I got a comment on the site here today that I was going to repeat verbatim here, but I realized it was basically asking three questions, so why not just ask and answer the three questions?
They were, in no particular order, how do I hear from God, how do I get into the computer field, and can I hear back from you?
Can I hear back from you? Well, that’s what this is. My question is what’s so special about me? OK, so I’m a book author and I’ve got this Web site that gets tons of comments from lots of different people and has lots of content, some of which might be readable and helpful. There’s nothing more special about me than there is about your next-door neighbors.
I’ve done the same thing, even recently. I met a girl who seemed larger than life. Her field is in an area I admire and have no particular skill in. It seemed like you could take every woman I’ve ever admired, whether I knew her or not, combine them, and you had her.
Eventually she turned out to be a human being with hopes and dreams like me and fears and doubts like me. Still incredibly talented and incredibly likeable, just not superhuman.
Really, if there is anything that makes she or I seem more special than the average person, it’s that God has given us gifts and has helped us to identify them, refine them, and use them to something approaching their potential. Sadly a lot of people never recognize and utilize their gifts. But our passions are a clue. Chances are if you love something, you have some kind of gift in that area and you should explore it.
That’s the reason why I write. It makes me very little money but hopefully it helps somebody, and I know if I don’t use that gift, it will fade away. Which leads us to:
How does someone with little formal training get into the computer field? I don’t have much training in computers. I took a couple of programming classes in college. In an emergency I can program a little in C. I started fixing computers because I couldn’t find a reputable place to take a computer to be fixed when I was a teenager. When I’d take it to the local shop, they’d charge as much to fix it as it would have cost to buy a new one. So I figured I might as well try fixing them myself. At best, I’d save money. At worst, I’d have to buy a new one. Either way, I came out ahead. So I’m self-taught. I’ve been using computers since I was 7 years old, so I’ve been using them nearly 22 years. I’ve been fixing them since I was 15, so in two years I’ll be able to say I’ve been fixing computers for more than half my life.
I know there are lots of promises out there about making huge salaries working from home and being your own boss. I’m not the fulfillment of that. I don’t telecommute and neither does anyone else I work with.
This web site doesn’t make back the money I sink into it–it’s strictly a hobby–and my book made me less money than a part-time job at the White Castle down the street would have.
Occasionally people looking for second careers ask me for advice, but I can’t provide a fast track into the field. My recipe works if you can afford to spend years messing around and learning how to do stuff. That doesn’t describe most people.
So I always end up asking another question: Why computers? Finding IT jobs isn’t really any easier than finding any other kind of job right now, at least in St. Louis. If it’s easy where you live, my suggestion is to enroll in the local technical school, figure out what area of specialty interests you, get the closest certification that matches it.
One of my coworkers went through a career change about 15 years ago. After teaching music for almost 20 years, he left that profession and took an entry-level computer job. He actually took a pay cut to do it. He recommends a book titled What Color Is Your Parachute? I’ve never seen it or read it, but he says it’s in most libraries. It’s designed to help people find and get started in a new career, and, most importantly, to find the right one for them. The right career for every person is a little bit different.
So let’s talk about something more absolute.
How do I hear from God? Let me draw on another recent experience. Two people were trying to solve a problem. Both of them realized it wasn’t possible without God’s help. One of those people was me. I knew what the end goal was but didn’t know what it looked like. I prayed, asking God to show me. The next morning, I woke up with a specific Bible passage on my mind.
That was nearly two months ago. I still haven’t found exactly what I was looking for then, but I have found a lot of things that more closely resemble it. God is showing me the way.
The other person prayed, told God about the intended course of action, and and basically told God if He wanted a different course of action, to give a sign or something. The next morning? Dead silence.
I remember when I told this story to my friend Wayne, from my Bible study group. He chuckled and said, “That’s normal!”
This perfectly normal silence was interpreted as affirmation, which it may or may not have been. God sets His own deadlines and isn’t terribly pleased when we try to set them for Him. Or, as my friend and coworker Charlie often quotes: A wicked and adulterous generation demands a sign. God’s been trying for 2,000+ years to wean us off of signs and wonders.
God communicates to us primarily through His Word. While I do believe there are prophets today, I also believe they are very rare, and I know I don’t want the responsibility of that gift and I can’t imagine any sensible person wanting it either. God tells us that a prophet will never contradict His Word. So we can look for prophets for answers or seek to become one ourselves and we can search God’s Word for affirmation, or we can be lazy and just look to God’s Word.
Charlie told me about a conversation he had a few weeks ago. He spent half an hour beforehand reading some relevant passages from the Bible. At some point in the conversation, she asked if he’d heard anything from God about her specific problem. At that point I interrupted. “As a matter of fact, you did. You heard from Him for half an hour straight just before she called you!”
I recommend reading the Bible every day, although I have to admit I often miss a day. Bible.crosswalk.com is a Web site that divides the Bible up into three daily readings that will get you through the entire Bible in a year’s time. Frankly it takes me longer to read my morning work-related e-mail most days than it does to read a day’s worth of scripture.
There are other ways to immerse yourself in God’s Word. Find a church. Visit lots of them. Hopefully you’ll eventually find one where you’re comfortable and become a member and attend every Sunday and get involved. Even if you never find a church where you’re totally comfortable, try to go somewhere every Sunday that you are able. I’m constantly amazed at how God uses other believers to speak to us.
If there’s a Christian radio station where you are, listen to it occasionally. Find a Christian author or three to read. (A lot of people find Max Lucado very understandable and helpful.)
The idea is to open as many channels to God as you can. The more we do that, the easier it is to “hear” Him. But often we don’t hear Him so much as we see His guiding hand in our circumstances.
These are the things I wanted to tell this other person but never got the chance to. Hopefully they’ll help you or someone else.
I’ve been a longtime user of various operating systems and programs and have had some computer science courses in college, but my field was accounting. I eventually decided that I didn’t want to look back at the end of my life and wonder why I did something all my life that wasn’t fulfilling for me, and wasn’t the kind of thing that I was really made to do.
When I changed from accounting to the IT field I did take some tech school classes and get some certs. Mostly it was just a way to get a very low paying entry level job, and that not very easily. Like Dave says, IT jobs aren’t that much easier to get than jobs in other fields now.
After a few months I got a job at a large data center with lots of both Unix and Windows servers, but still not very well paid, shift work. After some months, as I learned more and showed ability I got a better shift, got to do some more interesting work, still contract.
Some months later I’ve just gotten a promotion into a Jr. Unix Admin/DBA position, am being hired as a permanent employee, and will be making almost as much as I was after over a decade as an accountant. This is with
Somehow the rest of my comment got cut off. Here is the rest, picking up where it was cut off, as best I can remember.
This is with
I have basic cert,but problem I having is getting the clients! Very little work for one man techs ,unless really well connected
Check out this same topic at slashdot.org/ : Freelance Technical Support
One more time…
What I was saying is that I’ve been able to get to the point of obtaining a pretty good position in the field in less than two years of actually being in IT. I’ve certainly prayed for the right opportunity and can’t take all the credit, but I do see a few lessons.
I’d say one is to do something that you have a passion for. I was looking to change fields into something that I’d pay to be able to do if I could afford it. Work hard to learn on your own; I run my own Linux email server, have setup Apache, Bind, etc. and spent lots of hours learning. Getting a cert and/or taking some classes helps to show that you’re serious about IT if you don’t have a computer science degree. Being prepared to start at a low paying job and learn from the ground up is often necessary.
Anyway, that’s my experience.
AL, I’ve haven’t tried the freelance route, other than helping friends for free. I could probably bone up on html and PHP and get a little web design work if I wanted. I’m thinking that it’s likely to be lot easier to gain experience with a company and build some business on the side than to start as a freelancer.
About hearing from God, Dave said it pretty well. I think personal quiet time/worship time is key. Also expecting Him to speak, combined with trust so that we don’t feel the need to start imagining things that He hasn’t really said because we’re afraid deep down that He won’t speak to us.
I think that the Bible is a key to keep us on track, but not sufficient for all guidance. It tells me that I’m not called to choose burglary as my occupation, but not whether to choose accounting or IT. Even more important than seeking God for guidance or even wisdom is seeking Him just for Himself and who He is.
A key theme underlying a lot of what Dave said and what Steve said: Faith.
God gives us the faith to work hard and do what needs to be done, determined, unrewarded and unnoticed. Eventually for some, that faith and hard work translates into what the “bigger” secular world calls success to one degree or another.
Some come along and observe that success and ask for advice. Some come along and observe that success, not seeing the faith in the face of long odds and the hard work and wonder “what did he ever do to deserve it?”
I’m not sure where I am going with this except that to say that it sure is frustrating when people frequently seek the short cut or are jealous of long years of expertise built up toiling away unknown that seems like over night success to the outside observer. It is easier to tear down than to build your own foundation strong…
Well, I’m rambling…
I can heartily recommend What Color is My Parachute. I worked through it over ten years ago when I was trying to figure out what to do with my career. It really helped me sort some things out.