How to Switch IT Careers – Strategies For A Career Change
There are many challenges associated with switching industries (or a vertical market move) in the IT world, but doing so is not impossible. One of the first things I would suggest is to try to spend some time working / volunteering in a friendly company.
This will help you to establish a few useful facts: Do you really want to make the switch? Is the culture within that type of IT work really a “fit” with you? For example, you may have been working in telecoms IT, but now want to get into education IT, which is a whole different cultural world. Consider this aspect when you’re looking at any possible move.
If you’re unable to arrange some time in another organization, then try to arrange an “informational interview”. This is a fantastic method of gathering information about the IT sector you’re wanting to transition into. If you can get 20 minutes in front of a manager, HR person, Hirer, or any relatively senior person within that company/sector (with an initial telephone/email approach of course) it will help you no end. If you cannot achieve a visit to the company/organization for this meeting, then try for a coffee shop meeting! Your goal here is to gather information on what they are looking for from an It candidate in that particular field. Will that give you an edge against other candidates? You bet it will!
Social media (you knew it was coming didn’t you?!) is another great method of connecting with people and organizations, but use them smartly and with subtlety: On Twitter for example connect with organizations you’re interested in; look at what they are Tweeting about; follow some key people – what are the IT issues that concern them? Ask them. Using this strategy you can structure your CV and verbal responses at interviews with the knowledge of key IT issues that affect that industry sector.
LinkedIn is another must of course. Start by following companies (possibly a slightly under used LinkedIn facility?), which will then list key people in that company. See what groups they use; join those groups; see what’s being talked about, and what IT issues they face; join in the discussions. This will be further useful ammunition for you, as you can start to develop a pitch which really taps into what that industry needs. For example if you have an ability with open source tools, you’ll be able to see how this skill could be useful in another industry.
I’ve been referring to transferable IT skills of course in many ways, but specifically around how those skills apply to a particular target industry. You need to hone this right down to a perfect pitch so that you almost know, live, and breathe that industry before you’ve even walked through the door for an interview.
If it’s a commercial business you’re thinking of transitioning into, then you need to learn about that business – its drivers, customers, other income sources, its priorities (have a look at their annual report – if available – on their website. This normally gives you a great overview of the business, and their priorities for the coming year or more), values, and aims.
The key point I want you to take away from this is that it’s about increasing your knowledge of the particular IT business you’re aiming to transition into. Using the above methods will give you a great start, but it’s up to you. The IT job market, like any other, is ultra-competitive these days, so I urge you to take additional steps to gain that “insider knowledge”, set yourself apart from the competition, and get a foothold on that new, exciting IT career path! Good Luck!