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Growing up, I remember well-meaning adults advising me that when it came to jobs and careers I should separate my creative pursuits from my work life. It was fine to play music or paint or do creative writing, but these things weren’t going to provide a good living. Do them in your spare time but focus on getting a stable and predictable job to pay your bills.
Of course most of us do want stability (and some degree of predictability!) when it comes to employment. I’ll go out on a limb and assume that most people want a workplace that isn’t going to evaporate tomorrow and where clear duties and expectations are communicated. But stability and predictability in the sense of this advice often just meant jobs that were boring.
I made the mistake of following that advice and during my college years I compartmentalized my passions from what I thought I needed to do to get a career. The result? It took me almost a decade to finish a four year degree and I STILL didn’t use it for anything employment-wise when I was done.
Meanwhile, I watched friends of mine mix their genuine interests with more grounded pursuits and find ways to combine the two into work they loved. This work didn’t always mirror their passions exactly (not every single one of the many band people I knew in the 1990’s went on to becoming major recording artists), but they found ways to channel what they loved into gainful employment.
It’s very possible that you could spend 90,000+ hours of your life working. If you’re not doing something you’re passionate about then this sounds like a really bleak sentence. If you’re doing something you love though, it suddenly becomes a life well-lived.
Unfortunately, many of us fall into the trap of the boring job that is stable and predictable while it drains our spirit each of those 90,000 hours at a time.
One of the biggest pitfalls of the “job I hate” trap is the overwhelming feeling of paralysis and stagnation that sets in: I know I hate the job I’m doing, but what else could I possibly do? And how could I ever get there? The things I’m good at and the things that interest me aren’t going to pay the bills anyway.
And then you hear about everything a career in tech has to offer: flexible schedules, remote work, great pay (even in entry-level positions). But as great as it all sounds, that’s the domain of computer science doctorates, right?”
Wrong. In fact there’s a very good chance that tech really IS for you, in ways that are so obvious you just haven’t thought of them. Does that sound crazy? Take a look at these five questions, and once you’re done see how you feel.
1. Are You Creative?
There’s no more inaccurate notion about the tech industry than it being all about 1’s and 0’s. Those 1’s and 0’s play a big part of course, but tech is much more varied than that. From web developers to UX designers to marketing assistants and data analysts, “tech” covers a lot of ground career wise, and the one thing that all those jobs have in common is that they’re creative.
In fact, creativity is the foundation behind almost everything in tech, making it an ideal field for fusing your passions with dependable employment.
Do you like turning your ideas into tangible things? Expressing yourself on a stage, canvas, or page? If you have this creative drive you’re a short list of skills away from translating that creativity to the digital realm. Think of those 1’s and 0’s as creative tools like the language you use to write with or the paints or materials you use for visual arts. Do they seem a lot more friendly now?
Remember, at the end of the day any piece of tech hardware, software, app, or website is ultimately a creative work of art. If you’re creative, you’re a natural for this kind of work.
2. Are You a Problem Solver?
In addition to being a creative industry, tech is a living, evolving network of problems to be solved. There is no “there” in tech, no end point, just the next problem to be solved before moving on to the one after that.
If you answered “yes” to being creative, you’ll most likely answer “yes” to being a problem solver as well. Creativity and problem solving go hand-in-hand, since the process of creating IS fundamentally solving problems.
How do I take this idea that’s in my head and bring it into the world? And once I bring it into the world and see what works and what doesn’t, how do I continue to build it and shape it and perfect it? And once I’ve perfected it and I notice its new defects now that it’s perfect, how do I go about perfecting those?
If you enjoy the process of problem solving and the challenges and rewards it brings, tech might be right for you. Tech problem solving is no different than figuring out a way to make a persuasive argument in an essay or finding out how to sculpt a vase in the shape you’ve envisioned—it’s just a different framework and a new set of tools.
3. Are You a Lifelong Learner?
If you are creative AND a problem solver, I’m willing to bet you MIGHT also be a lifelong learner. You’re probably not the type who slammed the books shut the second school was over and walked away, never to inquire again.
More likely, you’re the kind of person who is constantly taking on new information, learning new skills, and finding new ways to look at and think about things.
And that’s probably a big part of why you’re unhappy with your current job. Maybe you’ve found yourself in a place where the need for new skills has bottomed out. Where you basically do the same thing every day and are able to coast through without much of a challenge.
For someone who thrives on learning (and creativity and problem solving) this can be an excruciating situation. Even if an unchallenging job is easy and pays OK, if you live to be challenged you’re going to be miserable in the long run.
Doesn’t that sound better than stagnating in a cubicle? Don’t let the tech mystique intimidate you. You’ve been learning new skills your whole life, which is another reason that tech is right for you!
4. Are You on the Outside Looking In?
One of the biggest obstacles to pursuing a tech career is feeling like you’re on the outside looking in. If you’re new to the idea of working in tech and don’t know a lot about it, it might seem like you don’t have direct access to an inside track. Happily, there are a ton of resources out there to point you in the right direction. On top of that, your status as an outsider might actually be a BENEFIT to your tech ambitions.
Since tech is always changing and evolving, the more perspectives you can bring to the table, the better. Think of all the non-tech experiences in your life so far as a positive. You aren’t operating inside of a tech bubble so you might be able to think about things in a way someone inside that bubble can’t, or see things that others in the bubble can’t see.
By learning tech skills and combining them with your own unique pre-existing set of skills and experiences, you’ll be bringing a mind and a voice to tech that has spent time outside the confines of computer science degrees. And that’s certainly not a bad thing.
Embrace your outsider/newcomer status and let it help you stand out in a good way. Also keep in mind that the soft skills you’ve picked up along the way in other fields still apply in tech. This article from CIO.com talks about soft skills that employers in tech should be looking for, and none of them require a tech-specific background.
5. Do You Like Innovation?
If you’re bored or unchallenged by a job where the same things happen every day, I have to assume you’re more into innovation than you are unoriginality. An interest in innovation goes hand-in-hand with all the other qualities listed so far.
And if innovation, newness, and the growth and evolution that come with charting new terrain sounds promising to you, then start pursuing a career in tech right now.
By working in tech you will literally be working with new technologies as they emerge. I can’t remember a day that I didn’t use YouTube at least once, but YouTube has only been with us for a little over ten years! It changed our entire world—so quickly that we barely even noticed it. Imagine being on the frontline of these reality-altering innovations and not just being a spectator. It beats clockwatching, right?
Being an industry of innovation, tech also applies that innovation to itself, and chances are most tech jobs you’ll find won’t involve a 9 to 5, A to B linear work environment either.
More likely you’ll be able to find a job with a schedule that tailors itself to your needs, or even one that allows you to work remotely. Do you like the idea of being on the cutting edge of technology AND the cutting edge of work environments? Then tech is right for you.
Think about these questions, and if you answered “yes” to any combination of the above a career in tech might be closer than you think.
Scott Morris is Skillcrush's staff writer and content producer. Like all the members of Skillcrush's team, he works remotely (in his case from Napa, CA). He believes that content that's worth reading (and that your audience can find!) creates brands that people follow. He's experienced writing on topics including jobs and technology, digital marketing, career pivots, gender equity, parenting, and popular culture. Before starting his career as a writer and content marketer, he spent 10 years as a full-time parent to his daughters Veronica and Athena.