Switching Technologies: The risks of a career leap

August 4th, 2011 | Job Search | No Comments »

Why Switch?

How will it affect me?

How can I explain this to employers?

So, you’ve decided to make the leap and switch from your current technology to something new. Congratulations. But what does this mean for you? How will it affect you in a job search and how do potential and current employers view it?

Why the switch?

There are a number of reasons for making a switch from developing in one language to another. Perhaps you are bored and not challenged enough. Perhaps you’re finding the market just isn’t what it used to be in your current field. Or perhaps you just woke up no longer loving what you do. No matter what the reason, keep one thing in mind: switching your career path will be most successful if it’s less of a leap, and more of a journey.

Understanding the Impact

Besides the typical challenges of starting something new, you also have to consider how this decision will impact you financially. You might not be money-motivated, but you do have to be realistic about the monetary consequences of changing your career path.

Let’s consider Joe the developer. Joe has been in Microsoft technologies for 8 years. He’s always stayed up-to-date with the latest and greatest, but he wants to explore open source technology. Joe is living comfortably at a salary of $100k+ and has built his work and lifestyle around his continued success with MS Technologies. So what could a switch mean for him?

While many employers appreciate an employee like Joe who wants to diversify his expertise and adapt to new technologies, this doesn’t mean they’re necessarily comfortable paying that senior status salary while he takes the time to learn those new technologies from scratch.

To clarify, technology is evolving and staying on top of it is key. But if you plan on entirely switching your career direction towards new technology, you’ll no longer be at the senior level you were before. In this case, it’s a rarity to maintain the same salary. A big career leap often equals a big pay cut.

Minimizing the Impact

You can, however, do things to minimize this cut, taking more of a journey rather than a jump in your new career. Instead of literally leaping from one technology to another, aim to make a smooth transition. Consider doing side projects or freelance work before switching entirely. Fill your resume with things that show recent work in your new chosen technology, and present those work examples to your current or potential employer.
It’s about more than just showing passion for a new technology; you also have to make the effort to back it up. If you can prove you can do it, then there is a strong chance you will maintain some of your previous senior status, and that leap will look a little less dubious.

Bottom Line

Taking a chance on something new is an admirable decision and can lead to many great opportunities. Just make sure you’re prepared for everything a big switch may bring, including your new level of work experience and the financial impact. Rather than making a big jump, choose to make your switch into a journey to help you make a comfortable transition.

By Ana Malecki – IT Search Executive at Ashley Ellis