your resume with little or no experience is to create a functional resume. I used this style of resume when I first broke into the business as a shipping clerk/technician for a software development company. After a couple of months on the job, I was able to dispatch the shipping clerk responsibilities and pursue the full-time technician portion of the job.”

Masterssullivan offered similar encouragement.

“I learned the hard way that getting into IT as an old-timer was a tough cookie to crumble, but you gotta stick with it. I got in like you all recommend: with a small company. My position had nothing to do with IT at the time. In fact, I was an executive supply manager, keeping the office stocked with supplies and equipment. I also stocked the office with my brand of drive and determination and found it was a good way to get chummy with the higher-ups who mattered. Meanwhile, I studied IT after work, almost obsessively. When the time came to hire an IT guy there, I was the man. They knew me, I had the skills and I think a company is much more likely to hire someone

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Daniel Margolis

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Daniel Margolis is a longtime professional writer and editor. Daniel was managing editor of Certification Magazine from 2006 to 2012.

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