Information Technology Career Change?

by Mike
(New Jersey)

Hello, I've been working in Information Technology for five years so far. I have some direction and aspiration for where I'd want to eventually take my career however the time I've spent working in IT has really soured me on the profession in general.

First, I'm not a people person. People assume that IT is all sitting behind a computer but there is a heavy customer service element to IT (usually angry stressed out customers who have no problem taking out their problems on you) that really turns me off. I'm polite and personable and everyone tells me I'm a good people person but deep down inside I don't enjoy customer interaction. I'm much more satisfied doing my work, documenting my work, and following structured models and processes. I enjoy solving problems but I absolutely despise being on the receiving end of never ending complaints.

Secondly, I believe the time and money that needs to be invested in order to advance in IT is not something I'm willing to do considering how much I dislike the customer service aspect. Its a career that is oversaturated, easily outsourced, and requires you to climb mountains in order to advance. My current job is very tedious, very difficult to deal with day in and day out mentally (the work is entirely unchallenging but the volume of work is overwhelming). When I talk to other companies about obtaining a position that will allow me more exposure to technology I'm often told I don't have enough experience... even for entry level positions.

Third, I know this has less to do with the field than my current job but I'm currently traveling 2 hours and 15 minutes each direction to get to my job. My work life balance is totally off and I'm suffering for it. I feel since I've been doing this job for a while (three years) my stress and anxiety has hit a point that I can't live with myself anymore. I get up every day, I do it to the best of my ability, but its tearing me apart.

I'm fed up with trying to reinvent myself and knowing very well how IT is a very unrewarding unsatisfying career that is a high stress environment... I'm considering a career change so as not to waste anymore time to pursue something I'm not in love with to begin with.

My problem is I have no idea what I want to do or where I want to go. My degree is in Information Technology and my student loan debt is as such that going back for a second degree is prohibitive. I'm willing to invest time and work to get started in a new career but don't want to do so lightly.

I really enjoy working on my own and being challenged in my work. I like solving problems and using my mind to overcome problems. I enjoy applying skills that are learned and applied through practice and thought.

Any advice you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Simon Replys
Hi Mike
Let me address your concerns in the order you raise them.
Firstly, you say you're not a people person. Fantastic. That sort of self knowledge is important as you begin to zero in on your ideal job.
The world of work is often broken down into three key areas that a person enjoys working in and is good at:
1. Working with people
2. Working with information and ideas
3. Working with things

Most people are dominant in one of these three areas. It's seems from your post that 'information and ideas’ is probably your dominant area and perhaps to a lesser extent, ‘working with things’ i.e. computers.
If you could eliminate the majority of customer contact in an IT role, could such a job provide fulfillment for you?
If that were the case, my guess is that there would be a number of IT jobs that do exist that contain very little customer service.
So the challenge is to find out what those jobs are, which organizations employ such people and to use advanced job search techniques such as accessing the hidden job market to secure one of those positions.

However I'm not convinced that you want to stay in the information technology industry at all.
In the first paragraph of your post you state that "I have some direction and inspiration for where I want to eventually take my career" but I'm not sure on what that direction might be.
So the first question to categorically answer is, ‘If I could find my ideal job within the IT industry would I want to stay’?

Secondly, you mentioned that you have talked to other companies that could involve a role with a greater exposure to technology without the customer service factor, but the reply was that you don't have enough experience.
Let me say this, employers don't always tell the truth about why they wouldn't employ you.
They often opt for the easiest, most convenient reply.
And a lack of experience is a very convenient and commonly used "excuse".
So I would be taking those answers with a grain of salt until you came across some other solid evidence to suggest that you really don't have the experience for the job you would like.

Thirdly, spending that much time traveling to and from work, I agree doesn't sound like a good worklife balance. Whatever a person's situation is, if it is genuinely “tearing them apart", then it's time enact change.
But the issue of the geographical location of your job is a different issue to what job do I want to do.
Of course these two issues are often ultimately intermeshed. But to start with, they need to be addressed as separate issues.

Your self knowledge about working on your own, solving problems, using your mind to overcome problems are all great starting points for zeroing in on your ideal job, however some more work needs to be done to complete this process.

I recommend you complete this career assessment as a good first step.
This exercise is a very thorough way of identifying and clarifying your motivated abilities, then rating them to see which are the most important to you in a future job.

Another thing I would recommend if at all possible is to remove yourself from your working environment for a few days.
Get away into the hills or mountains or somewhere peaceful where your mind and heart can function properly.
This might also be a great time to complete the above assessment as it promotes thought about work and life direction.
I hope this is of some help.


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