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Best Practices For Making an IT Career Switch

Why have a job you don’t like, when you could be in a rewarding, well-paid IT career that you might love? You might incorrectly think an IT career switch is out of your reach, and yet many people just like you have managed to achieve it.

You have many pathways to making your own IT career switch, but there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Finding an experienced mentor in your network or on platforms like MentorCruise who can advise you on how to switch careers in IT will give you the support you need to smoothly transition into your new IT path.

In this article, you’ll learn how to switch career in IT successfully by:

  • Choosing which IT career you want to get into

  • Build your skillset

  • Network to find opportunities

  • Land your first job

Which IT career should you switch into?

At this stage, it might be quite hard for you to know what it is actually like working in an IT job. Only once you get into the industry will you really get a sense of what you specifically like doing and in which type of company, so take the pressure off this decision. It’s not forever.

What you should really be thinking about is ‘what should be my first IT job?’ So how can you get moving in the right direction?

There are many IT careers and they all divide into many different specialisms. Some of the main IT job types are:

  • Software engineer

  • Data scientist

  • Cyber security engineer

  • Network engineer

  • Database administrator

  • UX/UI designer

A good tip is to give yourself a deadline to choose your direction. Even if you pass it, trying to meet your deadline will help you get results faster.

But everyone’s process is different. You may already have an idea of what you want. Maybe not. Some good suggestions to try would be to:

  • Read blog posts and watch Youtube videos directed at people trying to make their mind up.

  • Explore different job descriptions for roles in the fields that interest you.

  • Figure out if you like an IT skill set by trying it out (you can try coding or data science online for free).

  • Ask yourself what you like about your current job and want more of.

  • Ask yourself what you don’t like about your current job and want less of.

  • Speak to connections in your network in IT or expert MentorCruise mentors about whether a particular career will help you meet the go.

  • Reach out to people on LinkedIn that you have something in common with for advice (e.g. you’re alumni of the same university).

Once you have a desired destination (which you can update as you go), it’s time to start working out how to become qualified.

Build your IT skill set to become employable

You have your target IT job. The next step is to map out how you’ll build your skill set. This can take time and it will depend on your previous background and the time you have available to study.

IT and software jobs are set to double within 10 years. The good news is that because IT skills are in such high demand, lengthy formal education to become qualified is generally not needed. The industry has created many forms of alternative training, like:

These tend to be drastically shorter than a university education and are designed to get you your first job. Pick the path that matches your schedule, way of working, budget and timeframe for getting into the industry.

You may have already tried these resources and have not yet got to where you want to be. Finding the right mentor to provide guidance and motivation could be the thing that will make the difference. You can test the water with introductory calls with expert mentors on MentorCruise.

Once you’ve built some proficiency, getting some practical experience working in IT is a great way to build your skills. It’s worth thinking about:

  • Starting an internship

  • Volunteering for a charity

  • Working on an open source project

  • Building your own project and portfolio

This can not only increase your employability but who knows - you might find a job opportunity through this.

Better to start applying for IT jobs too early than too late

Beware of one common pitfall. Sometimes IT career switchers over-prepare themselves before leaping in and starting to apply, especially if they feel unsure about their abilities or have impostor syndrome. Mentors are good at letting you know when you’re ready and giving you that push to just need to dive in. They can also help prepare you and make you feel ready for the plunge and make sense of your interview feedback.

Remember, applying for jobs is also a skill and as with any skill, practice can only make you better at it. Here are some success stories from people who’ve really benefited from having a mentor.

Network to get ahead in your IT career

Your ideal IT job may not be advertised, so you need a strategy to be able to find it.

Make networking core to your job search strategy

At the top of your list should be polishing your LinkedIn profile:

  • Get a professional headshot for your profile photo (make sure to smile, have a clear background and get appropriate lighting for your skin tone).

  • Write a headline that is more than just your job title. Include your most important keywords (for example your job title, area of expertise like programming languages), but also add details like what you’re looking for (‘seeking new role in New York’ or ‘seeking new data science role’). You could alternatively put what you’re offering (‘happy to advise on your new data project’).

  • Write a punchy summary that communicates your ‘brand’. Write it as a story to make it easy to remember and so other people can explain what value you provide just by reading it. For an extra kick add one call-to-action.

  • Keep your writing concise and relevant. Avoid unnecessary jargon.

  • Consider writing thought leadership pieces for your industry and/or your company. It is a great way to expand your network and opportunities.

And while you’re there, take a look at your LinkedIn network. Chances are you are friends with someone who is in your dream role so use this opportunity to see if they can spare some time to give you information on how they got there and the knowledge that you will need to get your foot in the door. When making a career twitch to IT, first hand experience is invaluable, so listen carefully and see if you can apply this to your path.

And network some more

Networking offline can also be a huge aid in your IT career switch. Look for events where IT professionals gather and plan to attend as many as you can. Good places to look are:

Don’t over complicate networking.

  • Think of it as helping other people get where they want to go, rather than getting something from them and you’ll become far more successful at it.

  • Keep them talking about what they’re trying to achieve and you’ll find a way you can help them.

  • Introduce yourself to them in a way that is most relevant to their goals.

  • Make sure to follow up the next day by email or LinkedIn having done what you said you would do.

Humans are wired to reciprocate favors. Do something helpful or meaningful for people and they will look to give something back.

Land your first job

Once you can demonstrate you have the skills, it can be relatively easy to land an entry level role in IT (depending on where you’re interviewing).

The key steps are:

  • Building a portfolio and CV appropriate for that role.

  • Start applying for jobs.

  • Use your interviews to understand what you need to improve.

  • Keep applying while practicing your interview skills according to your interview feedback.

If you do this consistently, you’re almost guaranteed to complete your IT career switch eventually.

While the starting wage for an entry level role can vary, the breadth of IT jobs means that you have the wiggle room to look around, and perhaps more importantly, even negotiate your starting salary, especially if you’re bringing relevant skills from your previous career.

It can be a long and lonely road, so join a local or online study group, partner up with someone in your network or get an expert mentor to give you high quality, tailored support to assist you on your journey.

Speaking with a mentor for a preliminary assessment can help you unlock the possibilities in an IT career switch and speed up your career plan, including reaching your salary goals.

Make your IT career switch happen

We’ve covered the essential points of a solid, tried and tested pathway to getting into an IT career, regardless of where you’re starting out. Making a career switch into IT takes a certain amount of grit and determination, but many have done it before you and they thought it was an impossible task too. You can do it too.

Below are the points to keep in mind while you navigate your way into what can be a challenging, but ultimately rewarding experience in switching to an IT career.

  • If you don’t know what IT career you’re interested in, get started with thinking about it, trying out different skills, researching other people’s experiences and talking to expert MentorCruise mentors and people in your network.

  • Figure out how much time you have for studying, your budget, your timeframe for making the switch and how you like to study. Then choose from one of the many resources for building your IT skills.

  • Build your network in IT by using digital platforms like LinkedIn and attending events in-person and online. Remember, the most effective networkers are the ones who make use of reciprocity by helping others.

  • Land your first job by diving in. It’s better to dive into job applications too early than too late. Use your interviews as a guide to what to spend your limited time and energy on improving.

If you are feeling overwhelmed with making a career switch to IT you are not alone. That’s why there are resources like mentoring available to help you become an expert in your new field. Book an introductory call with a mentor now so that you can be on your way to your new IT job.

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