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Need some advice/info for a 56 yr old

By richardathornton ·
I am 56 years young and in a wheelchair. I will graduate in December from Univ of Houston Clear Lake with a BS in Management Info Systems. Please be brutally honest (I don't need fluff, I need facts) - what kind of a job could I get? My GPA will be around 3.5 or so. I am pretty darn good with home computers & home networks, excellent with most software, but far from an expert on network admin and business related type of software. I know a little about a lot. I know a little about Oracle, but not enough to say I know it. I know a little about programming, but I am NOT a programmer by far, I know a lot about Excel & Word, but I can't program or write macros . . . . . could I probably get a beginners job somewhere? I am a former business owner (25 years in the automobile business as an owner/partner/manager). I am currently on Soc Sec Disability but I need some advice as to whether to try and look for a job or go a little longer to school and get my masters degree in either MIS or Health Administration. (I may have my masters education paid for - MAYBE!) Thanx to all who attempt to answer.
Lost in Texas

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Help...I hope!

by jgarcia102066 In reply to Need some advice/info for ...

I can't speak for the Health Administration side but here is my opinion on the IT side.

These days getting a job after college graduation, without experience, is very tough. With many companies outsourcing IT functions the job market continues to get smaller, with more experienced IT folks looking into the same jobs you're looking into.

In my opinion, going after your masters in MIS, without experience, would destroy your chances at finding a job. The masters implies a higher salary but without the experience, to most companies would be an unjustifiable hire.

There may be more areas to look into but in my small world, here's what I would try:

1. Try to get an internship with a company to gain some experience.

2. Try looking into small and non-profit companies. You would not get paid much but you would gain some experience and you would have more responsibility than in a larger shop.

3. Look into temp/part-time jobs as well. This is not stable but you need to bank your experience so that you can move on to better jobs. One site I use for my programming freelance work is www.craigslist.com. This is not the only site but I have found great success there.

You could also check if the Texas Employment Commission has special programs to get workers with disabilities into some jobs as well.

Sorry I couldn't offer something more concrete but IT is not a stable environment. Hope this helps.

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Let's look at it this way...

by DC Guy In reply to Need some advice/info for ...

Suppose you were thirty years younger, in perfect physical condition, with a degree from a university I've heard of. (You asked for brutal honesty. ^_^ )

I would still tell you you're going to have one heck of a time finding a job. You probably have about ten people competing with you for every job opening.

You need an angle. Something that will make me as the hiring manager give your resume a second look, or something that will get you into my office without going through the normal channels.

The usual way these days is networking. Almost all of the people I know who've landed jobs in IT in the past five years knew somebody who personally pulled strings or at least put in a good word for them. I know someone in her 40s with only an A.A. and a MCSE and absolutely no experience who got a pretty decent IT job with a future -- because a fellow member of a club she belongs to works here and talked her up. On the other hand I run across a lot of people like the young university graduate I described in my first sentence who have taken odd jobs and moved back in with their parents.

As always, it's not WHAT you know but WHO you know.

There are only two sectors in which your age is an advantage: consulting (real consulting, not just outsourcing some other poor schlemiel's job) and training. They want people with grey hair and battle scars for those jobs. But that's because people with grey hair HAVE battle scars from the decades they spent learning everything about the business. You can't provide good consultation or training if you're a beginner.

As Dennis Leary would say, I've got two words for you: Civil Service. The employer of last resort. It's a frelling shame to have to say this, but somewhere out there is a manager of a government department who was just told that she doesn't have enough employees who are over fifty and use wheelchairs. You could be the answer to her prayers. Or perhaps a company that primarily works government contracts and has to abide by the same rules.

Other than that, depending on how mobile you are, there is a growing market for people who can help non-IT experts set up, use, maintain, and debug their home computers. IT professionals complain about how user-hostile these blasted things are, imagine how frustrating they are for the other 99 percent of the human race. If you've got good people skills and all the expertise you claim, you might be just what they need. You may not think you're an expert, but humility has no place in this market. There are millions of people who know a lot less about computers than you do.

Here again your chair might be an advantage to such an extent that you might even consider advertising it. A lot of people, especially women, are reluctant to let strangers into their homes. They'll feel safe around you.

"Windows on Wheels"

Make the peculiarities of the post-industrial era work to your advantage!

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This doesn't sound great, but

by DMambo In reply to Let's look at it this way ...

consider a job in retail. You would probably be a great candidate for the PC retailer. You would likely be dealing with a lot of novice type of users who would need the SOHO background you have.

As far as a Master in Health Admin, there are two ways of looking at that. The first is similar the DC Guy's comments about IT. It'll be tough without some kind of experience. The 2nd way to look at it is to consider that Health Admin is probably one of the few growing fields and coupled with an IT degree, you'd have a fairly unique package of education. If you think about pursuing that path, getting some experience in a hospital or nursing home would go a long way. Good luck!!!

BTW - Trademark "Windows on Wheels" before DC Guy has a chance to do it. :)

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Consider this

by jdmercha In reply to Need some advice/info for ...

Yes it will be tough to find a job, but see if you can manage to work your experience into it.

Take a look at the job description of a Business Analyst. Then target automotive related companies. Your combination of degree and experience should be appealing to them.

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I'll be straight up honest (this may hurt)

by Rascal1981 In reply to Need some advice/info for ...

WARNING: it is no secret that I am one of the I.T. guys who is thoroughly against people getting into the field for money or becuase its "so cool but I know nothing" so if its you just ignore what I am about to say. If you really want into the I.T. field my best suggestion is to really start out in a non-profit charity or a tech shop like geek squad and go from there (as much as I hate geek squad I will recommend them for this). The truth of the matter is that getting your degree and a cert and waiving that at employers today buys you a "have a nice day...". People learned from the dot com boom that paper doesn't mean alot and experience goes further (and further still with paper; best combo I have seen but there are always exceptions). If you are dead set on this as a career then you are going to have to start out at the bottom like the rest of us and if you are looking at this as a hobby I would suggest picking up odd job tech shop stuff as you have a better chance there then the rest of Corp. America (unless you know someone).

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Brutal honesty

by amcol In reply to Need some advice/info for ...

You said you wanted it, so here it is. How much intestinal fortitude do you have?

The odds of anyone finding an entry level job these days are not nearly as good as in the past. In your case the chances are infinitesmal. Here's what you're going to encounter as you go about a job search:

1. Age discrimination. You're 56 and however young you look you're obviously not 21 anymore. You're also competing against young recent college grads who are far more attractive candidates than you are for a variety of reasons.

2. Disability discrimination. You're in a wheelchair. That means you present a host of potential problems to a hiring organization including possible higher costs associated with insurance and disability-ready facilities, as well as possible lost productivity due to excessive absenteeism.

3. Skills discrimination. You're a jack of some trades, master of none. You have a couple of certs that don't distinguish you from the crowd, coupled with no discernable experience.

4. Geographic issues. You don't say where you are in Texas but I know a little about the current opportunities in that particular area and things are, shall we say, a bit challenging right now.

5. Transportation issues. Can you travel? Not only to get to and from work, but for business? No matter how well you actually can, potential employers will perceive this as a problem.

You have a lot going against you.

On the other hand...I don't know how you ended up in a wheelchair but you've obviously gotten to a later stage in life and prevailed against a challenge that would have stopped most of the rest of us in our tracks. Adversity breeds character, which you apparently have in spades. Use that.

I see you as having the following choices:

1. Volunteer. Find some kind of unpaid gig and knock one out of the park doing the best job you can possibly do. It may lead to other opportunities.

2. Keep looking for a traditional job, and be prepared with some short but definite answers as to why you can perform the same as anyone else. You won't get anything other than an entry level job, and the odds are very long against that.

3. Best choice...stay in school. I don't often recommend this but in your case I think it's your best shot. Get the Master's in whatever you want (MIS and Health Administration are two completely different things, which brings up a host of other questions), as long as that's being paid for and as long as you can continue to live on disability. After that your best bet is to get a teaching gig someplace.

4. Even better choice...forget the whole thing. I have a lot of respect for the fact you've tried hard, overcome more obstacles than one human being should be allowed to have, and made it this far. Somewhere along the line we all have to be honest with ourselves, and that's what you say you want from us. Your chances of being employed in this discipline in any capacity and at any level are so small it's a sucker's bet to put all your eggs in that one basket. Keep looking if you want to, but expand your vision and take anything you can get. You have a lot of unrelated experience you can bring to bear...if you want to work, you're far more likely to find something in an area you know and in which you've already been successful than in some quixotic quest to reinvent yourself.

You said you wanted brutal honesty and I hope you meant that. Best of luck. I'm afraid you're going to need it.

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You say you already have management experience?

by bfpower In reply to Need some advice/info for ...

Many IT managers are not technical geniuses, but instead they are experienced managers (my boss being a good example - spent a long time managing some kind of sales related folks, then went to be a manager of PC Tech Support).

With 25 years of management experience plus a degree in MIS, you should have a good foot in the door with getting an IT manager position - just focus on your management skills rather than perceived shortcomings.

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