I retired three years ago at 54 from a career in programming. I never got a degree in the field, never got certified, but I still get calls from ex-employers and head hunters checking to see if I want to go back.
The average age of the developers in the office I left was 47 and females were in the majority. We had two in their late 60s. There wasn’t much age discrimination there. All they cared about was breathing bodies who could produce.
If you’re trying to get hired in the IT field today, here are some suggestions:
- Ignore the certification requirements posted for specific jobs and apply for ones you like anyway.
Only the most elite of companies will turn you down for lacking certification, if you have some experience.
- Try temping.
Often, temp jobs result in permanent positions.
- Approach IT consulting firms.
They hire you, give you benefits, and contract you out. Some will test you and market your skills accordingly. Most are very good at making you look good. Once hired by them, most will work closely with you to get you the skills and certification you need to make you more marketable. (Because the better you are, the more money they make).
- Take an entry level help desk job in a company that does in-house development.
Let the hiring manager know what you really want to be doing. It’s menial. But one of the best ways for developers to get their feet in the door. The company may even pay you for the certification courses and tests. Better yet, try a for a QA, analyst or tester position. Those jobs will put you in contact with developers and maybe you’ll find a mentor. Since you were in real estate, try mortgage financial services. the more you know about the business, the more willing a company is to hire someone with entry level skills.
- Consider additional courses in mainframe or midframe areas (take a few courses in the old languages – like COBOL, Assembler).
Large companies cannot get away from mainframes and struggle to find people who can do this work. You’ll also find more companies willing to hire you for that type of work, because the young people do not wish to pursue mainframe. And older, mainframe people, are usually the ones doing the hiring for it. Try the older large companies (IBM, HP, insurance, banks and utilities companies).
- Look and feel young.
Get a makeover. Lose some weight if you need to. Update your wardrobe.
- Look up the AARP’s list of age-friendly companies.
I don’t know if that still exists, but if it does, it might be helpful. (Also, have you tried them for life insurance?)
Join local and online IT groups. Most openings are by word of mouth. Put your resume online. My favorite all-time job came from somebody finding my resume online after I had forgotten I put it there.
It’s tough out there. But there are IT jobs left in the US. Best of luck to you.
[This advice was first posted as part of this conversation ~ Eds.]