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This is probably something common so if anyone has dealt with this before please advise what is the best approach I can take to overcome this problem.

I'm nearly 30 and I'm seriously not happy about where I am so far. I feel stuck because I’m not doing what I was supposed to be doing when I came out of my Computer Science Bachelor degree in 2005 – 7 years ago. And the longer I stay in this pigeonholed career the slimmer my chances are of getting back on track.

Back in 2005 it was really hard for me to find any role after my graduation. So after 6 months of searching, I landed on a Telco helpdesk role, and I took it without hesitation. Then this lead to web content management – which was great as it was closely related to what I was supposed to be doing. This was supposed to be my opportunity. However, things changed quite rapidly within this organisation. I was no longer working with web content, but rather company processes – dealing with process improvements and escalated customer issues by means of managing the content. So it became less technical, and more about the process. Systems changed, so I no longer am required to work with HTML/Dreamweaver. We are now using word docs and the occasional visio flow for the processes.

When I try to look for other jobs, they require technical skills that I have not touched for a very long time! The experiences that I have are tied in with the organisation as it deals with the company processes. I do have transferable skills such as stakeholder management in a corporate etc. But how far can transferable skills take me if I want to get back to my root – IT related roles?

I have considered doing a Master in IT, but I’m told by many that I will become overqualified, and it isn’t something that employers look for more so than experience. For me, the master degree is an outlet for me to get back into learning new technologies and get a bonus in master accreditation to boot. However, I don’t want it to hinder my career option. Would a certificate be more appropriate for what I want to achieve?

I have also considered starting my own site/company. I have a few ideas that I want to achieve, but it is taking a long time to get it off the ground since I have full time work. And it is taking a lot longer especially since I have to update my knowledge on programming as I march on this one man band wagon.

If you have overcome something similar, please let me know how you achieved this, or give me some advice on how best to manage this? It has been 2 years since I started feeling this way. It is making me depressed and is affecting my life in general.

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4 Answers 4

If you want to change careers into an IT related role, take advantage of the fact that self-learning tools for these careers are highly accessible. Since you already have a Computer Science degree, you have the necessary foundation to be a software developer or to work in another IT role.

I know people who have even secured jobs in these fields without having a degree. They were part of open source projects or they volunteered at places like FreeGeek, building computers for people who can't afford them or doing IT support for them. There is a lot of experience out there that you can gain in your free time.

You have a job right now, and it sounds like you've been there awhile, so that shows that you're reliable and committed. Adding side projects during your off-time will show that you're a hard worker who enjoys learning new things, and employers desire developers and IT specialists who love to expand their knowledge.

Lastly, working on different open source projects or volunteer work will also help you get a handle on what you want to do. For instance, if you volunteered at FreeGeek, you may decide that IT support isn't for you and move onto something different.

Volunteer opportunities will give you a chance to explore your options, gain new skills, and build confidence that will help you get your foot in the door.

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If you have a trusted colleague at work, consider expressing your lack of feeling accomplished. (Just don't mention you're thinking of leaving!) Perhaps this person can help you list some accomplishments you're just not thinking about! –  jmort253 Aug 1 '12 at 5:55

If you are unhappy with your career path then talk with your manager about it. You already have 7 years with your company and from your description you are on a Process management track. This is not as pigeon holed as you probably think but that does not mean it is heading in a direction you want to go.

Before talking to your manager you should know what it is you want to do. "Not This", is not an acceptable response for a constructive conversation with your manager. But if you tell your manager that you would like to get into Web Application Development, then you have something you can work towards. Your manager can help you get training you would need and help you find a position that will move you down that path.

Realize that you have taken steps down one path and may be required to take a short step backwards to get on the path you want. I made the change from Support to programming about 9 years ago. It was not painless but I am much happier now and am further on my career path now than I would have been had I stayed in support.

In the end you have to be responsible for your career. If your manager is unable/unwilling to move you to a position you would rather be in you will have to take control yourself. Watch for openings in your company. Talk with the manager of the area you would like to be in see if he would be willing to have you job shadow or talk with the team. Find out what he would need to see from you to accept you on to the team.

If none of this works out you will have to decide whether it is worth it to you to give up the time at your company and security it provides to move on to another company. I would never mention the possibility of leaving the company to anyone there, until you have an offer you are ready to accept.

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@chrolli - I updated the answer a bit to hopefully help you out. Its not an easy position to be in. Process management is important everywhere and your skills will be useful and desired if you market them. I did not include this in the answer because it was a bit to localized to your situation but... You might have an in to the dev team as a technical writer. This is a position that most dev teams I have been on sorely lacked and had an open req for almost constantly. I know it is not the end goal but it gets you on a team that is doing what you want, and that is the fist step. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Aug 1 '12 at 13:03

It's hard to know what you want at 30 so I wouldn't rush it if I were you.

If you think you are interested in management down the road, you are actually in a pretty good position. Involvement in process management gives you access to the inner workings of how business operate on a broad level. This is something that is rarely available to most employees, even managers. This understanding often naturally translates to managerial work down the line.

If you are interested in doing technical work, ask yourself why. If it's the purity of development that you enjoy, I say go for it and start digging into whatever free resources you can lay your hands on. BUT always remember to ask yourself why because too many people choose the technical road for the wrong reasons. Trust me, if you want to change the world using software, it's almost always cheaper and better to get hired help....

If you aren't sure, I'd say relax, go with what you are doing and see where it naturally leads you. 30 isn't old when you are considering life long choices, well, at least it isn't old enough to make you rush into any decisions.

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At the end of the day It's always the understanding of the processes and business needs that drives change. Technical ability is just a means to an end, nothing more. Needing to know OF it is often good enough to allow proper co-ordination. While better technical ability helps, it would be putting the horse before the cart. –  Permas Aug 1 '12 at 4:59
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@Permas - "It's hard to know what you want at 30". They told us the same thing at 18. When is it ever not hard to know what you want ;) –  jmort253 Aug 1 '12 at 5:59
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@jmort253, haha, now ain't that the truth! –  Permas Aug 1 '12 at 7:43

In your case, I would look for a job as a business analyst. Your process skills will be a real plus in that, as would your Computer Science degree. Someone who understands both users and developers is a person who would make a great business analyst!

However, I suggest this for you, not as a career, but as a stepping stone into the career you want. Business analysts tend to be in larger organizations with a programming staff. You will deal directly with the people who manage developers, the same people who hire developers.

Making a good impression on them as a business analyst, you can then tell them that you would like to get back to programming and have people who would like to have you on their team. It is, of course, critical that you do a good job as the business analyst from the perspective of the development managers. But that is one of the best jobs I can think of to network with the very people you need to get to know in order to get hired.

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@chrolli, requirements differ from job ot job, sometimes they ask for specific business domain knowledge, but you can counter that with your experience in defining processes and collecting the data to do so and point out that you can bring a fresh perspective. Agood analyst can work in any business doman becasue he or she knows how to ask questions toget the domain knowldge. That with the CS degree should put you in great shape to apply for these jobs. –  HLGEM Aug 1 '12 at 13:43

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