Transitioning to Tech Without an IT Background

Posted by Jeff Pelliccio on Sep 4, 2012 9:09:00 AM

In Job Search Tips

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) latest projections, information technology jobs are expected to increase 22% by 2020. Even in this challenging economic climate, IT employment continues to grow at faster than average rates. While the idea of transitioning to a tech job is appealing to many, not everyone realizes that you do not need an engineering background or degree to thrive in the tech world. While there is ample demand for developers, programmers, and analysts, there are plenty of positions available that will draw upon your existing skillset without requiring you to become an IT expert.

1. A parallel position at a tech company. Finding a position similar to your current one at a tech company is the most seamless way to transition to IT. These companies have the same staffing needs as any other business. They need human resource specialists, administrative assistants, accountants, receptionists, and numerous other positions that do not require computer science expertise. Instead of abandoning your current profession, continue to search for those jobs but focus on tech companies.

2. Put your skills into a different context. Since it is a relatively young field, there are numerous professions you might not even know existed. For example, there is a high demand for web content. If you have strong reading, writing, and editing skills, you may have a bright future as a content specialist who assists with the development and implementation of web content. In plain English, you would help manage the content of a website which could include articles, user reviews, product descriptions, and comment sections. Many of these positions were created less than a decade ago and, if you have not been in that world, it is quite possible you will not know about them. Do your research. Every website has a section with job postings, usually under the “careers” heading. Start perusing those on a regular basis and see if any of them sound right for you.

3. Educate yourself. While you do not need to be a computer whiz, you must familiarize yourself with the IT landscape. You need to know key terms and understand important issues. A simple Google search will yield a lot of information, but the best way to learn about the IT world is to visit a few tech sites regularly. While there are plenty of options to choose from, three top sites are Engadget, Mashable, and TechCrunch. In addition to personal research, you should understand some basic internet concepts. Codeacademy, w3Schools, and Google Code University are excellent sites for beginners to familiarize themselves with simple coding such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

4. Sacrifice pay for experience. The truth is that it is difficult to land a tech job without any IT experience. The three best ways to acquire some are to find tech opportunities at your current company, start with an entry-level position, or create your own tech project. All of these require you to invest significant time and energy without the promise of adequate compensation. If you take on a tech project like a company blog for your current employer, chances are you will not receive a salary increase for the additional responsibilities. If you accept a more junior role than your current position, you will take a pay cut and may not have the same security. If you embark upon a personal project such as creating your own website or an app, you will have to devote much of your free time in order to impress future employers. If you make the most of these opportunities, however, the experience is just as valuable as your paycheck and will quickly translate into dollars.

5. Work at a start-up. Start-ups usually provide more opportunities for those with less experience than established tech companies. Not only is there an easier entry path, but the chances of professional growth are also increased. Working at a start-up, however, comes with its share of risks. All companies have growing pains and there is a greater likelihood of them occurring when the business is young and management is still finding its footing. The company could flounder financially possibly resulting in a stagnant salary, a reduction in compensation, or a delayed paycheck. Worst-case scenario, the business could fail and you would be out of a job. Even if that happens, however, you would leave with IT experience and a batch of new connections. Finding a new job becomes exponentially easier and, if you have an accelerated career path at the start-up, you could land a higher position with better pay and benefits. You need to ask yourself if the risk is worth the potential reward. Most people find that it is. An innovative tech company that is positioned to shake up an industry could provide the jolt you need to transition successfully into the tech world.