The world of technology is often thought of as the playground of the young—which does a huge disservice not only to career-changers later in life, but also to the companies suffering a lack of age diversity because of it.
Having a wide range of experiences and perspectives is always important, whether it’s across lines of gender, race, background, or generation.
However, due to the stereotype of twenty-something developers and tech CEOs, many people over 35 feel intimidated about making a midlife career change into tech. Here to explain why they shouldn’t is acclaimed career and technology coach Kanika Tolver.
Kanika is the founder and CEO of Career Rehab, which focuses on helping people transform their careers via coaching programs, events, webinars, and digital resources. She spent the majority of her career working in tech for the federal government, before leaving to pursue private consulting and entrepreneurship.
As someone who has transformed her own career, she has a personal passion for helping others achieve their goals, no matter what phase of life they’re in.
In the episode, Kanika speaks to those looking for a career change about how to make a career change at 35+, what actionable steps will help you succeed at a midlife career change, and the mindset you need for the journey.
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Unique Considerations for a Career Change at 35+
“I think you're never too old to get a job in tech,” Kanika says. However, for generations who didn’t grow up with technology or are transitioning from different industries, there may be a few extra things to consider.
“I think the first thing is that we have to change the mindset of fear,” Kanika says. “Technology is fearful for a lot of people, because it's just unknown to them. It’s fearful to be in one industry your whole career, and know it in and out, and then transition into feeling like, I gotta learn a whole new programming language, or have to learn a whole new software application. That's pretty scary, right? So I would say, don't fear the technology. The more you use it, the more you won't lose it.”
Next up is the idea of making a gradual transition. When you’re making a career change at 35+, it’s often a good idea to ease into it, keeping your original job while starting the learning process in your spare time.
Identify what computer training courses that your current job allows you to enroll in that can actually give you a jumpstart on your IT career. Utilize training opportunities within your current role. See if you can even get a volunteer opportunity in the IT division of your organization and network with other professionals.
Flexibility and openness are extremely valuable traits to have when you’re looking for a career change too. “Just being able to be open to adopting to new technologies within your current situation will take you a long way. Being someone that's resilient, someone that says I may get knocked down, I may not pass an IT certification exam, or I may not get the job interview. You have to be resilient enough to know that they're going to be times when you're going to fail. And in this new journey of doing this career change, it's okay. Having a mindset shift of wanting to learn and wanting to be patient with the process is very important.”
Finally, be prepared to keep learning for a lifetime. “I always tell people, if you're going to get into this field, it's like you are committing to being a lifetime learner,” Kanika says. “All of us have to continuously learn and keep up with the new tech, even those of us have been in the industry for a while. That's a good advantage to think about: that every day, a person has been in the field for 10+ years, they're being forced to learn something new too.”
Since technology evolves so rapidly, you’re not at as much of a disadvantage as you think: in many cases, you’re learning the same new skills that other tech professionals are getting familiar with too.
Actionable Steps for a Midlife Career Change
These are the same steps that Kanika uses in her career coaching practice for tech transitioners.
1. Rebrand yourself utilizing any relevant tech experience in past roles (embellishing optional)
That involves “revamping your resume, revamping your LinkedIn profile, taking some of the real-life things that you did in your job, and making them sound more technically sound so you can qualify for some junior-level positions.”
2. Earn IT certifications beyond pure coding
“I think that we focus a lot on coding. But we don't focus a lot on teaching people that there are other areas within IT that you can go into. So you can go into cloud computing, cybersecurity, project management, software testing. Learn one or two languages, but not everyone has to be a programmer to be a successful technologist. Be open to other areas of IT.”
3. Attend local meetups in your community
“I go to meetup.com, and I attend a lot of different tech meetups throughout the month. That gives me an opportunity to hear from industry experts, and also gives me an opportunity to network with other technology professionals. It may be somebody there that could help you with getting a job or give you some sound advice on how to transition into the industry.”
4. Use your network and reach out to recruiters
“Networking is super important. You can maximize it by using LinkedIn, going to job fairs, connecting with recruiters online, and also connecting with friends that are already in these tech companies that can refer you into the system for a job.”
5. Look for in-person classes
“When we talk about people 35 or 40 and older, sometimes these people may not be comfortable with the online learning experience. So go to your local community college. Launch those computer skills like Microsoft Office, junior-level programming courses.”
6. Volunteer your services at nonprofits to get started
“Go to job search sites and put in the word ‘volunteer.’ Nonprofit organizations usually don't have a really big budget, so a lot of times, they're looking for people to help them with little small projects. You can build your portfolio and experience doing work with nonprofits and small businesses, and use them as a reference. Because you have to come with real-life experience to get into a six-figure job.”
To conclude, Kanika says, “I would like people in this particular age group to focus in on training, patience, and consistency. This journey may take some time. But if you really put in the work and do your due diligence, I think it could take as much time as you put into it.”
Links and mentions from the episode:
- LTCWM Black Friday sale 2018 – The Ultimate Tech Career Toolbox
- Lynda (now LinkedIn Learning)
- Kanika on Facebook
- Kanika on Twitter @KanikaTolver
- Kanika on LinkedIn
- Kanika’s website
Where to listen to the podcast
You can listen to the Learn to Code With Me podcast on the following platforms:
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