Too Old For Tech?Rich
There is a depressing question that comes up regularly. This question appears both on this forum and in face-to-face conversations. While it is quite ominous, it is also very important. In almost all cases, I believe it is actually the wrong question. In about as many cases, my answer is the same. So what is this question and why does it makes me cringe? The question is, “Am I too old to get into technology?”
In most cases the answer to this question is simply, “No, your not too old to start working in a field that you love.” I actually believe that this question is a product of fear and is nonsensical. I usually ask a few qualifying questions prior to offering my opinion. These questions allow me to follow up with the reasons I don’t think an individual is too old for such a career change. This article is meant to offer individuals a way to assess themselves. The hope is that they overcome any unfounded fear related to job changes and focus on the important and relevant aspects of a career change.
I am often surprised when this question comes up in conversation with people in their late 30’s or early 40’s. For those living in the USA, retirement is considered to be age 65. Those who fall into this demographic are worrying about the wrong thing. This category of individual often has half of their working life ahead of them. Therefore, their age is quite irrelevant in the way they frame their concern. For those closer to retirement, there must be more consideration placed on why this desire is so prominent. Depending on the motivation, such a change could still be a rewarding choice.
Another consideration should be the financial ramification of a career change. Many who have chosen another career path may have developed some real skills, demonstrated significant growth in their current career, and realized success. Additionally the longer they have worked in this career, the more money they are likely making. Lifestyles tend to adjust to the current income level. Migrating from some other career to one in technology, may require a period of lower income. In addition to financial discipline, a change in career may also require some form of education. I am not saying that technology cannot be lucrative career choice. What I am saying is that someone who is top of their game in some other field may take a pay cut when the decide to start a new career and accept a junior technical position.
There are other factors that should be considered. It is always good to assess the job market and the skills needed in a given area. It is prudent to ask questions like, “Are the types of jobs I want available in my area?” And if not, “Am I willing to move?” Also, it is a good idea to try to figure out what the short and long term compensation plans look like. It is important to be open with your family and those that would be directly affected by such a career change. At the end of the day it is your life as a whole, not just the work that you do, that will create real satisfaction.
In addition to the questions typically raised, those considering such a career change should also look at the consideration that are important for those choosing to pursue technology as a first career choice. Technology can be a great and rewarding career choice for those who enjoy it. I would argue that many of the most successful people in this field are wired a little differently. It is certainly a fast paced field that requires continual education. At the end of the day, it shouldn’t be your age that determines if such a career choice is right or wrong. It should be how well the new career fits you, your life and your family.
There is one more angle I’d like to take on this question. Basically, I’d like to turn the question around for just a moment. Maybe you are a real-estate agent, a cop, or perhaps a banker. Suppose I came to you and said that I just found myself in technology out of convenience and really wanted to get into your field of work. Maybe I expressed to you that it had always been a dream to do whatever it is that you do. What advice would you give? Do you think that is an insurmountable challenge? Obviously, there are many factors to be considered. Given a reasonable market in your area of expertise, I think your advice would be similar to the advice I give. I simply think it is more important to figure out what you were born to do, determine if monetization is feasible and move toward your goal. While age can make a difference and should be a factor in making this type of decision, it is important not too get overly hung up on it.
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