Is it ever too late for a career change into digital?

Ever get the feeling that your current career path isn’t quite right for you? You’re not alone.

Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest one in three UK workers are in the ‘wrong job’, with one in six being ‘overqualified’ for the role they’re currently in.

Employment experts have previously suggested that up to 80% of Britain’s workforce are in the wrong line of work, having been pushed into a particular career field from school, by their teachers, parents and peers.

Often, around the age of 33, these people feel unsatisfied with their path defined by others and instead seek job fulfilment on their own terms.

The big question is: once you’ve reached your thirties, are you too far gone down the road to look for that sense of enjoyment and adventure in your employment?

Embarking on a new challenge

Career changing past 30 may seem like a risk, but often career changers are valued potential employees, especially in the digital sector.

One person who took the leap is Anne Brooks, a former hospitality and retail manager who was looking for a new challenge.

“Whilst I had a very successful and enjoyable career, I didn’t see the work as a challenge any longer,” says Anne. “I gave myself a year to research and decide on what my next move should be.”

Having studied for a fine art degree, fulfilling a lifelong ambition, Anne then decided that her next step would be to enter the world of coding.

“I chose coding as I had had a long interest in technology, but also realised how dynamic the industry was in Edinburgh and with potentially good career prospects. I also felt that coding would meet my need for a challenge, in a totally new environment.“

Having found this thirst for knowledge, she signed up to the CodeClan 16-week intensive course to help attain the right skills for this career shift. Although passionate about this new subject, Anne admits that it wasn’t always easy.

“Quoting my favourite word, it was ‘challenging’! Whilst you don’t have to be a mathematician to learn to code, I do believe that your brain has to be wired in a certain way. Mine wasn’t and so made the process a lot more difficult.”

Despite the difficulties, Anne graduated in 2015 and was hired by Edinburgh software company IntelligentPOS to deal with product intelligence.

IntelligentPOS specialise in a user-friendly point of sales system for tablet devices, used across a number of retail and hospitality outlets, which meant Anne’s previous work was a definite plus.

“I realised the key for me would be to marry my previous management experience with my newly gained technical skills. I was very lucky to be spotted for such a role by a fast-growing start-up company.”

The importance of life experience

Anne’s employment by a rising start-up is not just down to luck. Many employers recognise life and career experience can make digital employees stand out amongst other coders.

Rory Bailey is the Head of Operations at Money Dashboard, an Edinburgh tech company responsible for a highly successful personal finance assistant which has been selected for London Stock Exchange Elite Programme.

For Rory, the advantages of a career changer are clear. “There’s a higher level of self-awareness and business acumen, a better ability to demonstrate transferable skills and solve problems. They’re often better communicators and less likely to become isolated in their work.”

As for the benefits of life experience, Rory believes that these are essential to being an employable candidate.

“It’s essential. A lack of life experience generally translates into weaker communication skills, social maturity, and transferable skills. That said, these criticisms only apply to those who lack a sense of adventure.

“It’s all about what the role and the person can become together.”

Planning a change

For those who maybe considering that career switch into digital, both Anne and Rory have similar advice – learn about the sector and find out why you’re there.

“Attend workshops or info sessions like Codeclan provide in Edinburgh and Glasgow and see if skill-wise, coding truly is for you and if your mind can actually think like a developer,” explains Anne. “If it doesn’t, it’s not the end of the world. You can still carve yourself a career in the exciting tech industry.”

Rory echoes that sentiment.

“Be sure you know why you’re doing it. Moving into digital just because ‘it’s the future’ won’t be enough to guarantee you enjoy and are successful at it. In fact, the predictability of that response is guaranteed to get you canned in some interviews.

“Make sure you first know what it is about digital that you are so interested in.”


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