24 Alternative Careers for Tech Workers That Aren't in IT

With IT departments laying off staff to cut costs and a grim outlook for IT job growth in 2009, now's a good time for tech workers to get out of IT. Here's a list of jobs tech workers could easily switch into. (But hold onto your hats, some may really surprise you.)

If you're a tech worker, now's a good time to consider getting out of the IT profession. For good.

Tech jobs in the U.S. are vanishing faster than pot brownies at a String Cheese Incident concert. In all seriousness, the outlook for IT job growth in 2009 is dismal. Software as a service is rendering traditional IT skills irrelevant. And layoffs, outsourcing and incompetent managers are pushing IT workers over the edge. They've arguably never been more miserable in their careers than they are now.

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Alternative Careers for CIOs

Who needs it?

Certainly, you don't. That's why CIO.com compiled a list of jobs outside of IT that different tech workers could easily move into based on their strengths, skills and their unique thought processes. The list is by no means exhaustive; it's designed to spark your imagination. You may be surprised by just how transferable your IT skills are.

IT Project Manager

Good project managers are organized, disciplined, studied and deadline-driven. They're known for being able to orchestrate the activities of lots of different people, to balance competing priorities and to juggle many activities simultaneously. They also often have to deal with totally unreasonable "customers" and deadlines, which is why they'd make good...

  • Wedding/Event Planners: Making sure a wedding comes off without a hitch will seem like a breeze after dealing with the millions of variables involved in a software project. Dealing with Bridezilla, however...well, perhaps not so much.
  • Professional Organizers: You can use your organizational skills to get other people's lives in order, and you'll make a bundle doing it.
  • Personal Trainers/Martial Arts Instructor: Use your self-discipline to discipline others into getting in shape.
  • Symphony Conductors: If you're musically inclined, you can combine your ability to keep teams of people on task with your musical interests to conduct an orchestra.

Help Desk Administrator

Unflappable personalities, infectiously pleasant demeanors and an ability to calm stressed-out users are hallmarks of the best help desk workers. They're driven by a genuine desire to please others and solve people's problems, which is why the following jobs would suit them...

  • Entrepreneurs: Use your winning personality and customer service orientation to buy a franchise or start your own business.
  • Sales reps: If starting your own business sounds too risky, you can use your engaging personality to sell luxury goods in a high-end boutique, pharmaceuticals to doctors or software to CIOs.
  • Recruiters: Recruiters solve companies' staffing problems, and they're known for their sunny dispositions.
  • Customer service reps: The best customer service workers, like the best help desk workers, remain calm in stressful situations and are able to impose that calm on others.
  • Social Workers/Psychologists: These professions leverage your desire to help others.
  • Phone Sex Workers: You're good on the phone, right?

Software Developer

"Programmers have to be able to see the end at the beginning because they're starting something with an end in mind," says Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology. She adds that software developers also have to be extremely detail-oriented. Their brains are logical, but software developers also have a creative streak. They like to solve intellectual problems, which is why they'd make good...

  • Technical Writers: Software developers are uniquely qualified to excel as technical writers.
  • Novelists: Writing fiction is a heady intellectual challenge and a great way to exercise your imaginative side. But note that unless you win the Oprah's Book Club lottery you likely won't be able to quit your day job.
  • Mathematicians: Many computer scientists majored in math in college. Moving into a career in math wouldn't be much of a stretch.
  • Musicians: Another way to indulge your creative side is through music.
  • Architects: Architects combine the best of left-brain and right-brain thinking, much like the best software developers.

Business Analyst

The business analyst serves as a liaison between end-users and software developers. The business analyst's primary function is to find out what end-users want an application to do and to communicate those requirements to software developers, says Lee. She notes that gathering requirements from users can be like pulling teeth so, like a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, business analysts have to ask really good, hard, specific questions. "They're good at making you think, being very diplomatic and dealing with different personalities," says Lee. The following professions rely on the same skills business analysts use...

  • Translators/Interpreters: Good business analysts are effective interpreters and translators of business requirements. Your mind is suited to do the same with a foreign language.
  • Reporters/Journalists: Your ability to ask specific questions and elicit information from taciturn people would serve you very well if you chose to pursue a career as a reporter. With your tech background, you could easily become an IT journalist.
  • Conflict Negotiators/Mediators: Use your diplomatic skills to resolve conflicts among students in schools, inner-city gangs or pugilistic nations.
  • Dentists: You're good at pulling teeth, right?

QA Tester

QA testers get paid to try to break software applications in bench- and stress tests. They get paid to find and fix the bugs that cause applications to fail. As such, they need to be creative, discriminating, persistent and persnickety, much like people in these professions...

  • Copyeditors: If you know the fundamentals of grammar and composition, you can apply your ability to find errors in code to finding mistakes on the page.
  • Product inspectors: Use your QA mindset to inspect a product other than software.
  • Wine-tasters: If your palate and nose are as discriminating as your mind, you'd make Bacchus proud as a good wine-taster.
  • Movie reviewers: Apply your discerning eye to something fun.
  • Exterminators: Why not kill real bugs?

As you can see from this list, a world of opportunity exists for IT professionals beyond IT. There's no reason to put up with a job you can't stand in an industry that doesn't appreciate you when you could apply your skills in more lucrative and fulfilling careers. The possibilities are endless.

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