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Am I Too Old to Start a Career in IT? Revealing the Key to Success

I’m writing regarding career advice. I’m 55 and recently unemployed. We recently installed a fiber optics internet connection and a very helpful AT&T employee provided an online phone assistance in setting up our portable WiFi. My wife half jokingly said, “What don’t you learn that?” I also have a friend who was a systems engineer who was re-employed after a layoff with generous severance package, and he has all kinds of career opportunities. I’m probably an above-average computer user, but by no means a computer jock. My question for you is that at my age, with no prior experience, do you think it would make sense for me to get some certification in some advanced IT discipline, or is it strictly a career with young people with long experience? Any information or guidance that you would provide would be greatly appreciated.

It may seem like IT — information technology — is a career only for the young, but I’m here to tell you it’s not. Besides, almost by definition, “young people” don’t have “long experience”.

The kids may make the news, but those of us of a certain age (hint: I’m 62 as I write this) should not be counted out.

More specifically, we shouldn’t count ourselves out.

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Am I Too Old to Start a Career in IT?

  • No! You’re not too old!
  • It’s never too late.
  • Passion and logical, methodical thinking are key elements.
  • Certifications may be important in the job market, but the best way to learn is by doing; focus on or make those opportunities first.
  • Don’t let your pre-conceived notions around age hold you back.

It’s never too late…

Hide the Pain Harold
Even “Hide the Pain Harold” found a second career as a meme!

In my opinion it’s never, ever too late.

It’s not just a young person’s career, and it’s not just a career for someone with lots of experience. IT is a career for people with passion, interest, and specifically with interest in learning new things.

LOTS of new things.

Honestly, one of the reasons I love my career is that it’ll force me to keep learning and stay mentally active until the day I die.

Passion

When I was hiring people for Microsoft, and when I talk to people today, my focus is mostly about passion.

If you love doing something, then you’ll probably enjoy doing it, spend more time doing it, and get better at doing it. You’ll eat it up.

I’d never say “No, don’t bother,” because a career change can come at any time in life — Colonel Sanders’ first Kentucky Fried Chicken (now KFC) opened when he was 62!

Passions can change or be discovered at any time in life.

The IT skill set

Obviously, I don’t know your full skill set.

IT, computing, or “coding”, as they like to call some aspects now, really boils down to logical, methodical thinking. There are a ton of details along the way, of course, but my take is that anyone who can follow directions — or perhaps anyone that can write directions others can follow — has an opportunity.

Most of IT is, after all, supplying directions for the computer to follow.

I don’t rule any of it out based on age. I believe there’s always time, and there’s always the ability to change careers and learn new things as long as:

  • You believe you can.
  • You have that passion to follow through.

Certifications

I’m not big on certifications in general. I know some jobs require certain certifications, and perhaps after you’ve determined what appeals to you — what lights up your passion — you can investigate what certifications, if any, might be required to get a job doing what you’ve chosen. But it’s not where I’d start.

I’m much more of a hands-on-learn-by-experience kind of person. I find certifications to be more a form of book learning, which, when you get down to it, isn’t really as helpful as having done the actual work.

So I would look for opportunities to start doing what you think you want to do. Start learning by doing and take it from there. Take some introductory courses, perhaps — online or at a local community college — and see what sparks your interest.

Then dive deeper by doing: make up your own projects to do in your own time, volunteer your skills if they’re something that non-profits might benefit from; basically, find or create opportunities to start doing what interests you right away. Doing so builds your skill set and adds to your credentials.

As far as I’m concerned, you and I, we’re young! We’ve got lots of opportunities ahead of us, and there’s no reason to think any other way.

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Leo

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18 comments on “Am I Too Old to Start a Career in IT? Revealing the Key to Success”

  1. I am 53 and just got my first full time IT job last December. I was laid off in 2008, enrolled in a Network Administration course in a local community college.Completed the course 3 semesters later, worked at 2 part time IT jobs then was hired full time as the technology coordinator at an elementary school. this is the best job of my life. My advice is if you are into computers, networking and It stuff, go for it.

    Reply
  2. A career in IT? Age has never made a difference. This question will come up if you’re 45, 35 or 25, it’s all the same. People will judge you by your knowledge and confidence. Show them what you can do and your services will be invaluable.
    I’m 57 and I started in IT career in my 40’s. I used to be an automobile parts counterman!

    Reply
  3. I am 58 and have been working with computers most of my working life I love them.
    I don’t have ANY computer certificates and always get the job done. I also work with guys who are very clever and have all the certificates ( you name it they got it) but when it comes to fault finding I tend to stand back and chuckle they never go for the obvious they get entangled in the so called problem.
    Here in the UK we have just had a major high street bank with it’s computer system down for days due to a simple error, I can’t say any more but Leo is right you need guys who can “talk the talk” and actually do the job, certificates are just basically pieces of paper.

    Reply
  4. I’m from India who changed my career at the age of 50. It was neither dramatic nor useless for me. Changing careers at an advanced age is definitely not easy, especially if one is not very talented or lucky. First, an aged person is automatically disqualified from consideration normally. So, the opportunities are much less. One has to settle for SMEs. Being an ‘Aged Fresher’ is a difficult barrier to cross. Many also assume that aged persons do not respect juniors under whom they need to work. One can overcome all these only by working under sub contractors with low/no wages initially.

    Certificates are certainly necessary for regular employment. Yet, I fully agree that they can not remove the struggle in practical learning/ replace the value gained out of experience.

    However, if you are humble enough, serious enough, and endure, you’re bound to get something. You wouldn’t return empty handed.

    Reply
  5. When I was young, my teachers used to say “Your Brain is Like a Muscle. If you use it, it will grow stronger.” When we get old, it’s important to exercise to keep our muscles in shape. The same is true for the brain. New mental challenges are very important at any age.

    Reply
  6. I wish I was 55 and could start on learning IT. A new career for me is out of question but at 93 I still want to try learning new skills. So far this year I have got an update to 2020 Photo Elements and also Affinity Photo. Lots of very interesting skills there to work on and really enjoying things. So Mr 55, GO FOR IT.

    Reply
  7. I don’t think age is a barrier to the IT world.
    It is more mindset and the fact that some employers favour younger applicants.
    I was retrenched at just on 50 and found another job in the IT world. Just had to move a few hundred miles to a more remote location.
    Now I’ve passed the 76 mark and continue to thoroughly enjoy working from home with my newest computer installed last week.

    Reply
  8. Do you think 70 years old is too late? I would like to start on this path, but you are much younger than I.

    Reply
        • Leo –
          I retired after 50+ years in IT! No, it’s never too late to learn things and not everyone needs to learn how to write code!
          I have watched computers grow in size and shrink is size. The first machine I wrote programs for was an IBM 360/50 with 500K Bytes of Core Storage…..I would go on to work for several companies including Amdahl Corp – competing against IBM – for 22 years.
          Great advice to those wondering if they should change careers! By the way – it was my Mother in the early 1960s who pushed me in the direction of IT….
          Ron Mitchell

          Reply
  9. I started to seriously mess with computers about 5 years after I retired. I am now 82 and the go to guy for a lot of people with computer problems. I love tackling a problem that requires analysis, research, and learning (or many times relearning). I always tell people that if you are a logical thinker, curious by nature, tenacious and have no fear you can become a computer ‘expert’. By the way the most important tools in my arsenal are Google and Ask Leo. Thank you

    Reply
  10. I’m 73 and have had a thriving business doing IT work for 12 years after 30 years as an HR Manager. And never a certification in anything. I have found at this age there are many out there who have problems with their PCs they can’t fix and you can….. Especially among the seniors group.. I advertise my business as ” I take care of your Grandmother’s computer” and the phone doesn’t stop ringing. It’s made a very nice retirement supplement. Grandkids know how to fix things but most do not have the patience or take the time to help Grandma and her pc. Or they make the pc perform to their interest not hers. Most grandparents want to get email, get on Facebook, shop and play games. Not much more.

    My business is “I come to the customer”. No shop. Occasionally I take one home. Grandma doesn’t want to take one down, load in the car, haul to the shop, take it home and put it back together. All the shop will do is reload Windows and give her back a new install system which she doesn’t have a clue to what to do from there.

    What it comes down to is taking time with the client. Explain things in terms she understands. “Your computer is like your kitchen” always works when it comes to explaining how a pc works. Solve password problems. Show some interest and add a little extra. Be available and act as a friend. You can work as hard as you want to with very little capital investment or training time.

    Reply
  11. One thing to consider in any career at any age is the stress level and what that stress level might look like over time and how long-term stress levels will effect you. At age 67, I have been in the PC computer area since it was Atari ST, Commodore 64, TI99, IBM PC, etc. and now Windows 10, i5, i7, i9, a span of 40 years. Self employed, I got my CompTIA A+ Certification in 2001 and I also have a small video and music recording studio since 1981. What I have found over the years is that the computer business can be very stressful and the stress levels and rapid changes increase over time and can make your head spin and can often carry into your home and personal life. Your customer’s problems and pressures become your problems and pressures and all of a sudden you are not having a happy day or week or month or year. Even updating Windows 10 can be quite a risk and gamble these days and lawsuits from customers can happen. But if you have the stamina to keep up at this kind of pace and it’s right for you, then by all means pursue your passion at any age. However, if you are older and would prefer to downsize your lifestyle and stress levels and are looking to sit less and age more gracefully, you might want to consider jobs or careers that don’t require such constant major cerebral demands on you. These days retired, I spend most of my time working in local community television production and music and maintaining my computers and a few for my friends and associates and that’s enough for me as I don’t want unnecessary stress eating up whatever years I have left. So beware of IT burnout but kudos to those older than me that can still take a licking and keep on ticking! 🙂 Just my two cents. Cheers, DNA

    Reply
  12. Hi, Leo. Hope you can help me with this question. In last couple months, when I open my Yahoo mail and click on an email, I get a dialogue box asking me to unblock ads-I do not want to do that, so I do a series of clicks which gets me back to my original view and I click back on same email and start reading it.
    How do I delete delete these annoying dialogue boxes without having to turn on my “unblock ads?”

    Thank you for your help.

    Reply

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