A Career Changer's Checklist - 12 Common-Sense Questions to Find Your Career: What Can You Do? (Restrictions!)
The Top 10 Restrictions or Obstacles or Limitations for Career Changers
- Physical Limitations: This first one is not as common in IT as it is in other fields, but it can still get in the way.
Do you have some physical limitation that is holding you back from getting your dream job? An example of this is the all-star basketball player who is 4'9" tall and wants to play center in the NBA. Does this person have a limitation? Sure. Is it possible that he will get into the NBA and succeed? Maybe, but he has a physical limitation. He has a height issue that he will have to overcome. Notice I said overcome. Depending on whether he wants it bad enough and loves it bad enough might be the difference in whether he will have success. He will have to overcome cultural and societal bias to make it work. But it can be done.
This is only one frivolous example of physical limitations. There many, many more serious examples. Do you have a physical limitation that is stopping you from succeeding in your career choice? If so, write it down.
- Age, Sex, Ethnicity, Orientation: These are the restrictions that nobody wants to deal with. Do they exist? Yes. Is it OK? NO! But bias exists and restricts us in our career choices. No sense fighting it.
But come up with a plan to work with it. It is a disgrace that we even have to mention these restrictions, but they are a reality. There is discrimination in all aspects of society (including the workplace), not only in the United States, but all over the world. That is a fact.
Have you had to deal with it? I know throughout my life I have. When I tried to get into medical school, I was told by members of the admissions committees of two well-known medical schools that I probably would not get in back in the mid-1970s because of the quota system that had been instituted.
That was a real restriction. And there was nothing I could do about it. And I did not get in, although I met the advertised qualifications. One school rejected me because I was from New York. That is a documented fact. It bothered me for awhile but times and situations change.
Thirteen years later, when I was getting ready to leave a good job at a major hospital in the Northeast, I was approached by three admission committee members of a medical college and asked if I wanted a place in the 1988 entering class. I had just bought a home in Florida and opted to turn them down. The quotas no longer had the impact that they had in the 1970s, and I had made a lot of good friends in medicine who knew my skills and abilities.
So how do you overcome these obstacles? A great network of friends and a lot of time. If you have dealt with these obstacles, write down where, when, and how. Identify them.
- Time: Time can definitely be a restriction. This can go back to our previous point, where Age was mentioned.
But do you have the time to make a career change? Do you have the time it will take to retool your skills to move into a new career? Do you have the time to go back to school for a new degree to get a new job? Do you have the time to pursue certification A, B, and C to land the ideal career? Do you have the time to take away from your family to devote to learning these new skills?
A lot of folks that I talk with that want to come into IT cite time as the number 1 reason why they cannot make the change. They simply are too time-stressed to even consider such a change.
- Bad Advice: This is an obstacle that I think everyone who has ever gone to a school or pursued a career has encountered. There are so many uninformed talking heads out there giving out bad advice that it is maddening. From school guidance counselors who have little real-world experience, to university-level career counselors who spend their days going from convention to convention, it is so easy to get bad advice. You have to really pay attention and do your homework when it comes to accepting advice from someone.
Also beware of the naysayers who can tell anyone why he/she will fail. An example of this is a guidance counselor who told a student that he would never succeed because he was from a "poor county"—and no one ever succeeds coming from this county. This is totally unacceptable and needs to be recognized for what it is: NONSENSE.
Think of all the really successful folks in and out of IT who were told they had no shot and became mega successes. Why? They overcame the obstacle of bad advice. What bad advice have you been given? Write it down.
- Money: Money (or lack thereof) is a big obstacle to overcome. Whether it's the economic condition of the society, the economic demands of your family, the economic requirements to make a change, or simply what you need to earn to satisfy your own economic needs, money is a tough obstacle.
Think of why you might not make a career change. You cannot afford to go back to school. You can't afford to take all these certification tests. You can't afford to buy a bunch of $100 books that will be worth $.25 in less than a year. You can't afford the courses you need to do the job you want. This is reality. Don't fool yourself.
Do you have money obstacles that are stopping you from landing your perfect job? Be honest. I know I do. I would love to teach on the university level. But I cannot afford another three years pursuing a doctorate so I can do that. And the other side of that economic argument is the fact that a major U.S. university offered me a position as an associate professor if I went for the Ph.D. They were willing to pay me $28K per year. The Ph.D. would cost me $40K over three years. So I'll invest $40K to earn $28K in 2008? That is an obstacle. That's a restriction. That's a limitation. That's economic insanity.
- Education: Education can and usually is one of the main obstacles folks have to overcome when they want to change careers. Do you have the right degree? I know I don't. The CIS and MIS degrees did not exist when I was coming up. They are the degrees that everyone wants now. That is an obstacle.
Some of you don't have any college degrees and want to succeed in IT. Although it's possible, it's nevertheless an obstacle to overcome. What are your educational obstacles? Write them down.
- Attitude: Without question this internal obstacle is the most difficult to overcome. If you have a bad attitude about your probability of success, then you have virtually doomed your chances.
Another way of saying it is this: What is your mindset? When it comes to attitude or mindset, a number of issues and related questions come to mind.
Uncertainty: I don't know which route to take. Which certification or sector should I pursue? Which degree should I pursue? This goes back to the Education obstacle. But it has a lot to do with attitude. Some will call this confusion. Are you confused? That is an obstacle. A related question is -What is marketable? I don't know what will make me marketable. Will a degree, experience, certification give me a good chance of making it in the IT market?
What are you willing to do? That's a real obstacle. You might know what you want and like, but based on requirements and sacrifices you might have to make, what are you willing to do? Is the sacrifice more than you are willing to endure? Some tough guys have told me, you do whatever you have to do to make it.
Well…NO! You do what you're willing to do to make it. You have to be the one to make the decision. One person's sacrifice is another person's walk in the park. Another way to phrase this question is this: How bad do you want something? Or this: How bad do you like what you want? Desire can be a restriction. Maybe you don't have the desire to succeed that your friend has. That is a personal choice as well as a commitment.
Now take a look at your own journey and ask yourself how badly do you want to change careers? How open are you to the sacrifices required? Write it down.
- Life's Circumstances: One of the obstacles that we all have to face as we change careers is what life is throwing at us. There are family situations that often dictate what we can do or what we need to do. Sometimes those situations dictate that we have to change careers; other times a family situation might stop us from changing careers.
Have you faced an illness that causes you to change careers? Do you want to change careers because you can no longer leap tall buildings with a single bound? Are you the primary caretaker for a family member, and is this role preventing you from making a career change, or forcing you to find something you can do from home, (i.e., a different kind of career change)?
Another type of life circumstance that can frame your career change is family and emotional support. Do you have the support you need to make the change you envision? Take a look at your life circumstance and look at your restrictions or obstacles. What are they? Write them down.
- Relocation: Relocation is often a requirement for a new career. How open are you to relocating? How open are you to paying for your own relocation? A lot of companies today are not as generous as they used to be to relocating new hires. Can you afford to pay for your own relocation? Also, how open is your family to relocating for a new career for you? Is relocation an obstacle for you? Think about it and write down your thoughts.
- Fear: What are you afraid of? Are you afraid of failing? Are you afraid of going broke? Fear is an obstacle. Period. Fear of not belonging in IT. Fear of being too old to go into IT. Is fear an obstacle for you? Does it shape your attitude or mindset? Write down your fears. If you face your fears you can overcome them.