I changed career, now I want to change back.
October 8, 2007 2:17 PM   Subscribe

I have an IT qualification with 5 years solid work experience. Due to redundancy I took a job in a totally different field. Now I want to go back to IT but employers won't touch me. As a hiring manager or someone who has done this, what are your tips?

Its slightly embarrassing to post this as my "new" career is as a career coach, job search advisor and lately a recruitment consultant. I should know the answer!

My degree is in Information Systems design and development followed by five years working at an ISP doing tech support, then unix admin with a bit of VB6 development, web development, networking and systems engineering thrown in. Ideally I'd like a unix admin, windows development or back end web development type role.

I've tried approaching recruitment agencies but they generally won't touch me ("your skills are out of date"). I've tried applying for entry-level support roles but also can't seem to get phone calls returned. (Being an IT recruiter I know why this is, but it still isn't very helpful)

The way I see it, my options include:

* Ignore recruiters, market myself to employers directly based on my current skill set and hope I find the right role
* Go back to school and do a Master's or Post Grad course in Information Systems or Computer Science, then try again as a graduate.
* Do short courses to build up my marketable skills
* Build a portfolio of work freelance while having a "day" job.

I'm travelling at the moment so have a few months to make some plans and put them into action. But early next year I'll need to be getting a job, and I'd like it to be IT related.

Any other suggestions? As a hiring manager what would make you want to hire me at this stage in my career? What skills can I pick up to become more attractive to an employer?

For people who have done this already - What did you do?
posted by cornflake to Work & Money (11 answers total)
Couple clarification questions:

You have 5 yr IT experience followed by a gap of how long in the "new" career?

What was your strength during the 5 years in IT? You want unix admin but do you have 5 functional years as that as a primary role or was it later in your experience?

I'd tailor a resume to focus on the IT work and put that first. Focus on what your strong points are in IT. Any certs you can pick up to show current mastery may be good for a foot in the door.

Change recruiters or mass market yourself to recruiters until you find some that will give you a try.

Network with people you know or knew and see if that is an avenue that might bear fruit as well.

Good luck!
posted by clanger at 2:39 PM on October 8, 2007

Response by poster: My "new" career has been about five years now too.
Four years of my "IT years" my primary role was Unix Admin with the other stuff forming some of the day depending on current projects.
posted by cornflake at 2:42 PM on October 8, 2007

It sounds this is an opportunity to carve a niche for yourself in a growing company in search of an HR manager who understands the dippy world of the IT professional. You can certainly find a job in HR with a tech company, and doing so would give you an "in" to mention your previous IT experience and your interest in moving back into that world. Most employers would probably be interested in an employee who has primary HR responsibilities and is interested in what their other employees do in their work time. Try that course with a couple of job applications, I think it might prove to get the result you are looking for.
posted by parmanparman at 3:40 PM on October 8, 2007

Looking at your experience ... if that's what you're putting on a resume, then well, I can't say I'm suprised you're not getting hired. 'Web development' - yeah, that's great, but what language/s? Any databasing knowledge? Unix admin covers a lot of ground - which unix? What size of systems? Have you worked with linux at all? Web servers (apache, tomcat)? Networking? What sort of networking (eg, anything proprietory like cisco, or just infrastructure maintainence)? Or network code (iptables, networking libraries, etc)? Any general language knowledge at all? Scripting languages (bash, awk, sed, etc)? Have you done anything other than point and click in the last 5 years at all? Those skills do get rusty after a while.

Personally, if I was looking to hire, I'd be looking for someone who has at least made an effort to keep up-to-date. So, make an effort. I'm not convinced of the utility of more education, but this is the age of the internet - get out there, join an interesting-looking project, brush up on those skills, make a contribution. That looks distinctly more impressive on a resume than a five year break.
posted by ysabet at 5:22 PM on October 8, 2007

ysabet has a good point. Brushing up your resume is as important as brushing up on new skills. Maybe you can find another job search adviser to take a look at your resume.
posted by parmanparman at 5:30 PM on October 8, 2007

I think you're going to need to market yourself directly to companies that are looking for your specific skills, as dated as they may be. The problem is, VB6 has gone the way of the dodo bird and everyone's migrating to .Net, and Unix has gone to Linux and BSD (and all the technology has changed in the process because you don't have three mainframes with scheduled maintenance windows anymore, you have 300 intel boxen running linux fronted by a cluster of load balancers running BSD that can't go down, ever.) Unless you have some way of telling recruiters and companies that you've got some hope of understanding the way that things work these days, and that you can get back into it and learn ... they're right, your skills ARE dated and you'd be better suited to staying in your 2nd career and not starting a third.

Look, I'm a linux sysadmin, 27 years old, 7 years in industry. I recently went through a hiring process. To get the job, I needed to know the details of everything from NAS (including the iSCSI, GFS, NFS, and SMB models and protocols and the details of expanding volumes using LVM) to VoIP using Asterisk to load balancing using reverse proxies, hardware load balancers, and LVM (in this context, Linux Virtual Machine.) I needed to know SLES/OpenSUSE, BSD, Debian, and Slak... and the details of package management on each platform, including compiling and linking binaries for distribution. I needed to know the basics of reporting errors with Python, Perl, PHP and debugging core dumps from HTTPD and MySQL. The only thing I didn't have was experience using Xen for virutalization... which is why they snatched me up.

If that paragraph looked like gibberish to you, you have no hope of getting anything but an entry level job in IT these days, even in the Windows world... you're knocked out there because you know VB6 and not .Net. Even the managers have to be up to speed on it because the structure of the systems that the sysadmins are putting in place has big ramifications for budgeting strategy in different load cases.

Even if you do actually know this stuff, you committed the number one hiring sin when talking to recruiters or HR managers that you might need later: You sounded clueless.
posted by SpecialK at 5:43 PM on October 8, 2007 [3 favorites]

Note: the position I just got was a Systems Analyst II position. At the institution where I work, it's the kind of position that's appropriate for a thirty year old, but a forty year old who's not "doing time" there because his wife is pursuing graduate studies is considered to have fallen off the horse.
posted by SpecialK at 5:46 PM on October 8, 2007

Build a portfolio of work freelance while having a "day" job.

This one. Assuming you can do a good job, it won't take long to build current experience that can be massaged into a good resume, even if you have to start with volunteer work.
posted by lastobelus at 9:44 PM on October 8, 2007

SpecialK's post is flagged for WAY too many acronyms.

(seriously though, it was a good post, but not entirely accurate. I know literally hundreds of employed IT managers who couldn't tell you what an SMB model is.)

(I favorited his response)
posted by Roach at 11:52 PM on October 8, 2007

Truly though, an "IT Manager", even a good one, doesn't need to have half of the hardcore nuts-n-bolts technical knowledge that SpecialK reference. It would be nice if they all did, but it's all about set and setting.
posted by Roach at 11:56 PM on October 8, 2007

Roach: Granted, and thanks for the fave. My point about managers is that they don't need to know the nuts and bolts, but they do need to know that the current model is lots of servers in a high availability matrix or grid -- as opposed to when the OP left the field, when things were all about monolithic servers and scheduled maintenance periods. There are huge differences in strategic decision making, which managers are expected to do, between the way IT was done five to seven years ago when I entered the field and the way things are done now.
posted by SpecialK at 7:56 AM on October 9, 2007

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