Help me get my career in order!
August 23, 2007 10:49 AM   Subscribe

I'm 3 years out of college, and unemployed again. I feel like I should go back to school, but what for??!

I majored in Information Studies In Technology at Syracuse University and graduated in 2004. I've been in the IT industry about 6 years now, working in New Jersey. For background sake here's a snippet of my experience clipped from my resume:

Systems Administrator/Change Control Consultant – Merck Pharmaceuticals (9 months)
-PeopleSoft, Remedy and Merckury administrator
-Managed Merck Change Control Request lifecycle
-Trained consolidation companies in Merckury, Peoplesoft and Remedy use

Systems Operations Consultant – Intellisync/Nokia/Pfizer (About a year)
-Managed daily operations of the Pfizer OAI Windows Server environment
-Managed sales reps’ Palm/PC synchronization between local databases with production
-Developed and tested remotely deployed file publications, patches and registry edits to Pfizer field
-Tested and patched hardware for 12,000+ user 2005 Field Force Reorganization rollout
-Responsible for managing 5 help desks (Betsy, Pedagogue, CECLink, OAI-Sync and Stork)
-Trained new hire configuration rollout users
-Developed documentation for all daily operations adhering to SOX standards
-VBScript, Java, SQL, and C++ process development
-Responsible for migrating users between databases and daily maintenance

LAN/Networking Group Contractor – American International Group (Internship for 2 summers, then taken on 3rd summer as contractor)
-Helpdesk analyst – supported NJ and NYC World Headquarters
-Responsible for the training and management of summer interns.
-Hardware Decommission Project Manager-Decommissioned PCs and servers. Inventory documentation for SOX compliance
-Identified and provided solutions to technical issues in the AIG LAN/Networking environment
-Managed vendor relationship with hardware recycling company

Intern Work-Study Employee – A&S Computer Services Group Syracuse University (1 year)
-Responsible for the imaging, upgrading and maintenance of workstations and laptops
-Managed Arts and Sciences technical support helpdesk
-Designed IP, network and system architecture restructure
-Virus patch developer

I don't enjoy programming, nor do I have that much experience with it. I really do like project management, working in teams and process improvement. I've thought about getting into networking more along the lines of VOIP and Cisco work. I've considered technical sales as well. Although I've had a lot of project management experience I'm not PMP or PMI certified and haven't been in charge of huge projects.

Finding an "in" into a project-management track is proving very difficult for me. Heck, finding a contract to full-time position is challenging enough.

I've been considering going back to school for:

-a Masters in IT (unsure where I'd focus)
-Project Management PMP or PMI
-Cisco CCNP/CCNA certifications
-Perhaps finance...I hear a lot of IT backgrounded people work into this.

I feel like I don't know enough about what these certs/majors/programs could open up for me to make a choice.

1.) Can you recommend any paths to take to get into project management?

2.) What can you DO with a masters in IT or an MBA? What kinds of positions are you qualified for as a result?

3.) For someone who doesn't like to program, code and has my background what kind of positions should I be looking for?

I really need some help. I'm tired of a 1 year contract and then having to look for a job again. My job search is stale this time around and I feel like it's time to start working towards something bigger that could open up opportunities for me.

Thanks in advance for all the help :) I'll check this often to answer any questions.
posted by PetiePal to Technology (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know anything about computers, so I'll just give you a bit of very general advice.

Saying "you feel like you should go back to school but don't know what to study" is starting at the wrong end of the decision. School is only one way to learn, and it's very expensive and time-consuming. Figure out what you want to do, and then figure out what you need to learn to do that, and then figure out the best way to learn that. Maybe you don't need to go back to school. Maybe you could teach yourself the skills, and put together some sort of project or volunteer somewhere as a way to show a potential employer that you have the skills.
posted by orange swan at 11:24 AM on August 23, 2007

1.) Can you recommend any paths to take to get into project management?
Project management isn't really a career - it's a skill. It's something that people do in order to arrive at a goal or completed objective. What you need to figure out is what field you enjoy and would want to build a career around.

3.) For someone who doesn't like to program, code and has my background what kind of positions should I be looking for?
Right now your resume is a bit all over the place so I'm not sure where you want to focus. Did you like the "high-level" IT stuff like networking and systems administration or the "low-level" IT stuff like desktop support, training, and maintenance better? Or branching out, maybe database administration? You need to commit to one field on your resume and build your image and resume around that.

2.) What can you DO with a masters in IT or an MBA? What kinds of positions are you qualified for as a result?
Answering this question isn't so relevant right now because you haven't figured out what you want to do. Racking up $100,000 in debt for no good reason is the last thing you need.

A question I have is why you've been getting 1-yr contracts and no offers to continue full-time. What does it say on your evaluations? Full-time positions are usually offered to great contract employees. Was there problems with your performance? Was there a noticeable lack of enthusiasm or initiative? And as you neared the end of the contract, did you ask about getting a full-time position? If one was available, did they say why you weren't being considered?

I think before you look into other skills or unrelated fields, you need to think about your goals in a single field and what you need to do to reach that goal.
posted by junesix at 12:33 PM on August 23, 2007

When my friends come to a crossroads, I advise them to, first, find the position from where they can best evaluate their options. Take whatever tests you would need for grad programs you are open-minded to. If you do stellar on one but not another, you may see that you can get a scholarship in that area and it will sway your opinion. Figuring out what is financially feasible is a great place to start.

Years back, I got canned from the Forest Service, and found myself at a post-college crossroads. I spoke to the military, and took two graduate exams. On one of the exams I did well enough to procure myself a scholarship to a program that I not only enjoyed but completed. I never thought that I would end up in this industry, but it's been very positive and profitable. I ended up here precisely because I thought broadly.

I think to limit yourself to a single field is the wrong way to go. Explore all your opportunities, and go down all the rabbit holes as far as you can before committing yourself. This doesn't make you non-committal, it makes you versatile and gives your future more flexibility.
posted by letahl at 1:30 PM on August 23, 2007

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