When I was in the police force back in 1999, I had a visit from a friend who was working as an IT freelancer in London doing basic Windows support. I think it was Windows 98 and NT. He told me how much he was making, and I nearly fell over.
It was more than the Chief of Police for the county I worked in earned. I knew that out of around 20,000 officers my chances of becoming the Chief was impossible, but I also knew that I could easily study for some exams and do what my friend did. The next day, I bought some Microsoft NT Server study guides and started studying for the MCSE.
I passed several months later and got an entry level support role, but it was at the time the IT bubble was bursting. The high salary jobs vanished overnight, and many freelancers ran to the safety (and low salary) of a full time job.
Studying for the MCSE was a drag. I literally had to force my nose into the books. I’d been tempted by the promise of a big paycheck but never considered what I’d actually enjoy doing.
Let’s be realistic though. We all have bills to pay and a family to support, so money is an issue. I’d actually love to be paid to play computer games or eat Indian food, but such jobs are few and far between. But is it possible to find something which both pays well and we enjoy doing?
I think it is. It comes back to working out what you enjoy doing. If it’s working with people, then you may want to consider a management role such as ITIL. If it’s working towards goals and dealing with deadlines, then consider project management. If you love digging into the command line, then Linux or Cisco networking. If you have a more artistic streak, then look into network design.
Most people never consider what they enjoy when it comes to a career. They sort of fall into a role or look at what’s paying the best at the moment and go for that (like I did). If I was going back again, I’d probably choose the project management route, possibly adding some technical knowledge.
Now is such an exciting time to be an IT engineer, and the choices are ever expanding so really think if you are starting out. If you are already established, then ask yourself if you are happy with what you are doing, and if not, then look to make a change.