Mid-life career change

By microvirus05 ยท 7 replies
Jul 12, 2005
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  1. Hello so here's the deal: I am a 21-year Union Stagehand, working with sound/light systems at major arenas/stadiums and theaters in the NY/NJ/Phila metro area so I have experience with somewhat large and complex sound and lighting systems. It is very HARD physical work though and at 50 - on a friend's advice, I am back in school - just got my CompTIA A+, taking Networking+ exam next week. Then onto an MCSA track followed by CCNA. Here's my question - at my age and newbie status do I have a shot at getting away from the stagework and working perhaps help desk to start? Or am I too old for this? I am not so naive as to think I will tear up the landscape straight off, I can hang with lower pay for as long as it takes. Did my friend recommend a workable certification tract? Am I too OLD? (btw I aced the first exam, piece of cake) Any advice pos or neg would be appreciated (I can take it, I've been around awhile). Thanks..........
  2. Justin

    Justin TS Rookie Posts: 942


    Are you 21, or are you 50?

    Ah, 50.

    You're never too old to start over, I guess. Unless you're so old you're likely to die before you finish coursework.

    But why stop learning? Keep on going.
  3. microvirus05

    microvirus05 TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I'll take that as encouragement - to clear it up, I have worked 21 years as a stagehand and I am 50 years old. Thanks
  4. microvirus05

    microvirus05 TS Rookie Topic Starter

    BTW I'm more likely to die after a 110 hour week building scaffolding in the summer sun and pulling 220v 10/4 cable out of road boxes than I am getting aggravated by my (probably) kid future boss HA!
  5. just_a_nobody

    just_a_nobody TS Rookie Posts: 182

    Hi microvirus, You're never too old. Heck, with all your schooling, you should be able to start your own small computer repair business. However, with that said, you may lack experience, so that is what you want to work on the most, while you are still working.

    You live in a large metro area, so I am sure their are very good possibilities for you. My own suggestion, to you, would be, to go on eBay, and find some cheap parts, for an entire system, to put together, and troubleshoot. You don't really need the greatest system, to start, just a PIII, or a socket 462 Athlon, running win98SE to start with. There are still a lot of people who run win98, so don't think you are cheating yourself.

    Don't worry about the internet, at first, refrain from connecting to the internet, until you are familiar with the hardware and basic software of your system. Learn the file structure (Windows Explorer), and become familiar with the main folders and the files contained in them. Click on all the .exe files you find, so you know what they are, and where they are located.

    Practice tearing apart, and putting your practice computer back together. It takes me about 5 minutes, to strip any one of my computers down to nothing, and about 30 minutes to put them back together. Putting them back together is where you learn to troubleshoot....lol, you'd be surprised if you forget one thing, how it can lead to other discoveries.

    Most important, look at this as a hobby, you'll be surprised at the rush you get when that first system fires up, and everything runs, and you'll get that same rush with every system that you put together. Practice makes perfect, they say, but getting over the fear of damaging the computer, is something many people have a hard time getting over.

    If you have friends, who own computers that have problems, offer your assistance, to help them. You could post a small ad at a local grocery store's bulletin board, to start your business. You don't want to get to much business, at first, until you are comfortable with what you are doing.

    You don't want to charge a lot of money either, until you know, that you can deliver quality service in a reasonable time. If your customer is satisfied, with your work, they will tell others. However, if they are displeased with your service, they will tell others more than once....lol. Once you are well established, and have proven quality service, then think about charging more, but keep your prices below your closest competitor.

    Look for service ideas, like I go and pick up my customer's box, for them, and work on it at my home. That way the customer does not have to sit and wait for you to work on it at their home, and plus you have all your tools at your house, so you both win. Keep your customer informed, as to what problems you find, and an estimate time that you will finish, and return their computer. Also, don't replace any hardware, without the customer's knowledge, if you find something bad, let them know, right away that it's bad, and how much the part will cost; you can add a slight markup, but don't go crazy. I always buy cheap memory, on eBay, just incase the customer doesn't want to pay the higher price, for new memory, I offer the used memory as an alternative. I've had pretty good luck buying memory off eBay, as all my machines have memory, from there, in some form, or the other.

    Repairing computers, and seeing the happy faces, of your customers, is a gratifying experience. Of course, I live in a small town, out in the middle of nowhere, so I am sure you can make a good go, of your own computer repair business, just be honest with your customers, and you will succeed.

    That's advice from one 50 year old to another. I never intended to repair computers, I just fell into it, when somebody asked me, to look at their computer, to see if I could fix it. Well, after that, I was getting a lot of calls, and they haven't let up yet. Good luck and best wishes!
  6. Vigilante

    Vigilante TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,666

    Experience is the biggest thing. I've taken courses and done studies, college, bla bla. But I never learned the stuff for what I actually "do". What you need most is not a vast vocabulary of terms and theory. You need the raw, powerful skill of troubleshooting. You need not to know exactly what a problem is and how to fix it. You need to be able to use a fundamental skillset to attack ANY problem to it's root. And then be able to fix it.

    I don't know where you want to go with this but I have a few more thoughts.

    With the CCNA and MCSA stuff, what exactly is your plan of career? Cause CCNA leads back to wireing and physical server stuff :)
    But anways, that is more networking. A+, which is just about the only one, deals with the hardware/software repair side of things. Which is always the first place to start.
    But CCNA leads you into routers and networking stuff. Which is a career where you may never HAVE to find out why Windows updates doesn't work. Instead you are building a network infrastructure.

    I don't know, but I think at your age you would want to learn as quick as possible, so you can get experience as quick as possible. So it doesn't take 8 years of college to get anywhere. My advice would be to take the college courses, all the general ones. All the computer repair, software, maintenence ones. Then take a course or two for the OSs like XP Home and Pro. Then Server 2003. Maybe take one for Linux as well.
    Then take your classes for cisco, if you really need to. Or take classes to get the MCSA, which requires 4 or 5 certs. It's not easy.

    With all that paperwork under your belt, and your asking price as an employee is low, you should be able to get in most any place. But my idea would be to call around to all the big places like the schools and colleges themselves, hospitals and businesses. See if you can get in as a junior tech support or network technician. Basically a "start as the side kick and eventually run the place" type deals.
    You won't last long just working for $10 an hour at a mom-and-pop repair store. You want to get into a corporation that has a future (and retirement plan) for you. That always has opportunities for growth and advancement. Where you have an upper level mentor to learn your real-world experience from for a couple years.

    Keep in mind that you may be smart enough to get a job in this field already. Cause a good ammount of larger companies will help pay for those classes, IF you already work for them. So it doesn't hurt to spread your name around soon. If you get a job early, great, maybe they will help keep you in school and help pay the bills too.

    So enough rambling, good luck!
  7. zephead

    zephead TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,569

    your anticipated future boss isn't going to be so bad, compared to the people you're going to have to deal with once a technician.
  8. Vigilante

    Vigilante TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,666

    HAHA, well said. There is no weirder people then ones who come to get their PCs fixed.

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