This update of Jack Wallen's controversial article about choosing (or not choosing) an IT career looks at some possible indications that IT might not be for you.
It's a tough world out there. Anyone who's ever worked in IT knows just how tough it is. And if you're not totally up for the challenge, there will always be someone else who is. But for anyone considering getting into the world of IT, or for those considering getting out of IT ... how do you know? How can you tell whether you're really cut out for the career that chews up and spits out its young? Well, I have a handy list of signs that maybe IT isn't the best fit for you. But if the signs don't apply and you DO decide to head down the IT career path, I've included a list of helpful resources at the end of this article.
SEE: Which IT job role is right (or wrong) for you? (free TechRepublic PDF)
1. You lack patience
Patience is most certainly a virtue in IT. When some problems strike, they strike with vengeance and most often require a good deal of time to resolve. If you are without patience, you'll either give up, lose your mind, or pull out all your hair. But the need for patience doesn't end at dealing with problems. Many times, end users will test your patience more than the technology will. If that's the case, I recommend that you either get away from having to deal with end users or (if that's not possible), steer clear of IT altogether.
2. You have no desire to continue your education
IT is an ever-evolving field and without the desire to continue learning, you're already way behind the curve. This is one of those fields where you must be okay with constantly learning something new. That might mean taking a class or attending a workshop or just hitting the books on your own. But no matter how you slice that education, you must be willing to continue to learn.
SEE: Hiring kit: Solution architect (Tech Pro Research)
3. You refuse to work outside 9-to-5
Technology doesn't adhere to a set schedule. Servers go down whenever they want and business has to go on. So you must be willing to wake up in the middle of the night, work long hours during the week, and work weekends. If you're someone who refuses to let their workweek interfere with their personal life—well, the writing on the wall is pretty clear.
4. You don't like people
Do I really need to expand on this one? Yes? Fine. The reason IT pros have jobs is to support end users—aka people. If you don't like people (and I know plenty who don't), you really shouldn't consider a career in IT. The big irony of this is that I also know a lot of people who have been driven to dislike people because of IT.
5. You give up quickly
How many times have you had an issue really test your abilities? Did you give up or did you forge on until you managed to best that problem? If you gave up, you did so knowing that you left something broken. That is not an acceptable work ethic in IT, and if you're okay with that, it's time to reconsider. Oh sure, there will be times when something is beyond repair or an issue goes above your skill set. But if that's the case, it's your responsibility to replace the broken tech or hire someone in to fix the issue.
6. You're easily frustrated
This is an industry that can frustrate even the most unflappable. But if your frustration boils to the surface right away, you will spend much of your day with high blood pressure. Although IT is a rewarding field, it can also be n aggravating one. If frustration often gets the best of you, you might want to consider a different career.
SEE: Interview tips: How to land your next tech job (free TechRepublic PDF)
7. You can't multitask
At any given point in a day, I am doing three or four things at once. Sometimes, this is the only way I can actually get everything done in the required timeframe. If you insist on sticking to one task at a time, IT is going to be a tough trek for you. That is not to say single-minded people can't succeed—but they will have a tougher time than those who can multitask.
8. You have dreams of climbing the corporate ladder
There isn't much room on the ladder within the IT department. If you have dreams of climbing up and perching yourself on top, you might want to consider a different field. Some IT departments do offer promotions, and maybe you can even climb your way up to CIO. But if CEO is in your dreams, IT is probably not the field for you.
9. You hate technology
This one should go without saying, but strangely enough, I know people in the IT field who actually HATE technology. If you consider yourself a technophobe, maybe being around servers, desktops, switches, routers, and other IT-centric hardware isn't the best place for you. Although it's perfectly possible to work in a field you despise, the added level of frustrations you will experience might end your time on this good green Earth earlier than you expected. Take a pass on IT.
10. You turn off your phone at night
This relates to your work hours. Many IT pros I've worked with are on call 24/7. Their lives completely revolve around their networks, and if they weren't willing to have such a life, they probably wouldn't have the jobs they have now. The IT job doesn't go away—it remains in the background all the time, waiting to pull you from sleep, family gatherings, the birth of your first child. If you're one to turn your phone off when you leave work, or you ignore those calls from the office (even when the office is blowing your phone up), it might be a sign that you and your career are not a good fit.
Tallying up the pros and cons
Just because you suffer from one or two of these traits doesn't mean you should give up on an IT career and start flipping burgers. But if you recognize quite a few of these signs, you might want to find another calling.
Decided to give IT a shot? These resources can help:
- Study of IT job postings on Indeed reveals trends important for all tech professionals (TechRepublic)
- The 20 most important IT jobs for the future economy (TechRepublic)
- The 10 most in-demand tech specialities that will net you a job (TechRepublic)
- Where the tech jobs are — and will be in the future (ZDNet)
- How cloud computing and the on-demand economy are remaking IT careers (ZDNet)
- 3 signs you need to quit your IT job right now (TechRepublic)