IT Employment

10 reasons for quitting IT

There are a lot of upsides to working in IT -- but depending on your situation, you might find yourself considering other career options. Jack Wallen describes a few factors that could be the last straw for some IT pros.

Raise your hand if you've nearly quit your job on at least a few occasions. Go on. You don't have to be shy. We all know that IT is one of the more stressful careers you can choose. And unfortunately, universities don't teach you coping mechanisms for getting through the days/weeks/months that can turn into long years. Let's take a look at a few reasons you might decide to leave that beloved career in IT.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Stress

Don't let anyone ever tell you that a career in IT is easy going. It's a rare occasion that someone will have a job in the IT field where there isn't stress. Remember, IT is disaster management. When a client or user calls you, it's almost always an emergency that must be taken care of immediately. And when you are working on those jobs, you had better get everything right, as failure could cost you a contract or a job. What makes this worse is that the stress rarely lets up. Every minute of the day, you are working and working harder than you might expect.

2: Hours

If you want a Monday through Friday, 9-to-5 job, look elsewhere -- IT seems to be a job you carry around with you 24/7. Not only do you put in more hours in the office (or the field) than your average professional, you also have to work outside the office to keep your skills up and make sure you're better than the guy standing next to you. And the people who aren't your clients or users (friends and family, for example) will want to take advantage of your knowledge and keep their computers running smoothly for free.

3: Getting paid

If you are an independent contractor, one of the most stressful issues you face is getting paid. I can't tell you how many consultants I know who have had to make threats or use an attorney to get paid. And when you're freelancing, if they don't pay you, you don't eat. That is some serious stress there. You don't have the advantage of having that regular check coming in weekly or biweekly. Honing your interpersonal skills is key to keeping those relationships as good as possible. Good relationships (even with not-so-good people) will go a long way to make sure you do eventually get paid.

4: People (in general)

This one I hate to mention. A long time ago, I was a positive, upbeat, people-loving kind of person. But after being in the consulting business, I've found myself getting taken advantage of, used, abused, unpaid, underpaid, unappreciated, and more. It's a constant fight to resist wanting to retreat to the woods and off the grid. That is not to say that people, in general, are bad. It's just that when you have your IT hat on, people seem to look at you in a different light. You are both savior and sinner in one stressed-out package.

5: The chain of command

Let's face it. Not many higher-ups understand your job. They think you should be able to get everything done on a shoestring budget, with no help, and you should treat end users as if they were better humans than yourself. And to make matters worse, the higher-ups want you to magically make those PCs last for more than a decade. This misunderstanding of both duty and technology does one thing: It makes your job impossible. When the powers-that-be begin to micromanage your department for you, every single bad element is exacerbated. You know your job and you know you know your job. Management does not know your job, but they don't know they don't know your job. It's all a vicious Mobius strip of stress.

6: Technology

Have you ever had one of those days when it seems like the whole of technology has rebelled against you and it looks like the singularity might very well be on the horizon? Those days will have you wishing you were walking out of the building with your belongings in a cardboard box. This has been one of the issues I have had to deal with since working with a consultancy that deals primarily with Windows clients. It seems that entropy has a strong hold on the Windows operating system, and every day is a battle to keep PCs and systems working. Some days you win that battle, some days you lose it. The days you win are always lost in the pile of days you lose.

7: Competition

One thing you can count on -- there will always be someone better than you. But in the IT industry, it isn't a 1:1 ratio. Instead, it seems that for every one of you there are one hundred IT pros who are smarter, faster, and better equipped. That ratio is quickly realized in dollar signs. Remember, the IT landscape is constantly changing, and if you can't keep up, you may not be hired or remain employed. The longer I am in this business, the more I realize it's a young person's game. Being as agile as necessary, being able to work the necessary hours... it all adds up. I'm not saying us older folks can't run with the pack. We can. But every day we work is another day even more competition is added to the field, and the competition is fierce.

8: The cloud

Every time I hear an actor on TV speak the phrase "to the cloud" I want to pull out my hair and kick in the television. The cloud has been one of those aspects of IT whose definition has been, and probably always will be, in flux. What exactly is the cloud? Should I be using it? Is the cloud safe? How much does the cloud cost? I get hit with these questions all the time. Generally, I just answer by asking the clients if they've used Google Docs before. If they say "yes," I tell them they are already using the cloud. But that is never satisfying. Clients and end users want the cloud to be some magical experience that will make all their work easier, better, and faster. If only they knew the truth.

9: Lack of standards

Our lives would be infinitely better if some sort of standards could be applied, across the board, in IT. Many open source projects have done everything they can to achieve a set of standards, only to be knocked down by proprietary software. Those proprietary software vendors want to keep their code closed and not compliant with standards so they can keep their bottom line as padded as possible. I get that, I really do. But while they are refusing to conform to any sort of standard, they are causing end users and IT pros any number of horrendous headaches on a daily basis. There is no reason why standards can't be followed without preventing proprietary software vendors from making a killing.

10: Respect

The general public has a bad taste in its mouth for IT professionals. Why? There are many reasons. They've been burned before. They've been ripped off before. They've had consultants who only seemed to want to sell them bigger and better things. So long has this gone on, and so jaded has the public become, that IT pros have a hard time earning respect. Oh sure, when they see you walk in the door you are their best friend... for the moment. But the minute you get that one "impending doom" issue resolved, it's time to go off on you or insist you do more than they hired you to do (or more than you have time to do).

Thinking about quitting?

Are the downsides of working in IT starting to outweigh the positive aspects of your job? What career would you pursue if you left IT? Share your thoughts with other TechRepublic members.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

256 comments
jackbenimble999
jackbenimble999

I've been in IT since 1980. It was a great career choice for me, especially when I was younger but still isn't bad. I'm here because I'm feeling a little insecure at just how smart the IT developers are nowadays.  I'm still good, but it used to be I was always one of the sharper developers. Now, they're all smart. I'm hoping that part of it is just that in my last job I wan't totally in development, there was a lot of proposal writing involved, and I'll get get better once I get up to speed on the technologies at my current company. But, last year was a lot of data manipulation and scrubbing and kind of sucked.  But, frankly I prefer any kind of programming over writing. There are a lot worse things in life than software development. 


It's mostly the hours that concern me. I put in extra hours from home on a regular basis. It's prompted by my insecurity that I'm not getting the job done *fast* enough. My boss is constantly saying "It takes 5 minutes", which is incredibly annoying. How can writing a JSON java client for php server (don't ask) which serializes into objects in a technology I've never worked in before take 5 minutes? The lack of planning and estimation skills is really frustrating to me. It's a cowboy environment. I would like a reasonable plan, instead "as fast as humanly possible." How about agile? 8 hour days, anyone? 


Anyway, I'm still good enough. I don't hate it. It beats insurance sales. 

JazzcatCB
JazzcatCB

I've been a programmer for 30 years. How times have changed. When I entered the IT market, technology was basic and programmers were rare. The job was great and your superiors respected you. Now I am trying to survive as a free-lance Web developer. Keeping up with the technology is a huge challenge. To make matters worse, I've always been a mediocre problem solver. When problems were fairly simple (in the IT stone age) I could usually solve them. But with the advent of interconnectivity, things have become massively more complicated. The problems I face now require top-notch deductive abilities, and I am valiantly struggling to keep up. But it's a losing battle. I am seriously thinking of changing careers and getting into writing. I can still use my creativity but don't have to battle with the damned complexity of IT.

imppress
imppress

No problem. All I ask is that you get them in large groups (bulk purchase) and they are DESKTOPs. No one keeps laptops alive 10 years. Obsolescence kills any that power jacks and screens don't fail on. Non techies just LOVE their laptops. Expensive, underpowered, ticking time-bombs. Every one of them. Tablets and handhelds are even worse. Sadly desktops are getting shown the door despite their far more rugged and versatile nature.

tvictoriano
tvictoriano

after 20 years. I tried working for myself andfor others. I agree there are good and bad when working for yourself or for a big consulting company!. Now im offered to do proj managment, for the first time! started as a technician -->network engineer---> and now to manage (build-deply-operate) I am excited and at the same nervous. these things drive me to work. I am happy because. I will become my own boss I get good pay the other perks are comissions. I hope it pushes through sooner. :)

xjonquilx
xjonquilx

If I was to leave IT, I would go straight for a masters in Psychology. Sucks that you have to have a masters to really have any major income potential... BUT it would be a much more relaxed atmosphere (albeit having even more exposure to the public's twisted minds... at least in this setting you would be the "judge" and not so much the "victim") and leave plenty of room for creativity, problem solving, and challenges (which are the main things I like about IT).

rrwyatt55
rrwyatt55

I loved the business the first few years in it. But I've gone through so many changes and roller-coaster of changes, adjustments and moods--from overworked and under-appreciated to angry, burned-out, desperate and just numb. I've been a programmer, S/E, System Manager, Designer, Systems Programmer and back to POD (plain old developer). It's been almost 40 years and the only I've survived the last 25 by focusing on the only thing I like about the business, which is developing software. The last decade has been really tough. I've been laid off four times, taken major pay cuts, had a business fail and so on. The number one drawback is the constant need to keep up with new technology, which has become more and more burdensome at I've been less tolerant of it. At age, 57, I have neither the speed to pick it up as I once had or desire to do so. I'd quit TODAY if won the lottery, but the only thing that keeps me going is seeing retirement looming not that far off (early retirement in poverty is better than later if I have to work in this business). I'm still pretty damn good at what I do, but like the article said, there's a huge age discrimination in the business and I've already been put on the "RIF" list twice in the last four years despite stellar yearly reviews. Right now, know how bad the job market is, just trying to hang on.

tmary
tmary

The people are great, there was a lot of appreciation by people I work with. Why did I leave IT? Two reasons, STRESS and too much MOVING heavy equipment around. Stress is my primary reason for leaving, IT is an endless amount of work, and you can never get enough done. But It also seemed that moving equipment around was as much my job as working on the machines. I was constantly unpacking, then moving, removing and moving equipment from place to place. My knees are arthritic and getting down to plug in equipment has become very painful. And then my age makes it hard to get back up! At some point the body starts to complain about the physical part of IT. After 30 years, I've accumulated a lot of knowledge, but my mind and body just can't take it anymore.

christinekristy
christinekristy

I don't intend to quit IT now but in case i do, i'd prefer to go into vegetable farming.

champagnetraining
champagnetraining

I agree with that idea that the older group of IT now are being replaced with the younger faster group but we still do have value AND historical value.

Misslbristol
Misslbristol

The job must be less stressful? The only obstacles of the day "Is it a return or exchange".

chaosfact
chaosfact

I have been drawing and painting since I was a kid and really enjoy it. I would like to be a artist of some sort or just create something rather than supporting companies crappy infrastructures because no can get on the same page.

supersonic111
supersonic111

salt away those hard earned dollars by putting it in the thing Will Rogers pointed out they ain't making any more of: farmland. www.terraworldwide.com

fordprefect12
fordprefect12

To NickNielsen and nekos Perhaps then its not because I'm female. I also have a low repeat rate. Sure, the more call outs the more money but I can't charge a customer if I have to go back because I didn't do something properly the first time. I know there are some unethical technicians out there that will make their oversight look like it was the customers fault. So they can charge for it. I always explain my work to the customer in as much detail as they can handle and I put all the detail on the invoice (no shortcuts) and no one has ever queried my bill. Its a shame that the repair industry is so price driven. Its monetary greed that has made the IT repair industry what it is today. I love fixing computers so I set my own standards.

nekos_paw
nekos_paw

I lost my job over "the chain of command" so now I'm training to drive a forklift - its a better wage, better hours, work i can turn my mind onto other problems without impacting on performance - and looks like it could be fun. *grumble* stupid rip off merchant, luddite, boss' family member instant manager *grumble*

chris.reynolds
chris.reynolds

...become a professional RV driver with a part-time job of "bathing in the sun with a ginger ale in hand." I think I would change for that one!

klaasvanbe
klaasvanbe

Even the modern smart phones use software more capable and using more bandwith and having more memory than the mainframe we managed back in 1974. Times changed and IT became part of everybody's life, perhaps with the exception of Amish and some people living deep in the forests or an oasis in a desert. I can picture myself typing my last words while others just speak them.

fordprefect12
fordprefect12

I really liked the Quitting IT article. I'm Comptia A+ certified. I work to those standards. I would add in a number 11 category. Time. That deserves a topic on its own. Customers as well as wanting their pcs fixed on a shoestring budget, want them fixed in 5 mins! I also have worked with other IT guys as a subcontractor and they want everything fixed in 5mins! Maybe because I'm female I like to spend a bit more time and do the job properly. I think the younger IT kids use the lastest and greatest softwares etc to fix machines fast today. (the lazy way) and run a mile when it goes wrong because they don't understand it. Or they will try and sell you the next latest and greatest product that's probably already obsolete by the time it gets to your door. PC repair and sales today are about the money. Its sad. I love the technology and the internet. Its a shame its had to be exploited. What would I be doing if I wasn't in IT, don't know, never thought about it. This is my world and I set my own standards and if people don't like it they can go somewhere else!

TBone2k
TBone2k

Just found out in Ontario legislation that most workers are protected forom having to work long hours without being paid overtime... Except for IT, and other occupations where "occasional long hours are expected" (i.e. farming, emergency services)

Derek Schauland
Derek Schauland

I have considered trying something new, but have not yet gone that route because I continually get pulled back in. New technology keeps the ideas coming and improves with every new toy that comes out. I for one am glad I have stuck with it and cannot wait to see what is coming next.

christinekristy
christinekristy

in spite of all the downsides, IT is far better off than other jobs. I don't intend to quit anytime soon

sdmayhew
sdmayhew

grew up on a small beef farm where dad had a day job as we could not make a go of it with just the farm. I do the same with a small olive orchard and the goal of becoming full time on the farm. Until then I do IT consulting - which gets stressful at times when clients ask you for a "consult" . Which turns into a free audit.

Triniman868
Triniman868

After working for over 25 years as a Systems Analyst for a large East Coast utility company, I quit, sold all of my worldly possessions, moved to a beautiful island in the Caribbean and I'm now a sous chef at one of the more popular restaurants on the island. Is it a long day? Yes. Do people complain? Rarely.. Am I happy with my career switch? HELL YES!!! Note, I was able to use my IT expertise in helping the restaurant select a great POS(point of sale) system.

rhyous
rhyous

I agree that IT is not a good place to be. Who wants to be the one to be woken up in the middle of the night because a server is down. However, there are plenty of jobs in many different technology areas such as Development, Support, sales engineer, etc... And many of these have stable hours. For example if you are a SQL Server Administrator, you have to make sure the SQL Server is up 24x7. If you are a SQL Database designer and developer, you probably will only work late hours one or two weeks every few months and only if you are behind on a deadline for a new project.

amitrocker1987
amitrocker1987

This is not a good article,It's a game where you go competition goes with you

sdanyel
sdanyel

I am just starting with an Help Desk support job [4 months] and I am tired of. They used bad antivirus... PCs keep crashing and mo &mo... Actually, people don't know how it's hard for you to find them some issues when you don't know what exactly happened with their PCs. Now, I am planing to leave and find s.t. else to do. I really hate that position.

jeff.mitchell
jeff.mitchell

remote, no meetings, no helpdesks, no unreasonable demands - and possibly only 6months sanity!

cdhscott
cdhscott

If I never had to talk to an end user I.T. would be great. Technically, I know what I'm doing is right and when a problem happens, well, things take time to fix. The tech isn't the issue. It's being abused by just about everyone that uses the stuff that hurts. We all know we get treated horribly compared to other professionals. The question is, what can we do about it and how do we contribute to the problem. My quess? It's because we put up with it and we don't stick up for ourselves.

LupoDoro
LupoDoro

Buy a plot of land, grow grapes, make and sell wine. Give tours and host wine tastings. Partner with other vineyards.

mpowers
mpowers

I have seriously thought about this for quite some time; Although I love technology, running an IT shop with 50+ techs is just about enough So what would I do, or plan to anyway? 1) First get the hell away from a busy town 2) Live out in a vineyard and grow, produce, market a fresh new label to every store in the nation !

MarquisDS56
MarquisDS56

I would love to get a job recycling electronic products. Sweet revenge, A BMF hammer and a couple of laptops, desktops, a few printers, the occasional server and maybe a DBA. I would hire a few programmers to the sort out the precious metals from the remaining heap of scrap. One can only dream.....

NurdCore
NurdCore

I have a friend that's in law enforcement and I asked him why does he even bother working that thankless job. He told me that he always thought the same thing about me being an IT professional. Passion just drives you to do careers that sometimes you can't even answer yourself why you do it. But, I would not even consider changing my career at this point in my life.

econtrerasd
econtrerasd

I was able after 15 years in my IT career to move to the client side as a manager in charge of IT investments and development, this has many advantages, first the client just worries about bringing the problems to my table and I design a solution, do the IT consultant selection work and PM the project. This has the added advantage that the consultants are not that frustrated since I take care of pushing fair offers / deadlines / payments and usually I agree on what can realistically be delivered. For me it takes me away from the long hours and a bit of stress from "pure" IT. so far it has worked fine!

mikeshen11
mikeshen11

I couldn't help but notice your article. I was searching for Mdaemon 12 new features because a client asked about it on Friday. I am a generic IT guy. one of my relatives told me a decade ago not to do IT because IT changes too fast. But I can;t make money doing anything else. last year MS vendor here was pushing cloud, $2.5 per mail box. what can a little IT guy do by selling that? I joked in the office that we should be doing milking. now I feel the pinch, I need renew CCNA this year, and hopefully finish the exchange 2010 configuration course. while this is very stressful, there are heaps other guys still doing IT

bubbledog
bubbledog

I would do consultations on stress management and make a bundle.

jentre1
jentre1

Attending workshops to improve my skills

rita.hroblak
rita.hroblak

pslat@... said it well...I do it because I love it, and I am good at it...30+ years and still going.

spin498
spin498

I was a cop for over 35 yrs. Trust me, at least 6 of the 10 can apply to any job.

msgrstclair
msgrstclair

LOL, I was a network engineer for over 25 years. I am now an Orthodox priest and very happy!

guy
guy

My Brother-In-Law quit IT and started a lawn care service. That lasted a couple of years and now he owns a bookstore.

pslat
pslat

Jack, It's very unlikely that you'll see this at this stage but for anyone who follows, thank you for being able to give such a clear point of view of the tangled web of IT. I am at least a little consoled by the fact that others in IT have a similar point of view to my own as up to now I had began to think it (IT) was just me..The thing is, I love it, it is what I'm good at, and even though I am stressed doing it, I know I'd be a lot more stressed if I was farming (I live in Ireland after all). So yes IT is all you say it is but there are some who do IT for IT's sake. Hope this makes some sense as I am typing this after a long day of dealing with ....

JazzcatCB
JazzcatCB

@rrwyatt55I don't envy your situation. I'm a 48 year old developer. I started on DOS, moved to Windows, and now the Web. Complexity is always increasing (seemingly exponentially) I long for the old days when programmers where a rare and valuable commodity. Sigh. They're gone forever. I try to keep up with the latest tech, but I really feel like I'm in an impossible race that I'm much too old and tired to win. I may try to take up writing. No complex logic conundrums there. I wish you the best. 

jrp02809
jrp02809

@Misslbristol What kind of I.T. are you doing?  If all I had to do was that, I think I could actually be innovative and organized...

NickNielsen
NickNielsen moderator

[i]Maybe because I'm female I like to spend a bit more time and do the job properly.[/i] It's more likely because you want to get the job done right, not just get the job done. I've been told I take too long to make repairs, that I should spend less time on site, but my repeat call rate is much, much lower than that of my peers, and my customers do not complain about my work.

JazzcatCB
JazzcatCB

@Triniman868 Good for you! From IT pro to chef :D I hope your boss isn't "Chef Ramsey" ;)

nekos_paw
nekos_paw

"I haven't done anything", "I never touched that", "I never did that", "it was just like that when I turned it on", "I bet it was dave/john/simon", "it was like that for ages, what can you do about it?", "these things are terrible, they keep breaking" "are you sure your not making it worse?" "how come we have to keep calling you out to fix these things?" A selection from both clients and family. That's all I gotta say

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Of half way decent Camera's. To do anything that is going to bring in enough money you'll spend a small fortune on cameras and if you want any High End Camera's you'll spend more than most people spend to buy a house without the long repayment time. Col

nekos_paw
nekos_paw

"my repeat call rate is much, much lower than that of my peers" In the words of my former boss, this is not paraphrased either, "the more we get called out the more money we make, the more money we make, the better your wages become"

NickNielsen
NickNielsen moderator

The more we get called out, the less happy the customer is, the more likely we won't get a contract renewal. I'd rather have slightly lower wages and the assurance of continued employment, but maybe that's just me.