So what if this career change doesn't work out?
March 25, 2010 6:57 AM   Subscribe

CareerChangeFilter: Help me get a better understanding of the risks and fall-back options of a career-change attempt. Comments from IT managers & HR people will be especially appreciated.

I'm currently thinking of attempting a drastic career change (IT to medicine), which would require me to quit my job for a year or more to take the undergrad pre-requisites and entrance exam, without any guarantee of success, so I may have to re-enter my current field if I fail. I'm currently laying the groundwork, but I haven't made a decision or committed myself to anything yet, and I don't plan on doing anything drastic for at least a year. I'm trying to get a better handle on the risks that I would be taking.

I've been steadily employed at the same company since I graduated several years ago, and I've only participated in entry-level interviews, so I don't have much useful exposure to the job market, hiring, or the mentality of the people involved in such things.

So, assume I can't make this career change happen and I have to get back into IT:

* How badly would a voluntary gap in my employment or low-level employment in a totally different field (i.e. a senior developer to nurse's assistant or EMT-Basic) be viewed?

* How would a prospective employer view a failed career-changer? Would I carry a stigma that would be difficult to overcome?

* What, if anything, could I do to blunt the impact of a failed career change attempt?

* Any other general comments?
posted by great.ideas.$1 to Work & Money (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not an HR or IT person, but I just wanted to ask why you wouldn't consider going into bioinformatics or getting a degree in that if you didn't get into med school? You could just say, oh, I decided I didn't want to give up IT but I wanted to mix IT with my interest in healthcare.
posted by anniecat at 7:40 AM on March 25, 2010

I help people find jobs for a living. The one thing we look out for when reviewing hundreds of resumes is "hoppiness" (meaning moving jobs every year or so) and gaps in time. If a gap in time can be explained by pursuing higher eduction that's always totally cool, whether or not it worked out (there are rare occasions when it's not the best thing, but that really only applies if you decide to attend a very bottom tier law school and then want to continue working in the legal profession but as a paralegal, and that's definitely not you). Anyhow, just make sure that your new resume will explain that from Sept 2010-Aug 2014 completed degree in whathaveyou.

Good luck! Sounds like a great idea to me...
posted by ohyouknow at 7:51 AM on March 25, 2010

I'm doing something very similar - switching from journalism to nursing. I am starting at the bottom, taking prereqs, and it's not guaranteed that I will get into a program, but to me the risk is worth it. The alternative is being unhappy in my job for another 30 years and I'm not willing to accept that. I say go for it.
posted by kmavap at 8:29 AM on March 25, 2010

Just to clarify: I wouldn't be getting another degree, I'd be taking the undergraduate science classes that I would need but never took. Basically, the failure scenario is that I would be out of IT for a year or two with nothing to show for it except a few new undergrad credits on a transcript.
posted by great.ideas.$1 at 8:34 AM on March 25, 2010

Another thing: I guess my core question is: will IT hiring managers view an failed career change 180 degrees away from IT as a big negative, or will they be more accepting?
posted by great.ideas.$1 at 8:40 AM on March 25, 2010

IT Manager here. Don't let me stop you from pursuing your dreams, but I'd mitigate risk by finding a senior development role in health care first, then make the position transition within your new employer.

I also used to be an EMT. Here, at least, you can take EMT courses after core business hours at community colleges, and most crews are looking for volunteers. Might be a good way to try before you buy.

If you fail to transition, or decide you don't like health care, I'm going to want to know:

- What turned you off about IT?
- Why did you think health care would be better?
- Why wasn't it/why'd you fail to transition?
- Why do you actually think you'd be happy working for me in IT again?

I'd expect you to tell me all of this when you explain the gap or brief stint in health care on your resume without me poking or prodding.

That last one is going to be key for me deciding if you're a flake that doesn't know what you want or if you're a person that took a career detour and is more ready than ever to get back on the bus.
posted by bfranklin at 8:55 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am not in IT or HR, but have been heavily involved in the application, recruitment, and interview processes, in the corporate and academic sectors. I think a simple explanation that you had a serious interest in medicine and took some time to explore whether a medical career was right for you would suffice. You can spin it further by saying after taking these classes and learning a lot, you realized IT really does suit you best, and you look forward to integrating these two interests into your life, possibly by doing volunteer work. The important thing is to present these as well thought-out choices you made, rather than being a product of circumstance. Best of luck & hopefully this career change will be followed by much success!
posted by katemcd at 9:43 AM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

« Older Broom, broom, Eeeeeeee!   |   Where is the world is this? (probably Germany, but... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.