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Ask HN: Ever faced difficulties pivoting your job or career later in your life?
174 points by innomansland on Jan 31, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 72 comments
Tldr; I'm an architect (in a niche industry) trying to get a job in another industry but find myself constantly rejected for either having not enough experience for a similar architect/lead role or being overqualified for a lower role (i.e. dev, support, etc).

I've been in the telco industry for 12 years where I started as a systems tester, became a support engineer, got into a lead role for a team of support engineers (i built the team from scratch at a startup!) and eventually ended up as an architect for a vendor (think Cisco) where I do pre-sales, architecture design and lead the onshore/offshore teams to deliver client projects.

Early last year, I noticed a big shift in my industry to Managed Services and knew that it is a space I need to get myself involved in if I were to stay relevant for the next few years. Unfortunately, the company I am with is neither in this space nor have any plans in the future to be in it hence I started to look around for jobs at other companies in this space. After 3 months in, I'm now feeling utterly perplexed.

I tried applying for lead/architect roles and was rejected (without even going to the interview stage) being told that I don't have enough experience or expertise. Fair point I guess since I'm in a niche industry thus I started looking at roles that allow me to start at the bottom (i.e. dev, support/operations, customer success). Even then, I keep getting rejected with the common trope that I don't have enough experience or I am either overqualified and/or will not be a good fit for the team!

I asked my professional network for some inputs on the matter and I've been told that I'm in an age group (30-40) where companies are not that keen to hire cause I'm considered too old (ageism). Is this possible? I'm barely in my early 30s so I find that very strange cause I don't consider myself old at all.

So, have any of you ever been in the same situation and do you have any advice on how should I overcome this?

This could be a number of things. For context, I've been in recruiting for ~20 years (mostly software startups) and I also write resumes and consult/coach job seekers on a number of topics.

Getting rejected without getting to the interview stage could be for several reasons.

Ageism - not all that likely in your early 30s, depending on your audience.

Resume - if your resume doesn't convey your background well enough for the job you applied for, obviously nobody is going to interview you. If your resume is too bulky, nobody is even going to read (or skim) it. If you'd like it looked at by a professional, I'm easy to find.

Overqualified/not a fit is often code for something else. It's much easier to tell a candidate "you're overqualified" (i.e. our work is below you) because that is flattering. It's much harder to tell someone "the team genuinely didn't like you", as that is not only insulting to some people but also may cause you to ask follow-up questions. Tell someone they're overqualified and it's hard to follow-up - tell someone they "aren't a fit" and they don't usually ask "why?", because it's rather ambiguous.

Sometimes overqualified means "paid above what we can afford".

You mention twice you're in a niche industry, so I am guessing it's pretty niche. Your problem is likely a marketing issue. How do we package your background in order to make it attractive to a wider audience? What are the elements of your background that we can make more 'universal' to people out of your industry? Does your resume speak too much to the people in your industry, and does it assume that readers will understand some of the terms and acronyms that may not be part of the wider tech lexicon?

Could be tons of things.

hey dave, really awesome feedback! I couldn't thank you enough.

I actually agree on most points, especially on the ageism bit considering I am not exactly old. It is been my sneakiest feeling that it is my resume and/or cover letter.

I saw in your profile that this is an area of expertise. Will it be ok if I engage you for some help? I will send an email via my personal account later in the day if it's fine with you.

My email is in my profile, feel free to send me what you've got and I'll take a look (you may not need resume help at all, so don't order anything).

unsolicited - I mailed you my CV too.

If you were in the same industry (potentially the same company) for 12 years, you may be getting tagged with a bit of a "career employee" stigma. I'm 49 now and took 5 years out between the ages of 39-44 to teach English in Japan. I'm back in the industry now. It took me about a month to get a job when I came back.

The key is really flexibility. If you have a a very narrow focus, you will have difficulty getting work. You need to be able to take on anything. In my career, I've worked in health care, Windows productivity apps, telecom and now I'm doing business systems/web development.

There is absolutely nothing wrong being a pre-sales guy. There is tons of work in that area. But if you try to stay in a particular technology area, you may find that there just isn't much work. You need to show that you can branch out and be productive in whatever a company needs you to do.

For me, having a portfolio and a solid side project helped a lot. If you are working now, I recommend spending the next year taking 8-10 hours a weeks to build a good portfolio that show-cases what you can do. A side project is fine, or several projects, or concentrate on writing blog posts -- whatever you think will be able to sell your skills in the future.

Also, take time to go to meetups, coding dojos, etc. Again, if you spend one day a week for the next year in these kinds of activities, you will find that you will be well plugged in to the local scene.

And yes... I realise that this is pretty difficult when you want to also have a life outside of work. But it will pay considerable dividends for your career.

This is gold! Can't thank you enough for your input.

Just as a side note, while my professional life is very "narrow", I have been doing stuff on the side! I own 3 dropshipping sites (WooCommerce & Shopify) and 2 pseudo-SaaS sites (one MEAN stack and the other Meteor.JS). I started these projects last year just so that I can get my hands dirty in the latest web technologies (last time i made a full fledged website, I was using LAMP and/or Perl!) and also, hopefully, generate some side income for myself (my FI goals is a story for another day).

Anyway, I did include these projects in some of my applications where appropriate but it seems to be ignored. There was another Ask HN thread on this particular topic [1] and it seems that side projects are generally ignored?

You did raise an interesting point on meetups, coding dojos, conferences, etc which will provide an avenue for me to meet people to hopefully build a network outside of my current profession. There is one thing I am absolutely confident with is talking to people! I love being in customer support. :)

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13463105

Off topic but I had the same experience as well. I had a side project which was twice as challenging and impressive as anything I had developed in my 9-5 job. But for some reason, interviewers only ever wanted to know what I did 9-5. I never did figure out why. My best guess is that they figure it can't really be all that great if no one paid you for it.

I've heard other people say the same thing... It's interesting. My projects have definitely got me interviews, but I admit that it has generally happened when I met someone at another event. You get to talking about what you've been working on and I just pull out my laptop and show them. So maybe that's the difference. I know that when I've been hiring, I always look at people's side projects. If they have a nice project I might not even bother looking at their CV. I might be strange, though...

The term side project is often associated with Hobby. Those who do not appreciate side project also do not appreciate the amount of work that can go into 1. If you put real hours into it, your best interest is sharing your side project as if it was a part-time contract. You never have to divulge how much you made on a side project.

This is a lot harder if your side project is a solo work.

Just treating your project like this, can allow for you to control the conversation better during an interview.

Your prospective colleagues and bosses would have been impressed by it. However, to impress the recruiter is a different ball game. Especially the inexperienced recruiters, who don't always understand the challenges of one technology vs another. Another possibility could be you were person #25 or even #7 to apply to the job and they already found a pretty good fit in the first 6.

At the end of the day, the person is hiring to fill a specific job. A side project can represent every aspect of a business/product, it's the interviewee's job to spin it in a way that makes it relevant to what the interviewer is trying to hire for.

I think a big mistake a lot of people make with side project marketing is throwing the entire kitchen sink at the interviewer.

I was told I was to business focused and not technical because of my side project. Even though I learned a completely new language on mobile.

As others have said, a side project has been a huge help in getting me into avenues and opening up doors. Start with something small but relevant to the skill set you want to have.

Also, blogging about the industry you want to get into also helps establish yourself as a thought leader. You can re purpose the content for linkedin, medium etc.

>There is absolutely nothing wrong being a pre-sales guy.

Good pre-sales people with technical knowledge and some commercial acumen are like gold dust.

Ya, I didn't even know what "pre-sales" meant before getting the pre-sales architect job I have now. Know your tech, know how to dev something, but mostly know how to communicate. It's the communication thing that often separates folks. I really like having that customer interaction in different industries and solving different problems, also traveling.


There is one thing I am absolutely confident with is my ability to not only deal with customers but to also lead technical teams to deliver what they require. I have great references from both my clients and internal teams hence why I thought this will be an easy enough transferable skill to other industry. Nope! After applying for similar pre-sales roles in other industries, I get the feeling that most require actual experience in the industry that role is in (which is fair enough).

TL;DR: That's me, but I can't understand how a presales specialist with broad experience and a demonstrated skillset can't get anything other than offers for "developer" or "project manager" or more presales.

This is something that I have given a lot of thought in recent years.

I'm in my early 30s and have a CS degree, ~11 years of experience in business intelligence and analytics, and I worked my way through consulting roles that ranged from developer, technical lead, project manager and presales. My CV also includes a startup and a senior advisory role.

I excel at presales because I have a broad technical skillset and it's easy for me to understand diferent industry problems and advise/communicate with people on any step of the corporate ladder.

However, the feeling I get is that presales only lead to more presales roles, where most of your time is spent meeting clients and producing countless presentations to get to an eventual prototype...and there's more presales to do, so your involvement on most projects (even those you sell) is marginal at best, and that makes it harder to move to other roles.

This is a problem when I apply to roles other than "consulting", because even though I have designed and planned (and sometimes delivered) technology solutions for basically any business problem that has been thrown at me, I didn't actually have a hand in delivering most of them, even though I excelled when I did.

My experience with recruiters is that most of them disregard (or don't understand) the knowledge and skills necessary to designing and planning business solutions, in detriment of actually implementing the technology, and this makes it hard for them to consider you knowledgeable on a specific domain.

The depressing thing is that, where I work (small EU country), the industry is dominated by numerous middlemen ("consulting" firms), so hiring is mostly for outsourced "developer" and "project manager" positions where you are basically "in the grind" of projects that are most often poorly planned or managed, and thus turn into a nightmare for the teams.

What baffles me is that my skills and experience seem to be of great value for Clients I've worked for in different industries, yet those same Clients prefer to recruit people with a more limited scope (both in terms of tech and business knowledge). It's either "developer" or "project manager".

I'm describing my experience applying for roles...fortunately, I get considered for positions that actually require my skills, but never through traditional recruitment processes (that just seem to get worse).

>> However, the feeling I get is that presales only lead to more presales roles, where most of your time is spent meeting clients and producing countless presentations to get to an eventual prototype...and there's more presales to do, so your involvement on most projects (even those you sell) is marginal at best, and that makes it harder to move to other roles.

This was one of the main reasons I left PreSales. I love technical work and I did really well with and clients who needed somebody who could deeply understand hard questions and solve problems that took longer than 1 day to solve. But at the end of the day most PreSales organizations reward demo experts who can sell quickly, not people who sell based on solving tough technical problems that take longer to solve.

The end result is that a lot of PreSales people either lose the deeper technical skills they once had and IMO the profession attracts a lot of people who had a technical background but truthfully weren't very technically strong when they did have a technical role.

I am in my late forties and on my third career pivot. My progression was from electronics technician to unix system administrator to project manager with some short stints in other occupations between "real jobs" - I worked as a high school cleaner for a while and as a grave digger. Last pivot (to PM) was just over 5 years ago. I wouldn't rule a fourth (or more!) pivot out, though it is more likely to involve going from employee to self employed/business owner rather than a different type of salaried position. You can succeed and do well at anything at any age if you are willing to work at it. And by work at it I mean in company time and in your own.

I recommend: only do stuff you are interested in any-way and only work with people/companies who are fun and worthwhile.

Good luck!

> My progression was from electronics technician to unix system administrator to project manager with some short stints in other occupations between "real jobs" - I worked as a high school cleaner for a while and as a grave digger.

I take my hat off to you, sir.

That's an encouraging story. I'm currently transitioning to a different type of role and having a lot of self doubt about my choices, but it helps to hear stories like yours.

So if they tell you you are too old in your early 30s/40s/50s/etc. their hiring policy is fucked up in the first place, so do not worry about that, as you do not want to work for such a company anyway.

My advice is to think about the $domain (news, social-media, medical devices, bioinformatics, vision, gaming, earth-observation, automobile, chemistry, education, ...) you would like to work in and the $activity (software development, software testing, marketing, sales, support, devops, technical documentation, talking-with-humans, teaching, ...) you would like to spend most of your work time onto.

If you have clear answers to these questions it might be simpler to find potential work employees and companies and you can also make a more specialized cold-email application.

Just to be clear, I was never told that I am "too old" but simply wasn't a "culture fit". Note that particular reason was given probably 1 out of every 10 times and the other 9 times, it is usually along the lines of "we did not find you a good fit for the role".

Funny enough, I do have a particular industry (actually two) that I am extremely interested in - FinTech and Cloud Computing/Hosting. Neither which I have any commercial experiences in and only ever dabbled on my own free time.

And yes, I have tried cold emailing companies that I am interested in but no dice. :(

Thanks for your reply though! Did get me thinking.

> Funny enough, I do have a particular industry (actually two) that I am extremely interested in and that is fintech and cloud hosting.

Fintech and cloud hosting are very broad terms, but assuming you like the domain of financial tech, the question remains what you would like to spend your time on: Programming? Writing market analysis reports? Talking to customers?

Customer Support or Operations.

I see where you are going with this! I always thought I knew exactly what I want to be in but what may be specific for me may be vague to someone else.

wow... With that eloquence I can't imagine you looking for a job, but, please, if you would ever consider a startup as your future challenge, with highly scalable business model with target of 200x on the current stock option plan price, interesting technical NODE.JS/ArangoDB scalability challenges, solving worldwide network infrastructure stability, with a good salary and 30 days paid vacation in Prague, CZ, please, do let me know at pavel at ipfabric dot io.

Hey Pavel, not sure if you reply was for zeptomu or myself but i just checked out ipfabric and it looks really interesting! I hope it is ok if I send you an email about this?

"Culture fit" can indeed be code for ageism and sometimes sexism, but more often it is just superficial cultural signifiers, such as dressing too formally / not formally enough, the wrong sort of facial hair, too much / not enough makeup, being the wrong kind of health fanatic, too many / too few positions in your job history, a percieved difference in appetite for financial risk, and so on.

I am at a similar position but have not yet to started to actually look for a job. I am a 37 yo marketing guy and now I am learning to code to become a software developer (web). My approach is to take some time to learn the basics, create some projects that a potential future employee would recognize as demonstrative of my hard skills and then start looking.

When you talk about software development, this path is obvious, you can't do anything if you don't code. But even when there is no obvious hard skill that you can learn, I think you should try doing this way. Study, practice and create a portfolio of projects that demonstrate you are really knowledgeable about the topic. Don't expect any potential employer to trust that your skills are transferable and the new skills you will learn "on the job". Try to be as ready as possible to perform at the new role, not be hired as a promise.

Also, I don't believe 3 months is that long time to be discouraged and draw conclusions about why you are unemployable. Keep trying to check if that is actually the reality.

That said, I don't discard ageism or other reasons not related to performance to influence all the dismissions. It is possibly (probably?) part of the reason, but one you can't control. Except having some thoughtful arguments on why your age shouldn't be a problem, maybe even an advantage.

Good luck!

wow, you are doing more of a pivot then I am!

In my years of working, the most rare gems I ever found was people that are not only good at marketing but can code. If you are a champ at these 2 skills, man.. such a killer combo.

I said somewhere above but I actually do code and have a portfolio of side projects but it doesn't seem to matter (at least with the companies I have applied for). Nevertheless, you are right that 3 months is not that long.. I will start despairing at the 1 year mark! :D

This is interesting, in my almost 20 year career, I took the opposite approach: started out as a web dev. ("coder"), then moved to marketing...Actually it was as follows: web dev. > tech lead > project mgr > product mgr.

It is weird for me though; whenever I am in interviews, and the interviewer finds out my past, their eyes light up (because I can straddle both the tech and non-tech/business/marketing sides), and always get excited about my skillset...However, on paper, people eyes don't light up...Its like recruiters and the HR filters want specialists (pigeon-holed into the exact job duties without any deviation what so ever) at least per so many job descriptions that I have seen...But then when you are in an interview with the hiring manager, what they actually, really want are generalists who can have at least one specialty in whatever specific role they need. I'v gone on enough interviews in my time, and while maybe not 100%, this scenario plays out well over 90% of the time. Maybe its my resume, but it seems so odd; there are roles out there not being filled, but plenty of people who can likely satisfy them...Again, it could be my resume, but it seems the candidates know what they want or what they can do, and the hiring manager knows what they need...but the folks in the middle just can't get the relevant parties to meet each other...I wonder if the initial vetting process for hiring is broken nowadays...?

Thanks, I will try to have it in mind when starting to actively pursue a job.

Actually, a possible desirable outcome is to become a Product Manager. To get the really interesting jobs with this role, I felt that I needed to have practical knowledge of software development.

Any tips on how to direct my career toward that path?

I've only ever worked for "conventional" large, multi-national non-software type corporations, so can't help with smaller orgs., or startups, or software companies...so my notes should be taken in that context...

That being said, within non-startups and non-software companies, any folks in any organization who have any inkling of software dev. (or any tech knowledge) are usually respected...so you will want to highlight that. Not necessarily that you CAN CODE...because the orgs specifically hire devs for that. Simply that business/marketing folks believe you can act as a translator, BS detector, etc.

For example, technology to this day is still dark magic for many people...So much so that whenever a dev. or digital agency or freelancer/consultant gives project/product stakeholders a development estimate - e.g. the platform will be deployed in 3 months, etc. - stakeholders have no expertise to call BS on that estimate, or wherewithall to pose questions about it. Your exposure to the desires/wants/needs of the business/marketing side, and your exposure to deeper tech than the typical person will uniquely position you to become an advisor to the higher ups. Most higher ups will respect you, a small percentage will abuse that...but with this dual-expertise, its straight-forward to bounce to other jobs.

My overall recommendation:

* Gain tech experience, whether that's dev./coding or system admin, or even just a general survey/overall understanding of "how stuff gets done".

* Continue to improve your communication skills...your value will be shown when you can act as the translator between the "techs" and the "non-techs". The good techs will learn to appreciate that they can speak with and through you, too.

* Highlight the heck out of the above sets of skills. That could be with S.T.A.R.-type bullets/notes on your resume, or through side projects, etc.

I hope that helps!

Good luck...And you can always reach out to me for networking (bam! This is another skill, that i admittedly don't do enough of! ;-)

Thanks! It helped a lot already! Opened my eyes to the potential of doing that on non-software companies. I was indeed only considering startup/software companies.

Not to hijack the OP's post, but good marketing coupled with the hard skills to work with marketing automation is a really strategic combination if you play it right. Good choice!

> So, have any of you ever been in the same situation and do you have any advice on how should I overcome this?

I haven't, but a good friend had a very similar experience. He worked in telco, stayed at the same company for almost 20 years and then wanted to move on.

The problem wasn't him, it was the company he worked for. They had (still have) a reputation for being bad on the technical side, using age old technology and an even older management style, never updating anything to contemporary standards. Sub-par products.

Potential employers didn't want him because they were afraid he was representative of his old companies' culture. Half his resume was just the different positions he filled at that one company.

The solution he eventually found was to dissociate himself from the company as much as possible on paper. He also picked up 2 modern technologies that he had never used and mentioned them in the applications, as a form of showing he was ready to learn new stuff. It worked.

Yes. I had a lot of problems. In my late 30s, I worked at a large multinational for 10 years doing... some kind of middlemanagement sharepoint stuff that makes my brain fall asleep just thinking about it. For about the last 4 years i knew i had to get out, but never did.

Eventually redundancy was offered and i went for it, all eager to throw myself far away from microsoft vista, sharepoint and balanced scorecards into the brave new ubuntu/os-x, ruby, agile world.

I worked on side projects, i built stuff, i hosted on heroku, i went to meet-ups, i got mentored, i did all the stuff... except get a job. I went to interview after interview (where i did actually get an interview). I got short term contracts and held on until i was thrown out - what i realise now that i didn't realise then was my confidence was shot. I was dwindling savings, keeping a brave face throwing myself into everything but the constant rejection was killing me, i just never realised it.

One day a doctor friend mentioned that they needed 'an IT guy' in their clinic, with nothing else going i submitted the 42875th iteration of my cv. I had no idea what the job would entail when i went for it, it turned out that they had no idea what they wanted, but part of the job was making sure that 'PC LOAD LETTER' doesn't stop them from printing letters, but the interesting part was that they had to submit governmental reports on patient demographics and results - this was the interesting bit (for me).

So i took the job (awful, awful pay in the NHS it was about 13K (gbp) but it just about broke me even... although possibly not after childcare). But learned R and started rewriting excel macros and dismantling legacy access databases (where applicable, some were perfectly good) and off loading heavy lifting tasks to R - it was a tremendous expereience. The clinic was very happy with my work (as well as the data stuff i would come in weekends to help fix computers). But the most important thing was i LOVED my work, and so my confidence was back.

This was the single most important thing, i loved my job, i loved getting clinic computers working in an underfunded clinic, i loved helping management identify trends in their clinics. And i came home from work, broke, but very happy. And that was the key to getting my confidence back.

I've since moved, i'm in my 40s still very happy working as a data engineer but the reason i write this is perhaps there is industry bias, perhaps there are people looking at you and thinking 'too old' - but perhaps there are people looking at you thinking you lack confidence. Are there perhaps any places that NEED someone like you? where you could find a fit?

Interesting (and very uplifting) story! I love this bit:

> i submitted the 42875th iteration of my cv

I have to say this, I chuckled loudly at that cause I think i am at the low hundreds at this point!

That confidence thingy is a very interesting perspective. I think i am confident with myself but it probably just applies to my current industry and it is possible that I do not come across that when I apply for jobs outside of my forte and industry. I do note that with the constant rejections, I am noticing more and more that I am feeling dejected.

" pre-sales, architecture design and lead the onshore/offshore teams to deliver client projects"

Usually senior technical people who can do pre-sales and lead projects as a "safe pair of hands" are in demand. Smaller companies are usually always recruiting people for those roles - I suspect you are getting filtered by clueless HR people for not having the the right buzzwords.

Have you thought about maybe paying for some training courses - the content of the courses might be dubious but it might get you the right branding?

This actually crossed my mind! I worked with these guy and he was recently "fired" and straight off in 2 weeks, he found a job in another industry. I was curious why and took a look quickly at his LinkedIn profile and wow, every cliche buzzword you can imagine is on his profile.

My profile is fairly straight forward plus I just can't bullshit the way he did it.

I've made a few career changes so maybe some insight. I've went from developer to creative producer to enterprise architect to now AI. For the most part they wont hire you because they don't believe your skills transfer. So to get the job you want you need to do the job. The best way to do this is to talk, network, share, speak, code in the new industry you want to enter.

Agism, Techism, all the ism's are really an answer to the question: Can you do the job? You need to answer this sufficiently well. I'm sure you can.

As an aside, I started my own AI firm in 2014 because there were no firms doing it.

Just curious, what is your AI firm?

I am now preparing for a small-ish pivot. For the last 12 or years I have been a Drupal / PHP consultant, architected a few very large sites, including one at the time being in the Quantcast Top 100. I am now trying to branch out to Elixir or Go and can't really find a part time job doing either. I think this would be necessary to build up some experience before completely jumping the Drupal ship.

I am 42.

Stay at it, get as much learning in as you can. E.g. do a very simple project that you can expose on github, publish to a cloud server somewhere .. this will let you show them what you can do. Perhaps also look at supporting stacks like Angular1/2, at least down here the demand is through the roof for them.

I went from Coldfusion/Php for decades to C# / Asp.net after redundancy and it was not easy. Got there in the end though, but I was fairly frustrated for a while.

I'm 43 / straight / white male with a child. Fwiw, I regret not spending more time on my physical fitness during my time off, but I'm back at it now. Just a gut feel (no pun intended), but I reckon fitness could become a factor in interviews; it certainly helps with sustaining focus though.

> I reckon fitness could become a factor in interviews

Interesting. Another HN post a while ago mentioned they fought any ageism by being physically fitter than those younger than them - racing the younger ones up the stairs of the building without breaking a sweat.

Actually, here's the blog post, On Getting Old(er) In Tech by Don Denoncourt: http://corgibytes.com/blog/2016/12/06/getting-old-er-in-tech...

"A year or so ago, I was attending a two-week training session with about a dozen 20- or 30-something developers. The training was on the 22nd floor and, every day after we came back from group lunches, I’d always take the stairs. The first day or two, one or two of the kids would join me, but I got no repeats. It’s pretty hard to be considered a has-been when they can’t keep up with you."

I remember this post, and thoroughly enjoyed it, especially that part about racing the younger ones up the stairs...Basically beating them young ones at "their own game". ;-)

Thanks, that's a great HN post! Very inspirational too. Better keep lifting those weights and doing those rides. :)

(Also I agree with his statement that 20 years of experience could very well be one year repeated twenty times; very true.)

Gosh, reading what you just typed hits home real hard. Replacing all the technologies, companies and achievements with my own and I can relate word for word. And i am almost a decade younger!

I won't be much help since I am in the same boat as you but all I can say is keep your chin up mate and hope you pull through and find something!

Hey, you're not old! Really. I'm 57. At a guess, if you're experiencing 'ageism' - this is really a proxy for an employer's suspicion that you're no longer as biddable as early-career folks who can be persuaded to work 12 hours a day. It's their loss.

Haha I definitely not think myself as old! I think antiquated will be a better term. ;)

Part of the issue might come from being from PreSales. Does your resume strongly reflect that you were in a PreSales role? Should it? If you are applying for PreSales roles, then yes. If you are trying to get out of PreSales, then no.

In my last job I was part of the PreSales organization and my official title was a PreSales one. My team was very technical, but IMO PreSales people are technical "experts" only in the sense that they are knowledgeable about the product they sell and the architecture around their product. Basically, they can talk the talk but how much they can actually do is very narrowly focused. Many PreSales people typically aren't truly experts, even in the products they sell.

I decided to get out of PreSales and into a lead technical role and spent 4 months applying to positions and getting nowhere. Eventually I figured out it was because my resume reflected I was PreSales person and this was a huge "Jack of all trades, master of none" red flag for people. I changed my resume and completely de-emphasized the PreSales aspects and focused on all the deep technical consulting work I had done. I did the same thing in interviews, and made sure people understood I was in a very technical role and I was not spending 40 hours a week giving demos.

It still took me time to land a new job, but I started to get interviews and eventually offers after those changes to my resume.

The best way to combat ageism is to look for hiring managers that are as old or older than you. It does limit your search a little, but you have to limit the universe of potential positions in some way. Enterprise roles tend to have less ageism than consumer ones.

A couple other thoughts:

1 - When you have too much experience for the job, employers are concerned that you're desperate, and will leave when a better opportunity comes by. If you connect with someone senior in the organization, you can negate this. (They'll have other uses internally for your skills)

2 - Smaller companies don't like hiring people from bigger companies. You have to push hard on technical skills and show that you're flexible. Also don't oversell the brand names of your employer. Names like Cisco and IBM mean something to big corporates, but less in the startup world.

3 - Look for ways to leverage multiple areas of your background. For more experienced people, it can help to look for jobs that are asking for 2 or 3 disparate skills that are less likely to be found in a junior person. For example, "I'm looking for someone who has done both consulting management and front office banking" In your case, telecom + testing + support engineering + architecture is unique enough that there are jobs where you will be differentiated.

4) The more senior you get, the harder it is to find the right job. It's a matching problem. There's either 0 or 1 jobs at each company for your position, but also much fewer candidates.

This is the situation I am currently finding myself in. I work as a telephone switch administrator for an independent phone company in Canada. I've had this just for 13 years now, it was the only job I've had since university. My undergrad is in computer science. I ended up with this job because the company bought out a friend's ISP that I was helping run when I was in high school. It was a good job, nice company, they treat me very well. Pay isn't quite at industry standards, but back then I was living in an isolated Northern Ontario Community, so it was a decent job. Plus it allowed me to work from home.

But I love programming. I've been doing it ever since I was a kid on a Commodore 64. While I do get to do a good amount of programming, I wish I could do more. It would be awesome to get more into systems or embedded programming. I recently moved to Ottawa, one of Canada's major tech hubs, and I've been sending out resumes everywhere. So far I've only gotten one interview, which was at Shopify. But I didn't make it past the initial interview--there were too many other applicants with more experience than me. I've applied to other telecom related vendors as well, like Cisco, Genband, Nokia, etc. but I've never gotten a callback.

Now I find myself wishing that after graduating university I'd taken an internship at Nortel or someplace like that, so that I'd have it on my resume, and focused on my programming career rather than just keeping the same job. I find that all entry level job postings are for new graduates only. I've contemplated doing my masters so that I could "reboot" my career so to speak and become a "new graduate."

Fellow Ottawan (is that what we call ourselves?) here who also relocated from Northern Ontario many moons ago. The thing about Ottawa is it's a government town so most of the local tech firms (not including Shopify Mitel, etc...) are for professional services or are small early-stage startup (for some reason our startups typically get acquired, or fail). The Feds' fiscal year starts in April which means that contract money is either currently frozen or non-existent until then. After April all departments will start hiring again and you should have some luck if you get yourself into one of the better professional services company.

The other "problem" in Ottawa is that ALL of the professional services firms will do a hard filter-out on keywords in your resume/cover letter. And they expect a certain format due to what the Feds want in their submission.

Disclaimer: I don't work for the Feds. I know better.

I'm 32 and I was in a similar situation a few years ago, so I decided to do a masters with focus on embedded systems hoping that would help me land a job in that area. I've been applying for positions in the embedded industry (mostly entry-level) for the last 5 months and haven't gotten a single invitation to interview yet. The answers I get are similar to what the OP described.

At this point I'm feeling like those two years could have been better spent working on side projects.

Apply to the CSE. Your telco experience combined with your education in CS will be considered quite valuable to them.


Hey, thanks for sharing your story. Hearing all these personal experiences does put things into perspective for me and realising there are many people like you out there.

I don't think you should get too hung up about having big name companies on your resume. As a anecdotal data point, I worked in 5 companies till now and 3 of those companies are internationally well-known yet even I am in your shoes - no callback or interviews.

As others have said in the thread, before considering doing a masters just for the sake of it, spend some time:

- persisting with your job applying. Sometimes it is just a numbers game.

- start working on your own personal side projects.

- get involved in the local <$programming> meetups, communities, conferences, etc

Good luck!

Given your skills and industry focus you might have good chances to land a consulting job at one of the big IT consulting shops in telecommunications.

I have worked as a business consultant at Accenture for six years in its telecommunications practice. Assuming your resume highlights both your technical and sales skills, you surely would have made it to an onsite interview for our team. With 12 years industry experience and team lead experience you could at least push for Manager level (the lowest executive level) or higher. For a technical role you should apply at Technology Services, not Consulting. Either way, that you have deep experience with specific vendor products also is a credential that you should highlight.

I am not at Accenture anymore and have no stakes in recruiting. My post most probably also applies to the other big shops in the industry: IBM, CapGemini, probably Siemens depending on your location.

If you need a personal contact in Austria/Germany I might be able to help (just updated my profile with my contacts).

Thanks for the offer mate! That was really nice!

I want to note that I actually do still have a job (funny enough, most consider my company as "consulting") and the reason I want to change jobs is simply that I been in it for 12 years and want to move on from my niche.

Also, being in telco for so long, I have had my fair share of dealing with Accenture, IBM, Deloitte, Infosys, etc and no offense to these companies but it is not exactly the sort of working environment I will like to be in having been in a similar company for the past 5 years. ;)

I can relate to that and there is also a reason why I left the industry.

In my case, I started freelancing again as developer (which raised a few eyebrows at my first clients, but that went away quickly) and contracted a couple of years at a telecommunications provider implementing provisioning services. I was at the start of my thirties then, so probably your current age.

I now work completely outside the big corporations and I wouldn't want to go back. Good luck!

As a person still minimally younger than 35 your opinions are quite sobering. I think at this point of my career I should focus on high salary (in live in EU though) while maintaining a good physical condition as I might have no other choice than salary and lifestyle downgrade in 10-15 years from now.


I am retired, but I worked at a European Telco as a R&D engineer my last 12 years and as a manager before that. I was 58 when I left. When I was in my forties I experienced the same rejection as you when I tried ti find a new job. Fortunately is was during the Internet bubble and there was a great demand for people speaking English and having knowledge in IP/Web and Java programming (nobody said "coding" at that time). So I was a bit astonished to be accepted but all in all those 12 years in R&D were deeply interesting, sometime frightening and often frustrating. But I am grateful to the people who recruited me. I never experienced some difficulty to learn or to adapt, even now at 60. I look to start a new business right now. My tip would be to not be impatient, stay where you are while it pays well. Things change quickly in the tech domain. No technology or business process is adopted in a tsunami manner, adoption is usually very slow (decades) and there are always several technologies in competition. But meanwhile you might get some orthogonal or complementary knowledge (Coursera/eDX) to what you have today in an effort to show dedication and capacity to learn. Who knows, in a future job this new qualification could make the difference. Good luke!

I wrote about my pivoting story in here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13532415

tl;dr: was 28 sales manager in Mexico, no English. Today I'm 33, frontend lead developer in US.

Sorry for the link, I don't want to write everything in here again.

One suggestion is on your resume use the STAR system

Situation, Task, Action, Result

Rather than the usual "my responsibilities".

Then you can demonstrate the value you brought rather than the potential you might have because listing your responsibilities doesn't mean you discharged them.

Related discussion here - "Ask HN: Good Career Alternatives for 50+": https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13531096

You basically have to start over at the bottom. You might be a lead in your current position but you are entry level in another. You'll need to take a pay cut to switch careers, in my experience.

And let's be real regarding ageism, you only get about 10 years of not being "too old", and then for the rest of your career it's going to be an issue whether big or small. Part of being a professional is navigating all of the BS you will get if you are not under 35, white, straight, and male.

>Part of being a professional is navigating all of the BS you will get if you are not under 35, white, straight, and male.

Navigating unjust discrimination like a white male not getting hired due to an employer's fear of fines from the EEOC because the EEOC arbitrarily decides there's already too many white males in the company?

At least that white male can take a step back and make himself more competitive on a resume by getting a more specialized degree, although he will have to figure out how to overcome discriminatory affirmative action quotas during the admissions process.

If a white male decides the job search is discriminatorily stacked against him, he might decide it would be better to just give up on it altogether and start a small business, but he can forget about the good kinds of SBA financing: white males aren't eligible.

> white, straight, and male

Nice flame-bait.

But are you talking about employability? Because western tech employers literally compete for token females.

Nope, wasn't trying to bait any flames, just making the point that virtually everyone has to deal with some sort of -ism, even straight white males will find it eventually with ageism.

Find some kind of skill pivot. I.e., so you already have the skill to get employed in your new thing even though you haven't had it on your CV before.

In my case:

- Unix (via Python and devops) to programmer.

- Programmer (via product and custdev) to founder.

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