Looking to move out of IT...help me find the way!
January 29, 2012 11:51 AM   Subscribe

Tell Me About Your Lateral Move out of IT... Mid-40's IT guy, realizes these 'golden handcuffs' are chaffing a bit, looking for career change into something else.

Have spent the last 18 years fumbling my way through a non-fullfilling IT career in the Southeastern US. They've always been just jobs. Longest has been 8 years (got overly comfortable, then laid off), shortest was six months (fired). I've had 8 months of unemployment time since August 2009. I'm burnt out. I'm not even good at what I do.

I currently hold an 'analyst' role, but I was hired for my experience with some software. I don't script, code or develop, but that always seems to be lurking around ever corner ready to jump out and devour me and spit me out. I don't want to do any of it. I've never been a superstar. I go to work, I work, I go home...I come back the next day.

I've done the career counseling route (myers briggs, highlands,etc) and didn't really come up with anything right out of the gate that i was meant to do. I can only remember a couple times in my working career where I enjoyed what I was doing. It was when I was helping other people learn things or helping them understand things. First level support at a tech company and showing temp workers how to enter data into a database back at my first job out of school.

My current contract to perm position pays WELL, hence the golden handcuffs. I have no idea how much they'll pay once I go perm in May, but I'm assuming it'll be roughly 10K less than what I'm making now. Anywho....

Tell me about your move away from IT! How'd you do it? Was it hard to do? Was training involved? What would you recommend for best fields to go into? Fields NOT to go into? How did you find your 'calling'? What age? Is 44 too old to do this? Talk to me Mefites...you're my only hope!!!! Thanks in advance...
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (11 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I can't say much if you don't already have something you're interested in. Try to cultivate an interest and try and make sure you can do the whole thing from beginning to end (not just the fun parts). Then try and develop enough skill in it that you can make a business/career of it.

For instance, I really got interested in speciality coffee. Started learning more and more and more and considered getting a cafe. But I realized I probably couldn't go in everyday and be nice to people!

Is there nothing you've encountered in this world that has made you interested in knowing more or getting better at?
posted by Napierzaza at 12:05 PM on January 29, 2012

You absolutely must research what is available and in demand in your geographic area. Concentrate on 'big picture'. Sites like City-Data give this type of information. Specializing in something that has little demand locally is counterproductive.

Also, get out and start networking; hitting happy hours and joining associations and organizations. Even a gym can be useful for making contacts.

Not knowing your specific city puts a big crimp in offering anything much more specific. Charlotte, Atlanta, Birmingham? Each is different.
posted by Ardiril at 12:11 PM on January 29, 2012

Look into teaching IT at a community college, if only part time, to get some enjoyment out of your skills.
posted by gjc at 1:31 PM on January 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

I kind of disagree with above:

If you research what is "in demand in your area," the answer will probably be IT! You have a skill that is in demand, you just don't like it.

Now you need to figure out what you love doing. I think the best thing you can do right now is just save money and have a reserve, so you have some funds to take some time off and experiment. Take advantage of the one good aspect of IT work- that it pays well.

And of course you're never too old to start something new!
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:32 PM on January 29, 2012

Man, I really identified with your question. Your description pretty much encapsulates the way I felt towards the end of my IT "career." The good news? YES! There is hope!! The bad news? You kind of have to figure out what you want to do first.

Quick background... I spent about 10 years doing various jobs in IT from Systems Analyst to Programmer Analyst (in this case, a huge misnomer) to Tech Support. Never did I feel confident in my job skills, much less the various job markets. I was laid off once in the early '00's and spent much of the rest of the time I was employed hating the fact that I had to constantly brush up on skills and technologies that bored me to tears. I went into the field thinking it would make me rich (wrong) and realized by the end of it that that was entirely the wrong reason to pursue a career. I am now 36 years old, back in school and working towards a nursing degree with my eventual goal being a position as a pediatric nurse practitioner. I don't regret my decision to leave IT and the money behind. Not even for a minute.

I first had to figure out that nursing was what I wanted to do, however, and I got the idea by doing A LOT of soul searching and realizing that I would find the most fulfillment working in a field that was directly responsible for helping others. Further, much of my family is involved in health care in some form or fashion, and I have the benefit of living in Boston, where there are a ton of excellent hospitals - so I had plenty of brains to pick. Specifically, I asked people who knew me and offered honest opinions about whether or not I'd be a good fit in the field. So, my advice to you is to figure out what motivates you and then think up some ideas of careers that may scratch that itch. Then, find people who are successful in these various fields and, if they're willing, pepper them with questions about it (Ask Metafilter is a great resource in this respect.) Try to get a feel for whether or not these careers seem like something you could see yourself doing and enjoying - and be absolutely honest with yourself. Don't just answer 'yes' to that question because the area is "not IT." It sounds like you really enjoy teaching, so why not look for ways to test the waters in that area? Maybe volunteer to teach some basic computing classes to people at your local library or look at working with some literacy programs.

In my case, I took a prerequisite course required for a degree program I thought might be interesting and I - crucially - volunteered at a local hospital to get a feel for what it would be like to work there. I discovered that, hey, I REALLY liked this stuff. Enough so, that I started to take night classes to fulfill those prerequisites while working IT during the day and eventually (three long years later) enrolling full time in a degree program.

So yes, to answer your above question, switching to this new field has required a significant amount of both time and expense, and I still have a lot of work ahead of me. The expense portion of that equation is not to be ignored either. If you're going to require some significant training, and will need to take out loans to pursue it, think long and hard about whether that will work. Pursuing your passion is a wonderful thing, but not if it ruins you financially. Anyway, all that said, I'm one year in and I now feel a sense of purpose that I never felt while working in IT. I love my clinical rotations - blood, guts, vomit, poop and all - because I get a huge amount of fulfillment by helping sick people become well. True, I am brand new to this field, and I'm sure there are seasoned health care professionals out there who will attempt to burst my bubble, but, I don't know... there's something to be said for working in/pursuing a career, knowing that you belong in it and feeling a sense of gratitude because you're fortunate enough to be able to participate. Find out what makes YOU feel that way, and go nuts pursuing it.

Oh, and as far as that age thing is concerned... no, of course you're not too old. I was really worried about that too, but I once had a conversation early on in my search with one of the head nurses at a local hospital. I asked her with some exasperation, "Do you know how old I'll be when I finally finish with all this schooling?" She responded, "Yes - exactly the same age as if you didn't pursue it at all." That answered that. Good luck in your search!
posted by Rewind at 1:48 PM on January 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

I left a 28-year "career" in IT to become a train driver at the age of 52. And for the first time in my life I actually look forward to going to work. It's very strange, and very wonderful. And yes, there was a lot of training. A lot. People have no idea. But it was so worth it.

It pays well, for a blue-collar job, but obviously we're not talking the sort of money it's possible to make in IT. But at my age, with no kids and my mortgage paid off, that was entirely immaterial. You adjust your lifestyle to suit, if you want out badly enough. And I did. I saved up a shitload of money and then I quit, with no job lined up. Then I applied for anything and everything that didn't involve sitting behind a desk and a computer and attending progress meetings.

If a drop of 10K is still a problem to you, this is going to be so much harder, I'm afraid. But you need to ask yourself whether or not you've reached the point where quality of life trumps income. You'll know when it does, believe me.
posted by Decani at 1:53 PM on January 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

I started looking at a career jump out of IT around 2005 and took a few years to figure out what I wanted to try to do instead. I took some classes and did some volunteer work in archaeology before I made the jump in 2008 to get a Masters in the UK, where I'm living now.

The expense of the program and the cost of the move were definitely significant, but I am enjoying what I'm doing now, even though I'm currently just a shovel bum. It helped that my partner was happy to move from the States and we don't have kids (just cats, who made the move fine).

I have a feeling that a lot of the people I used to do IT support for wouldn't recognize me as the same grumpy-ass troglodyte I often was back then.

I'm 41 now, so I don't think 44 is too old. I'd definitely recommend taking your time to figure out what you want to do and then invest some time to test the waters and also get contacts who know what the field is really like. I went into things with my eyes open about the job prospects and the pay expectations for archaeology. So far, no regrets.
posted by ursus_comiter at 2:04 PM on January 29, 2012

It was when I was helping other people learn things or helping them understand things.

Tap into this. Many ways in which you can do this - find something that you're passionate about. We can't really tell you what that is, it's just something for you to think about. It will need to be something you enjoy.

The other thing is - what are you good at doing? What you're good at and what you enjoy will not necessarily be the same thing but if you put them together in the right way they can complement each other.
posted by mleigh at 3:04 PM on January 29, 2012

I recently had a similar career shift [see here] and what I've discovered is that even my modest programming skills are tremendously useful in my new role. A lot of what happens at my job is rather manual & and there are people who do it all by hand, without even Excel calculations - just a cruddy old DOS based inventory database and Outlook and Excel because that's what opens the spreadsheets. A few web based utilities and that's it.

Over this weekend I threw together a program that, when complete, will automate quite a bit of the tedious bits of the work I do. I'm hoping to create a "dashboard" to alert me to the performance of the various product line I'm involved in and I plan on applying statistical analysis to the products I'm working on or researching to create various heuristics to help with the decision making process.

And I think that's the key - find an industry that's inefficient and make it efficient. If you don't know what industry that may be, just trawl craigslist and see what's out there. I have advice on how to find a job that has basic steps for how to go about looking for work - once I implement these steps it's never long before I find something new and interesting to do. (the trouble is getting motivated to implement them).

I did take a huge pay cut to take this job but pay is performance based and I expect to be close to where I was within 6-12 months time and perhaps exceed it in 2 years.

The best advice I go about work I got from the Australian version of Robert Kiyosaki (the "Rich Dad Poor Dad" guy - both him & this guy had the same mentor). "Don't work for a paycheck. Work for the skills you can pick up, for the things you can learn." If you're not being challenged at work, find work that will challenge you.
posted by MesoFilter at 4:11 PM on January 29, 2012

i don't know if this is possible for you (kids? mortgage? hate traveling?) but doing IT overseas in thailand, china, brazil, or somewhere else that appeals to you might be more fun than doing it the southeastern us. you'll probably be slotted into a better, more rewarding role wherever you work, the cultural challenges make every day interesting, the pay will probably better while your expenses will drop significantly (10k a year more x cost of living is 30% what it is in the states = equivalent of a 400% raise!) you will probably feel (and be!) more valued, and a lot of what you do will no doubt involve bringing your local staff up to speed, ie teaching.

if this sounds interesting/possible to you, save up all you can while you've got that golden handcuff contract, then use that money to travel to a few places you think would be interesting to live and work. choose the place you like best, rent a cheap apartment there and float for a while, taking local language classes and networking, and... voila! revamped, highly interesting career. this might not interest you at all, but if it does, the above pretty much worked for me breaking into the music industry. which is super hard, compared to the IT field, which is thriving in most countries across the globe, and thirsty for skilled foreign workers. living in bali, i meet guys vacationing here every day who are working IT for good money in various places around southeast asia.
posted by messiahwannabe at 10:22 PM on January 29, 2012

This thread is a bit old, but I think the pleasure you found in helping others understand things is a big clue and that you should look into training or teaching at a community college (although I've heard these cc jobs are hard to come by, but maybe a few years of training would improve your chances). Best of luck!
posted by theNeutral at 4:47 AM on September 22, 2012

« Older Spreadsheet vs. Database?   |   I got the dishwasher blues Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.