Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Technical careers are for people with passion... If you love it, you will be good at it. I give my recommendations for a career change.

I'm writing regarding career advice. I'm 55 and recently unemployed. We recently installed a fiber optics internet connection and a very helpful AT&T employee provided an online phone assistance in setting up our portable WiFi. My wife half jokingly said, "What don't you learn that?" I also have friend who was a systems engineer who was re-employed after a layoff with generous severance package and he has all kinds of career opportunities. I'm probably an above-average computer user, but by no means a computer jock. My question for you is that at my age with no prior experience do you think it would make sense for me to get some certification in some advanced IT discipline or is it strictly a career with young people with long experience? Any information or guidance that you would provide would be greatly appreciated.

In this excerpt from Answercast #30, I look at learning a skill in the technical field in your fifties... it's never too late to start learning if you love it!

It's never too late...

So my opinion is that it's never, ever too late.

It's not just a young person's career; it's not just a career for someone with lots of experience. What it is: is a career for people with passion... and that's true for any career.

Work with passion

My focus when I was hiring people for Microsoft, and when I talk to people today, is mostly about passion.

If you love doing something, then you're probably going to enjoy doing it; spend more time doing it; and get better at doing it. So, it's hard for me to say, "No, don't bother," because definitely, a career change can happen at any point and time.

IT skill set

Obviously, I don't know your full skill set.

There's fundamental talents and abilities that, you might say, would be pre-requisites. But, with just fact that you're considering it... I certainly wouldn't rule it out just based on age.

I'm going to be 55 in just a couple of months and I just don't see a reason for ruling us out of any kind of career change.

  • Let's face it; there's the apocryphal story of Colonel Sanders who didn't build the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain until he was in his 60s!

So there's always time; there's always an ability to change your career and learn new things as long as:

A.) You believe that you can and,

B.) You really have a passion for what it is you're looking to do next.

Tech certifications

So I would say, certainly, start investigating it.

I'm not big on certifications in general. I'm much more of a hands-on-learn-by-experience kind of person. I find certifications to be more of a form of book learning; which, when you get down to it... isn't really as helpful as having done the actual work.

So I would look for opportunities to start doing what you think you want to do. Start learning in that sense and take it from there.

But by no means, don't let your age get in the way! You know... you and I, we're young! We've got lots of opportunities ahead of us and there's no reason to think any other way. So best of luck to you!

Article C5525 - June 28, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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6 Comments
Thomas Mitchell
June 28, 2012 4:03 PM

I am 53 and just got my first full time IT job last December. I was laid off in 2008, enrolled in a Network Administration course in a local community college.Completed the course 3 semesters later, worked at 2 part time IT jobs then was hired full time as the technology coordinator at an elementary school. this is the best job of my life. My advice is if you are into computers, networking and It stuff, go for it.

Keith
June 29, 2012 9:20 AM

You mean 'apocryphal' (of questionable authenticity)!

Mark J
June 29, 2012 10:28 AM

@Keith
You're right, it was a transcription error. It's fixed now.

Howard Rubin
June 30, 2012 9:26 AM

A career in IT? Age has never made a difference. This question will come up if you're 45, 35 or 25, it's all the same. People will judge you by your knowledge and confidence. Show them what you can do and your services will be invaluable.
I'm 57 and I started in IT career in my 40's. I used to be an automobile parts counterman!

sleepingcat
July 1, 2012 11:11 PM

I am 58 and have been working with computers most of my working life I love them.
I don't have ANY computer certificates and always get the job done. I also work with guys who are very clever and have all the certificates ( you name it they got it) but when it comes to fault finding I tend to stand back and chuckle they never go for the obvious they get entangled in the so called problem.
Here in the UK we have just had a major high street bank with it's computer system down for days due to a simple error, I can't say any more but Leo is right you need guys who can "talk the talk" and actually do the job, certificates are just basically pieces of paper.

K.Vee.Shanker.
July 3, 2012 12:23 AM

I'm from India who changed my career at the age of 50. It was neither dramatic nor useless for me. Changing careers at an advanced age is definitely not easy, especially if one is not very talented or lucky. First, an aged person is automatically disqualified from consideration normally. So, the opportunities are much less. One has to settle for SMEs. Being an 'Aged Fresher' is a difficult barrier to cross. Many also assume that aged persons do not respect juniors under whom they need to work. One can overcome all these only by working under sub contractors with low/no wages initially.

Certificates are certainly necessary for regular employment. Yet, I fully agree that they can not remove the struggle in practical learning/ replace the value gained out of experience.

However, if you are humble enough, serious enough, and endure, you're bound to get something. You wouldn't return empty handed.

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