Changing careers is something most people do a lot over the course of their life. Whether due to a shift in the marketplace or a shift in interest, tackling something new can often prove to be a boon to your bottom line and quality of life. That being said, changing careers isn’t something that happens overnight or without proper preparation or forethought. From going back to school to investing in training or other certification, a shift to a career IT often takes both time and money.
If you’re looking to make a break for it and take your career in a new direction, but aren’t in a position to quit your job to get the necessary training and experience, don’t lose hope. Here are six ways you can break into an IT career without ceasing to draw the paycheck that’s currently paying your bills.
1. Take Online Courses
If you only have some basic IT-related skills or experience, you’re going to need to gather more before any employer would even consider you. While career changes in decades past might have required you to go to class at a specific location at a specific time, thanks to the internet, today’s schooling options are remarkably flexible. Do some research into taking basic IT courses online, and find a series of courses or program that feels right for you and are relevant to the position you hope to someday land. While you might have to burn the candle at both ends for a while, online classes will let you keep your day job so when you do land an IT job, you won’t be in dire straits financially.
2. Get Certified
Earning certifications is one of the most tried and true ways to prove your IT chops are real. While the process will involve study and the cost of study materials, training, and the tests themselves, being able to write on your resume that you have certifications in Linux, EMCCA, Android App Development, Microsoft, and more will boost your qualifications and employability immediately. And, because you can study for those certifications on your downtime, you can keep your current job rolling until you have enough proof under your belt to go after the IT job you really want.
3. Build a Website
If you already have a decent amount of IT knowledge, it’s time to put that understanding into practice. Build yourself a website to promote the IT services you can currently offer. Not only will the site build-out give you experience and help you figure out where you might be rusty or lacking in knowledge, but by setting up an online profile that showcases who you are, what you currently offer, and what you’re working on being able to do, you’ll be ready to start drumming up a little side business.
4. Start Freelancing
Speaking of “side business,” one of the easiest ways to go about getting a career in IT is to start freelancing. Whether you put an ad on Craigslist, sign up with a temp agency, or cold call local companies to find out what their IT needs are, going into business for yourself as a freelancer will help you gain valuable experience while keeping the job you currently have. As business picks up, you can either decide to become a full-time freelancer, or you can leverage the experience you gain to help you get a job with someone else.
5. A Little Pro Bono Never Hurt Anyone
For many people looking to make a career change, it can be difficult to gather momentum. After all, if you’ve been working at a flower shop for the past five years, your resume isn’t likely to make it to the top of any hiring pile for IT professionals. Consider offering your services pro bono to beef up the IT portion of resume. While doing so won’t net you any money, the experience you’ll gain will be valuable. Don’t let needing to keep your day job prevent you on moving toward a new career. Offer pro bono work until you’ve done enough to get referrals for freelancing or to prove your legitimacy and reliability to an HR department.
6. Work Hard
Above all else, when you’re trying to break into an IT career while continuing to work at your current job, you need to work hard. Good things may come to those who wait, but good jobs come to those who prepare for them. Strategize about the experience, training, and certification you need, and then hunker down and go after it.
Going into IT doesn’t have to be a pipe dream or a mad pursuit of debt. Follow these six tips, and you’ll be able to keep the job you have while gaining the tools you need to start a career in IT.