Why is career change so difficult post graduation / 30s?

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  • Why is career change so difficult post graduation / 30s?
  • jond
    Member

    “Why would you employ an expensive programmer and let them do engineering’

    Because the example given was pretty applicable – writing s/w to model a system or part thereof, whether mathmatical, algorithmic/behavioural. But in particular, engineers are problem solvers. (For me it’s actually more the making things, but you still need to do the solving !)

    Which is kinda where some consultancies come in (or used to, at any rate..and where I mainly started). You have engineers that may have specific skills but are bright/quick learning enough to pick up other related areas in sufficient depth. I can’t say for sw engineering degrees, but there used to be fair degree of commonality in the first year of electronics/elec eng/maths and probably mech eng too, at least in much of the maths concerned. Plus many of us engineers have our feet in a few camps whether work or hobby. I started as analogue/digital electronics and moved to chip design, chip validation, then finally my own level of incompetence in device drivers (didnt really fit my head, tho im fine coding other stuff), And just as happy messing around with timber/metal as are assorted colleagues.
    Career paths don’t *have* to be purely managerial above a certain level (tho they often are.)

    Fwiw, after a voluntary redundancy a few years ago im (slowly) retraining as a pilates instructor – i wasnt great at sports but it’s one thing I can do well (15yrs experience) and hopefully impart. Helpful that my current instructor’s set up a new venture, and blokes aren’t really targeted much at the mo’. Gawd knows what I’d do otherwise. ..gardener ?

    I’m not sure it’s restricted to age or a particular industry.

    I’m not yet 30 and work in a fairly narrow field within Engineering. If I wanted to change I’d be lucky if I got half my salary and I’d certainly get worse working conditions.

    You can spend years working your way up a ladder. If you then want to jump to a different ladder without having the bottom few rungs, you’re gonna need to do some climbing.

    I hate the ladder analogy but it’s too early to think of anything else…

    flaps
    Member

    If it pays well but you want to do something else then instead of retraining and losing a lot of money, why not just drop down a day or two a week and spend the spare time doing things you enjoy?

    flanagaj
    Member

    If it pays well but you want to do something else then instead of retraining and losing a lot of money, why not just drop down a day or two a week and spend the spare time doing things you enjoy?

    IT contracts tend to be 5 days a week and if you can find one that offers such flexibility then your lucky.

    piemonster
    Member

    I changed industries (career is not the right word tbh) a few years back so mid 30s. I don’t earn as much but it’s a long way from minimum wage. I was also borderline academically uneducated, couple of random scratty barely passed BTECs and some D grade and below GCSEs.

    The main thing that worked in my favour to transition was attitude, not qualifications and/or experience. What’s more it was just the perception of having the right attitude as I was largely bullshitting. I also managed to bulllshit my way into some qualifications paid for by my employer. I am lining myself up for a significant shift again over the next year or two although hopefully within the same sector and organisation. I’ve had to do some graft I’m really not suited for to ‘escape’ the previous industry, I’m currently people focused and frankly I don’t like people very much and need to stop.

    I’ve moved career paths. Still in engineering, but learnt enough in each role about the next role to move.

    Gone from jobbing CAD monkey to senior design lead. (Same path but different quals/exp needed).
    Then jumped shop and ended up on the shop floor working building special vehicles/projects (pay cut there, but also a huge drop in cost of living) then moved into process management via a quality analysis role. Both needed a lot of training. The company paid as they thought I’d be a good fit.

    Them last year moved into advanced engineering. Most of the guys I’m working with have MScs or PhDs and/or 30+ years experience, a lot are fellows in engineering institutes or visiting lecturers and so on.
    And there’s me. 10+ years of part time contracting between degree and first proper job. Now the least qualified/experienced in the department and I’m working on the future direction of the entire company.

    Just need to work out what skills you actually have, as opposed to what the paper qualifications say you have. Ands work out what gaps need to be filled before you move, and what you can do once you get there.

    Oh. Massively dependant on company. Our place has a budget per person for misc training. So no one needs to sign off.
    Just ask the boss and go.

    You could try a staged approach. I ejected from programming to solutions, then enterprise architecture. From there you have a hand in so many things that you have plenty of transferable skills.

    greencat
    Member

    I for sometime now have been looking to get out of IT programming. Currently contracting and it pays very well, but I find it soul destroying and do not feel like I am doing anything meaningful.

    The issue I find at 45 is that if you want to move into a totally different sector, eg engineering then your only option is to take a punt and go back to uni in the hope that after graduation you’ll get employment.

    Why do companies not offer adult apprenticeships so that switching direction in later life is not so difficult.

    I have started to feel that at age 45 I am already on the scrap heap

    Perhaps there are several things worth delving into here:

    – Should work offer meaning?
    – Would it be more meaningful if you were employing the same skills to a cause you believed in?
    – By its nature, contracting involves less of a commitment to your employer (and they to do you). Perhaps contracting doesn’t suit you?
    – If you are being highly paid, perhaps you could consider working less and having more spare time to do things which are meaningful?

    Like me, you are middle 40s – and it is very common to experience a dip in happiness with our lot at our age. Apparently, it rises again in our 50s.

    A few years ago, I had pretty much a dream job – I worked for a charity whose cause I believed in, doing work I am well suited to and was fairly paid/appreciated for it. I also work mostly from home with plenty of autonomy.

    Now I’m slightly struggling – mostly in part because the focus of the role has changed and it’s meaning I’m embroiled in a lot more internal politics/conflict. All of the other parts still hold true, but damn me if it’s not the bad stuff I think about all of the time.

    I’m beginning to think that it’s a mindset change and associated reframing of work I need rather than a change.

    burnsybhoy
    Member

    Worked in retail since I dropped out of Uni when I was 18 till last year. I’m now 37. I managed to work my way up to a mid level manager role and had a decent salary but hated it. It was like being in School and I was a guidance teacher, but i had to provide for my family and that all came first.

    My wife went back to work full time when our twins started primary school and financially that enabled me to look for something else. I know work in a field engineering role in a sector I enjoy. I took a drop in basic wage, but to be honest the overtime I work means I’m walking away with more each month, not that it’s important but it helps. I now work a 4 day week and have loads of time to spend with my family and friends. I was worried if I didn’t try and change I would end up like some of my colleagues in retail who had spent their entire career in stores and wished they had tried something else.

    renton
    Member

    I can relate massively to this thread.

    I’ve got 3 years left of a 22 year career in the military and then I need to find something else to do.

    Like most of you I too will also be mid 40 (well 43) when this happens.

    I have no idea what I want to do when I leave the military and it sort of scares me as I know I will still need to earn enough to provide for my family.

    Currently looking at all the Health and Safety courses I can do via work which maybe will help.

    shermer75
    Member

    only option is to take a punt and go back to uni in the hope that after graduation you’ll get employment.

    Which is, coincidentally, also the the same option that everybody else has, whatever their age- school leavers too.

    You have the advantage of work and life experience, so a potential employer would value that over someone with little or no experience.

    I’m changing career (sound engineer to physiotherapist) I’m 42 and just finishing the degree now. If you’re unhappy with your job then you prob have 20 years of unhappiness to look forward to, so change it. Plenty of people do, so crack on! 🙂

    maccyb
    Member

    When my wife and I decided to quit our jobs and travel a few years ago, we were both fully intending to change careers (somewhat) when we got back… I thought I’d like to parlay my interest in 3D design (long-untouched engineering degree, handy with SketchUp, was once decent in AutoCAD…) into a career change out of website management.

    My wife was going to leave pensions, where she’d reached decent seniority, and train to be an accountant instead (too much excitement in pensions, obviously). She got briefly sucked back in to a pensions role when the pay was too good to ignore, but it was so awful (Capita…) that she quit again almost immediately and got on with accountancy, starting at the bottom again on a graduate’s salary while doing her AAT qualifications. It sucked, because it was a huge drop in pay, responsibility and general work significance, but she took it on the chin because… well, she had no right to expect to be well paid. Being a hard worker and even harder studier, and with years of business experience behind her so she didn’t need to prove herself (as much) in terms of general capability, she rose quite rapidly. She’s now on her third accountancy job in as many years, qualified AAT and part-way to being chartered, and getting closer to her old salary if not there yet.
    It was a bit odd being signficantly older than other employees at the same level, or higher, but having a (well-earned) air of experience meant she got taken seriously a lot faster than someone still learning how to present themselves etc.
    Definitely sucks going back to being skint after earning a decent salary, but there’s really no way round that.

    Oh, and in contrast I got drawn right back into what I’d been doing before, because I got headhunted by an ex-boss and the job was all the good bits with almost none of the downsides I’d got fed up with. I’m enjoying it, but I’m still worried about what I’ll do after this job, because I look at other vacancies in the industry with absolute dismay… and I look at starting salaries for a 3D monkey in the same way! Fortunately the ex-boss who headhunted me has all sorts of interesting contacts and would probably find something niche that I might like, but if that didn’t work I really don’t know what I would do. I’ve no interest in the latest industry developments – same as the poster above, fed up with the tech always changing and having to learn new frameworks etc. – and I certainly don’t want to start my own business!

    TiRed
    Member

    Better to regret the things you choose to do, rather than not do. You are at work for a lot of your time, it’s goo to enjoy it.

    I know two people who recently left big FTSE companies to train as teachers. One decided it wasn’t for them and doesn’t need to go back to work (pension). The other also decided that the paperwork wasn’t for them and returned to their old job!

    Personally I love what I do, but it’s a 10 year training, PhD and post-doc route in.

    flanagaj
    Member

    – Should work offer meaning?
    – Would it be more meaningful if you were employing the same skills to a cause you believed in?
    – By its nature, contracting involves less of a commitment to your employer (and they to do you). Perhaps contracting doesn’t suit you?
    – If you are being highly paid, perhaps you could consider working less and having more spare time to do things which are meaningful?

    Like me, you are middle 40s – and it is very common to experience a dip in happiness with our lot at our age. Apparently, it rises again in our 50s.

    A few years ago, I had pretty much a dream job – I worked for a charity whose cause I believed in, doing work I am well suited to and was fairly paid/appreciated for it. I also work mostly from home with plenty of autonomy.

    Now I’m slightly struggling – mostly in part because the focus of the role has changed and it’s meaning I’m embroiled in a lot more internal politics/conflict. All of the other parts still hold true, but damn me if it’s not the bad stuff I think about all of the time.

    I’m beginning to think that it’s a mindset change and associated reframing of work I need rather than a change.

    I think as I have aged and become more cynical about the world, the true meaning of what I am doing each day with my life has become stronger. I really admire those who just rock up to work and don’t think about how/whether their efforts make a difference.

    As to contracting. I love contracting and feel like I have broke the shackles and am to a certain extent an individual. Yes, I miss the paid holiday, sick pay, private medical …., but I love being able to call in and say “I am not available today” and not being constrained to n weeks holiday/year (I actually take less now though).

    timber
    Member

    I’m not old enough yet or disenchanted enough with my job yet, but know some that have done it.

    One of my dads friends seems to change sectors about every 10 years, been merchant navy, machining, print industry, environmental, not sure what now as he isn’t doing environmental management anymore so must be retraining again as can’t see him retiring.

    Someone else I know has just gone from deputy head to ambulance technician.

    mikey74
    Member

    With me, even if I don’t go into something geology-related straightaway, it’s something that maybe I’ll continue later in an academic role: Probably a PHD. I need to get through this year, first. However, what I do know is I want out of not just architecture, but the construction industry. I’ve had it with that.

    So, I need to find a away out that utilises my current skills and possibly allows me to continue by geology stuff, which isn’t easy.

    Premier Icon WildHunter2009
    Subscriber

    What area of geology are you interested in? Unfortunately quite a lot of work isn’t all that far from construction unless you can get mining / oil and gas. Do you enjoy fieldwork or happier behind a desk/lab?

    dantsw13
    Member

    I know I am very lucky to havd s job I enjoy (pilot). 12 years in the RAF being a authorised hooligan, now 12 years with BA, flying my bike around the world. Today I’ve had a day off in Boston, and managed a 115 mile ride in rural New England. Next week I am in San Francisco, and 2 of us are planning a bit of an epic ride over the Golden Gate Bridge and up the Pacific Highway.
    Ok, jetlag sucks, and nights out of bed flying are hard, but I couldn’t do a real job.

    Premier Icon igm
    Subscriber

    Nice one dantsw13. Are you the man I need to speak to about quietly slipping a bike on a 747 out of Heathrow?

    mikey74
    Member

    What area of geology are you interested in? Unfortunately quite a lot of work isn’t all that far from construction unless you can get mining / oil and gas. Do you enjoy fieldwork or happier behind a desk/lab?

    I’d be ok with more civils based construction: it’s buildings that I want away from.

    To be honest my main interests aren’t particularly commercial i.e structural geology and igneous petrology/volcanology. I’m not interested in oil/gas.

    I love field work and one of the problems I have with architecture is being stuck at a desk for most of the time (other than site visits).

    renton
    Member

    Ha ha Dantsw I always thought that with your username you were a tactical blanket stacker in the RAF. :mrgreen:

    FuzzyWuzzy
    Member

    I guess it’s easier to get away with low pay for people just out of school/uni (and even when the apprenticeship finishes they’re probably not expecting a huge pay rise in most industries). There would also be the worry that 40+ year old looking for a career change might discover the grass isn’t always greener and you’ve just wasted a load of money training them up only for them to return to their old career.

    I’m bored of IT myself (although I’m on the infrastructure rather than programming side). I’m at a level now I’m just supposed to design stuff for others to implement but the only part of the job I enjoy these days is being hands-on and figuring out things as I go. My last major cert (MCSE) was back in 2004 and I just can’t be bothered spending my evening/weekends studying again, or even learning new stuff, I just haven’t got the same desire/motivation as I had 20 years ago. I’m actually thinking about asking to switch back to a hands-on role but then I also hate having no say in what’s being implemented, especially if you know it’s better done in a different way

    MrGrim
    Member

    My last major cert (MCSE) was back in 2004 and I just can’t be bothered spending my evening/weekends studying again, or even learning new stuff, I just haven’t got the same desire/motivation as I had 20 years ago. I’m actually thinking about asking to switch back to a hands-on role but then I also hate having no say in what’s being implemented, especially if you know it’s better done in a different way

    Might be best to look at smaller partners as an employer. In my experience most architects/designers in smaller companies do both working with crayons and providing assistance on implementations or doing the full implementations themselves. In larger firms, most folk doing design don’t even have credentials to login anymore.

    Saying that though, if you have no drive to learn new skills, you won’t survive very long being hands on other than in companies where they don’t invest.

    stevextc
    Member

    I’ve gone from Oil and Gas to working in TV production.

    The problem is no one is going to pay for my previous skills in this industry because they’re completely irrelevant. So it’s starting at the bottom on minimum wage which is appropriate to my skills in this area

    and the next post …

    As someone who is trying to get out of the architecture/construction industry at 42, I agree: It’s difficult, although I don’t agree with the “scrapheap” comment.

    I’m currently studying for a BSc in Geology and want to move into a related field. However, I feel no one is going to look at me without either 5 years experience or a PHD, despite the fact I have 15+ years of running multiple projects worth hundreds of thousands to millions of pounds.

    Having said that, I don’t think these things are specifically related to age, as the same seems to be true, regardless of how old you are. We may feel it’s harder because time isn’t on our side.

    I do like your idea of adult apprenticeships, though, especially as I feel I have a lot to offer, aside from specific subject-knowledge.

    Hmmm…. Well a BSc in Geology I doubt will get you anywhere … sorry …
    I realised that decades ago and did a Masters … If you do find anything I’d be very interested…

    The other issue with IT programming dev is that I constantly find myself surrounded by uber geeks who always want to implement the latest and greatest or who just want to implement something that is totally over engineered.

    The BIGGEST issue is minimum wage is still more expensive than 5 Indian guys sat offshore. Programming is fast becoming a commodity item … I agree with over engineering but I see quality degrading as well.

    Despite hundred page requirement docs the “product” rarely seems actually USABLE… in fact I usually end up doing it myself (which isn’t what I’m employed to do but at least it WORKS) or I end up passing it to someone who I can just tell them to “fix it” …

    This seems pretty close to the truth for recruitment in London right now. Apart from that, if you’re not an exact match for the role it’s near impossible to get past the recruiters which is totally understandable but very frustrating.

    I’m not so sure…. I think there are openings in technical skillsets but older people who don’t match exactly are just disqualified.

    In fact my own company (who I obviously won’t name) systematically gets rid of hundreds of skilled and experience people every quarter and replaces them with cheaper inexperienced ones or offshore resources.

    Back in the early millennium I was working for an O&G company and took a decision (on a merger) to take a guaranteed position between IT and business. This was meant to then go back to the business… (and my qualifications) but another merger 2 yrs later and “I ended up in IT” …

    I don’t really know if that was a good or bad move… I know many colleagues who took a generous package, talked about transferable skills and a decade and half later still didn’t find a non-minimum wage job. My old boss who wasn’t that old took that route and was working in B&Q last time I saw him… his previous position was a top percentile earner…

    The only ones who did well are ones who stuck to the industry with the exception of one who emigrated to NZ and started a winery.

    Sorry if that’s not all cheerful…. I’d love to find out otherwise.

    stevextc
    Member

    To be honest my main interests aren’t particularly commercial i.e structural geology and igneous petrology/volcanology. I’m not interested in oil/gas.

    I love field work and one of the problems I have with architecture is being stuck at a desk for most of the time (other than site visits).

    Mikey, those are dead mans shoes jobs …. (or slippers) .. they just don’t come up unless someone retires…or you’re really lucky.

    My first degree was ig pet….. the only work I even saw was lab tech work… and then on “gardening samples” (sed)

    On structural … Dick Swarbick is now as oily as anyone…. Richard Gibbs (ala listric faults) was and Ken Mclay survives by oil and gas sponsorship.

    If I was going to do it again.. especially with your background then geo-mechanics might be easier…

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