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Now What? A Career Changer's Odyssey: The Journey Continues

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Trying to stay afloat amid the recent IT downturn? Warren Wyrostek offers some personal advice on how he has successfully answered the question on the minds of many displaced IT professionals: "Now what?"
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Three years ago, I had the good fortune of writing a series of articles for InformIT.com titled "Now What?" The first in the series was "A Career Changer's Odyssey." I have been amazed at the reader interest in those articles over these three years, especially that first one, in which I chronicled how I got into the world of IT and began to experience a little success.

Many readers have emailed me asking for the key to success in IT, where to begin the journey, or what sector of IT would be right for them. Another group of readers asked how I survived the IT downturn that began in late 2000 and continues to this day. This article is in response to this second group of readers.

During 2001 and 2002, I did not give much thought to surviving a downturn. I had heard about the downturn but had not really experienced it. Many of my friends had been laid off from fantastic positions—some had to declare Chapter 11—but I was lucky until late 2002. Then my turn came. The downturn walked right into my door on New Year's Eve 2002 and blindsided me.

The purpose of this article is to share with you how I survived the fickle world of IT and am still making a decent living in this business. Hopefully, some of you will be helped by my experiences and strategies.

How the Downturn Found Me

At the outset, let me make clear that I have thoroughly enjoyed working in IT since I wandered into this profession in the '80s. Of course, it has been a roller-coaster ride because so many options are available.

Until 2001, I was working primarily as a trainer and network engineer. I had done some contract technical writing and editing, but not enough to brag about.

In late 2001, I migrated to a company that I had contracted with and began walking away from many of my long-standing contacts. The migration took a while, but it sounded like a good idea to have a steady paycheck coming in and not have to worry about administering my own business, plus get some benefits. I hesitated to make the jump, but the employer had a good sales pitch.

All along, I had been verbally promised that things were good and I had job security. Then on New Year's Eve 2002, I received a call that I was being laid off. Amid all of the promises, I had been lied to.

I lined up some short-term jobs, but I had to start figuring what to do for the long term. What direction should I take that I would enjoy, that I would have options in, and that would provide me with an income that would allow me to pay my bills and have a little left over? What training, education, and certification would I need? And what life expectancy would this new avenue have? I did not want to get involved in a venture that would last only a year or two, at best.

In other words, now what?

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