The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that “employment of computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 12 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. The median annual wage for computer and information technology occupations was $88,240 in May 2019, which was higher than the median annual wage for all occupations of $39,810”.
IT is, by far, the fastest-growing sector of activity in the world today. The demand for skilled workers is higher than the current offer, so a career in this field usually comes with a great salary and perks such as home office possibility, cool offices, and interesting projects to be a part of.
At the troubled times we live, when the pandemic and social distancing made our whole lives even more digital, IT flourishes. If you want a career that guarantees your future, this is the path to take.
I speak out of experience. I studied communications at university and worked as a journalist for about a decade. But working conditions in communications were not the best, and I wanted something more stable and challenging. I had been thinking about changing into IT for a few years, but I finally took the courage to do it in October 2018. I completed a full-time bootcamp at Green Fox Academy, which lasted 5 months and, and I currently work as a Business Analyst at a company that I love.
Here is how you can do the same.
1. Make Sure You Like IT
We are talking about a career change, and that has many consequences. Don’t do it lightheartedly. When you commit to this change, you need to go all in. But before you commit, you need to make sure this is really something you want to do.
Despite the statistics I presented above, and the fact that job opportunities in IT are abundant and exciting, this might not be the right move for you. Not because you don’t have the ability to develop the necessary skills but simply because you don’t enjoy the kind of work that IT positions require. And that is totally fine.
In order to find out if this is the right path for you, I recommend that you do three things:
A. Learn about the different careers in IT
Not everybody who works in IT is a developer, writing and reading lines of code every day. There are many other career choices, and these include roles like Business Analyst, IT Project Manager, Software Tester, or Data Scientist, for example. A search online will reveal to you the many possibilities and provide you with some knowledge about these different roles.
Do online courses
Despite all the roles mentioned above, most people working in IT have, at least, some basic technical knowledge. Take the first steps into this field by doing some online courses. For this, I recommend Udemy, as its course selection is vast and of very good quality. Pick something general that interests you and complete a course there. You can complement this with Youtube tutorials and some coding exercises on Codecademy.
Build a project
The final step of this phase consists of building a project on your own. Of course, with such basic knowledge, you will not be able to build anything complex or, probably, even very interesting. But this is a crucial step. I recommend choosing either a Youtube tutorial or a Udemy course that teaches how to build a specific project and try to implement it. This will provide your first experience in building something and be a great indicator of whether you would be happy doing this professionally or not. If this project feels right, proceed to the next step.
2. Decide Which Route You Will Take To Reach Your Goal
So, now you have decided you want to change careers and dive into IT. Remember the many roles in this area? You don’t need to decide straight away which one you want to pursue. I started out wanting to be a front-end developer, ended up learning back-end development and I am now happily working as a Business Analyst. You will learn a lot about IT on this journey, but you will also learn a lot about yourself. Keep an open mind towards your feelings and go with it.
An interesting approach might be to leverage the knowledge you already have. If you are a journalist, maybe you can become a Technical Writer. If you studied Mathematics, a career in Data Science could be the perfect fit for you. Or if you are a project manager in another area, having some technical knowledge will open the doors of IT project management.
Even though you don’t need to decide your exact path upfront, what you do need to decide, however, is how you will reach your goal of working in IT. You will need to learn, that is the only certainty. But how you will do it depends immensely on your personal circumstances, especially on your availability of time and money. These are some of the approaches you can take:
- Do a full-time bootcamp — If you have plenty of free time (if you are currently unemployed, or you can afford to quit your current job to study), and if your financial situation allows it, you can enroll in a bootcamp. There are hundreds of bootcamps all around the world, some online, others in person, and many of them have a specific focus — some focus on back-end programming, others on front-end, others in Data Science, for example. They also range in time, usually between 3 and 6 months. Normally, you would be restricted to the bootcamps available in the area where you live, but the current pandemic might be good news for you in this case. With many of the bootcamps now happening online, you have access to courses you wouldn’t otherwise. When the pandemic is over, and if you can choose, I recommend a bootcamp that happens in person, not virtually. The support you get from mentors is usually stronger and, more importantly, you will have colleagues with whom you will share this experience. Believe me, it is super important. This is a hard journey, it’s good to have someone to share it with, someone who knows exactly what you are going through.
- Do a part-time bootcamp — If you have the money to enroll in a bootcamp but cannot afford to quit your job, look into bootcamps that happen after working hours. What you need to know if you go for this option is that it is extremely demanding, in terms of time, and of emotional and mental capacity. It will be extra hard, and it will take a bit longer, but it is doable. You just need to commit and always keep moving forward.
- Learn on your own — If you don’t have much time or money to spend, don’t quit just yet. You can do this on your own. It is a harder approach, but the world is full of people who have taken this path and are now successful professionals. Luckily, the internet is full of courses that you can take (structured courses like Udemy, or videos on specific subjects on Youtube).
At the bootcamp I did (in person, 8 hours per day) we mostly spent our time watching videos on Youtube and trying to implement what those videos taught us. But we also had mentors, who were there to clarify any questions we had. If you take this route, you will not have official mentors but, luckily, the IT community is usually very helpful, and you can have most of your questions answered online. Check out Stackoverflow, for example.
3. Put In The Work
This phase is hard because, well… you have to work. Whether you are doing this journey alone or at a school, you need to commit to it 100% and work every day towards your goal. Depending on the number of hours you can commit to learning each day, the length of this phase will be shorter or longer. If you can learn full-time, this should take you around 3 to 6 months, more or less. If you can commit to learning 4h per day, then expect it to take a year, and so on.
In order to succeed at this phase, you will need to have a strong “why”. You will not convince yourself to sit at your computer every day for hours, fixing problems that make your brain melt if you do not have a good reason to do it. Of course, this should come from the beginning, from when you took the decision of pursuing a career in IT. But you might reinforce it on the way. Sometimes, during my bootcamp, when things got harder, I would watch motivational videos, or just browse the internet looking for IT salaries and job openings at really nice companies. Whatever it takes to keep you motivated.
It is important not to forget that you are a human being
During this phase, it is also important not to forget that you are a human being. You are completely focused on your studies and your career — and you should be. But you also have needs to cater to. Get enough sleep, go for a run, meditate, spend time with your significant other… give yourself the time to live, otherwise the whole process becomes a burden and you will lose your motivation entirely. Sometimes, a whole day off, which seems like a step back, is actually the impulse to make you go forward more confidently.
4. Build a Portfolio And a Good CV
Naturally, you will start working on building a portfolio during the previous phase, when you are learning and putting your new knowledge into practice in small projects. But what you did during your studies can, and should, be improved at the end.
You will realize that, if you commit to this seriously, your knowledge will improve drastically from week to week. So, don’t just show all the projects you created along the way, take the time to review and improve them before starting to look for jobs.
You don’t need a prolific portfolio, you need a quality one
You don’t need a prolific portfolio, you need a quality one. Recruiters will not want you to know every programming language (most likely, you will only need one), and every trick in every area. If you knew this, you wouldn’t be a junior IT professional, you would be the tech lead at some company.
So, pick one skill and create a project that shows how much you know on that specific area. During my bootcamp, I happened to spend 3 weeks working on the authentication part of our group project. In every job interview I had, I brought up that topic and people were always interested to know more about it.
You will also need a good CV. If you had a CV before, you might feel tempted to just update it with your new skills. Don’t do this. Create a new one, from scratch, tailored to the jobs you want to apply to. It’s a new era in your career, you deserve a new CV.
5. Prepare Mentally
As you approach the phase of looking for a job, make sure you are ready, not only in terms of your knowledge but also mentally and emotionally speaking. It is probably not going to be easy. For some people, it actually is a quick process. When my class of 80 finished the bootcamp, some people got jobs in the following week. Someone even got a job while the bootcamp was still going on. But please, please, please be aware that this is not the norm.
Most of us took weeks or months to find our new roles. In my case, it took about 3 months. During that time, I went down a dark hole. I started thinking that none of it had been worth it, that I should go back to my old job, and I would never start a career in IT. I was wrong. It has now been 9 months that I have been working as a Business Analyst and I love it!
So, just be prepared for this, and take this phase into account when you are making your budget plans at the beginning. If you are enrolling in a full-time bootcamp that lasts 6 months, you probably need to be able to sustain yourself financially for at least 9 months.
6. Apply To Jobs
You can start your career in IT. You deserve it. You earned it.
If you completed all the previous steps, you are now ready to start applying to jobs. Here, the same rules apply as when applying to any other jobs — as you probably have done in your life already.
I will not go into detail about applying for jobs, you should know how it works already. But I will address something that is very real: imposter syndrome. At some point in your journey (and, most likely, at this phase) you will feel that you don’t know enough, and you don’t deserve to get a job in this new field. You are wrong.
We all start with small steps. Of course, you have to start from the bottom, but if you completed all the previous steps, you can indeed start your career in IT. You deserve it. You earned it.
Personally, I found a position at a company that was hiring many people. When there are several positions to fill, you are not necessarily competing against a few other candidates. Normally the approach is: if you are good, you get in.
Don’t be too picky. Apply to as many jobs as you can (of course, if you would reject an offer from a certain company, don’t waste your time or theirs) and keep in mind that all you want at this point is to gain some experience.
7. Find a Job And Celebrate!
If you managed to power through all these phases, you will most certainly be rewarded with a job at the end. This is the time to be proud of yourself and celebrate! Well done, you!
Your new career is about to begin but keep this in mind: the learning doesn’t stop. After all, it is a new area, so you still have a lot to learn. Be humble, curious, and work hard. It will pay off!
If after reading these 7 steps, you are excited about a career change into IT, that is a very good sign. Don’t let the enthusiasm cool off and start phase 1 straight away!
If you decide to embark on this journey, feel free to reach out with any questions and let us know in the comments below about your experience. All the best to the new you!