Originally Published: Monday, 6 March 2000 Author: Jobs Staff
Published to: interact_articles_jobs_ask_staff/Ask the Jobs Staff Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Ask the Jobs Staff: Switching Careers

Dear Jobs Staff -- I am 42 and currently CEO of an arena in the mid-west. After 16 years in the entertainment field managing sports and performing arts facilities, I have decided to do what I've wanted to for quite some time -- get into the IT field.

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Dear Job Staff,

I am 42 and currently CEO of an arena in the mid-west. After 16 years in the entertainment field managing sports and performing arts facilities, I have decided to do what I've wanted to for quite some time -- get into the IT field. I did a lot of hacking on a RS 6000 running AIX. I have registered at Caldera Systems to go through three weeks of intensive training in Linux in preparation for the LPIC (please tell me my head won't explode).

My question is what can I expect in the job market and how do I get around the "you don't have the 2+ years of experience required" roadblock? I hope the training I'm about to get would be the equivalent of some of the required experience.


Dear Mark:

Congratulations for having the initiative to try something new! It can be hard to change fields, but not impossible. Now, with that said, you do have to be realistic and realize that you probably won't be getting a job at the same level in IT as your current job. Unless your current job has left you financially able to retire, we encourage you to think about the financial aspects of changing fields. The salary change from CEO to entry-level Linux admin may be rather drastic, so you'll want to think hard about whether you'll be able to support yourself (and your family, if applicable) when you enter the IT field. If you're not able to support yourself without your current salary, then the Jobs Staff's Rule Number 1 for Job Searching(tm) applies: Don't quit your current job until you have another one guaranteed that pays enough for you to live on. 'Nuff said about that!

As for getting around the experience limitation, let's talk about that for a moment. First, it's possible that you do have 2+ years of experience, just not in a paid and titled position. If you've been working with Linux/Unix for 2 or more years in your current job, you might want to emphasize that when you write your resumes and applications. It's quite common these days for someone like, say, the office secretary, graphics person, or even CEO to be forced into systems administration. (After all, word processing uses a computer, so they must be able to do Linux networking on a computer, right?) Even more importantly, many people really take to it, learn about it, and manage to do a decent job maintaining these systems. If this is the case with you, then you might consider making a resume entry more like this:

Some Company 1995 - Present CEO/Network Administrator

In addition to CEO duties, configured and maintained our RS 6000 running AIX. Set up user accounts and email, modified startup scripts, blah, blah, [insert computer-related stuff here].

could work better for you. You might want to be very careful about selecting the companies where you apply for jobs. As one Jobs Staff member pointed out, IBM might not hire you, but a smaller or more broad-minded company might be more likely to see past the paperwork and give you a chance. Don't lie about having experience if you don't, but be honest about the applicable skills and knowledge you have developed, even if they weren't in your primary job description.

Now, it's also possible that you don't have 2+ years of experience. In this case, there's not really a way *around* the requirement, but don't be discouraged. First, Linux is a new enough entry into the business market that often just a certification will get you a job, just as many college graduates are hired on the basis of their degree. Many companies are looking for more than "paper" qualifications, as well and approve of initiative and motivation. Your obvious willingness to learn on your own could be a significant plus in your job search. In addition, your CEO background or even your background in sports entertainment could be a huge advantage, as there are numerous web-based sports and entertainment-related sites out there that might be able to use someone with knowledge of both Linux and "the biz."

Finally, check out our series of articles in our "Dream Jobs Now" section for hints on job search strategies and self marketing. Keep in mind that you may have to start at entry-level, but even entry-level jobs can be quite lucrative and enjoyable in this field. Most of all, don't be discouraged, and don't keep from applying for jobs even if they do require a year or two of experience. While you may not get these jobs, it's also possible that other qualities about you will make you a desireable candidate. We wouldn't advise that you apply for jobs requiring 5 - 10 years experience, but often the 1- 2+ years requirement can be waived for the right candidate.

Best of luck!

The Jobs Staff

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