Returning to and leaving IT - questions answered

Veteran IT specialist John R Wetsch answers queries about exiting and returning to the profession

I left IT seven years ago, when my second child was born, and now I'm ready to get back into it. I used to do Windows support and some Exchange administration. How bad is my timing? Do I need a skills refresher before anyone will even talk to me? It's never too late to get back to work. Employers will want to know if your skills are up to date. Good references attesting to how well you've done in the workplace are a must, as are evidence that you're up to speed on the latest versions and releases of Microsoft tools, platforms, applications, etc. Taking refresher courses is good, demonstrating practical application is better, and showing a prospective employer that you are a team player and know your stuff is highly relevant. In addition, if you did any support work on a volunteer or part-time basis during your seven-year hiatus, include that experience; it shows that you stayed involved in the field. Overall, be persistent in your job quest, and be realistic. Depending on your years of experience, you may be looking at starting at entry level again. You will need to market yourself through as many avenues as possible, including networking with former colleagues, to get to that all-important interview. With the current state of the job market, you will be competing against a larger pool of applicants, so don't give up. I've been offered a fairly decent early retirement package. I'm 62, but I'm not eager to spend my days watching TV yet. I figure that even if I take the offer, I'll look for another job. But I actually like the job I have and don't want to put myself out there when others my age are having trouble finding work. The offer is enticing, but I wonder whether I would regret leaving this job. I guess I just want an outsider's view. First off, if you decide to take the package, make sure you believe you'll have financial stability for the long haul if you can't find another job. If you're comfortable with the package, you may want to consider taking it, but you should also evaluate your current skills and look at the job market to see if there are opportunities to pursue. In today's job climate, another job may be hard to come by. You can also test the waters and see if you can get another job lined up before you take the retirement package, as this would allow for an easier transition. Or you may want to take early retirement as an opportunity to explore doing something new and different.

Wetsch has developed, integrated and managed IT systems for the US Air Force, Courts and Postal Service and is one of Computerworld US' Premier 100 IT leaders.

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