Transitioning careers can be scary. Okay, terrifying. When I, a liberal arts major, began to teach myself how to code, I expected I wouldn’t be good at it. When I discovered I enjoyed coding, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to get a job with it. When I got my first development job, I wondered if I would disappoint the people who hired me.
And you know what? Sometimes I still worry. That’s because worry is a normal thing, especially when we’re faced with brand new situations and challenges. It happens to everyone, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Being a newbie in the tech industry comes with its own unique set of anxieties. After talking with hundreds of beginners learning how to code, I discovered that there are a few key fears coders struggle with when they’re new in tech.
The main areas where I see people believe they are lacking are:
Below I cover 13 specific fears, each relating to one of the above in one way or another. And show why you shouldn’t let them stop you from pursuing a tech career.
- “I’m NOT tech savvy. I could never learn.”
Yeah—not with that attitude! Here’s the deal: If you think you can’t, you won’t. A positive, “I can do it” mindset is important to learn anything new—not just with technical skills.
This isn’t just a trite, feel-good mantra from a self-help book, either. CNN reports that positive thinking has been scientifically demonstrated to lead to greater success, productivity, and life satisfaction.
Get in the right headspace. You CAN do anything you set your mind to. (Well, within reason. Don’t put on a cape and jump off your roof, because you probably still can’t fly.)
- “I’m not good with computers.”
Like with any skill, there are some people who are naturally gifted with computers. However, the reality is that most people don’t step into this world being a computer whiz.
Just like learning a second language, it takes time and work. Sure, maybe you’ll have to work a little harder than the people who exit the womb typing 100 wpm, but that certainly doesn’t mean you’re doomed to failure. Some people are naturally better at cooking, too, but follow enough recipes and eventually you’ll stop burning water. The key is to be persistent and find an environment that helps you learn best.
- “I’m a slow learner.”
Again, coding is an acquired skill, and doesn’t happen quickly for anyone. Most overnight success stories are actually years in the making. But even if you perceive yourself as slower than others, you must to work with what you have. Don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s (except your past self’s!).
And think about it this way: even if it takes you a year or two to get good, this time is going to pass either way. So you have two options: being a year older with an awesome new skill…or just being a year older.
- “I don’t fit in/belong with people working in tech.”
There’s this little (okay, actually big) thing called imposter syndrome. If you’ve been learning coding for even a short amount of time, you probably heard of it. It’s a syndrome that can be found in a range of industries and people groups.
But did you know that the psychologists who first discovered this phenomenon were studying high-achieving women? Specifically, highly capable women who believed they were not in fact successful—whether they measured themselves by societal expectations or put unreasonable demands on themselves.
Symptoms include feeling fake or phony—like you’re not “enough”—constantly downplaying your own success, not belonging, etc.
There’s lots you can do to overcome imposter syndrome—but you must start by acknowledging that it exists, and that, despite your inner thoughts, you DO belong.
- “What will my family/friends think?”
You might worry what others (like family and friends) will think of you for wanting to switch careers—especially if you have a decent job right now and are making ends meet. They might question it or think you’re just wasting their time.
The truth is, I can relate to this feeling. Very much. When I first began teaching myself how to code, I didn’t tell many people. For years I had been talking about how I wanted to work in economic development (my original “dream career”). And after realizing it wasn’t for me, I felt ashamed. Like I was a flake. And to make matters worse, there were a few people I told early on who did question me! They told me I was making a mistake by pursuing coding, and to stick with what I was good at.
Here’s what I realized, though. People will question your decisions no matter what you do, tech-related or not! There are crappy people in the world. And sometimes not all friends and family can understand, even if they have good intentions. (I mean, some of my doubters early on were the people close to me!)
Remember: if friends and family are trying to talk you out of it, it’s not necessarily because they want to hurt you. They want what’s best for you. But sometimes, they can’t see things the way you do.
- “I don’t have the funds or time to go back to school.”
I get it: education in the US is expensive. You don’t want to take out more loans. And it’s not only expensive, but also time-consuming, which makes it difficult to go back to school when you already have so many responsibilities.
The great news is that in order to transition into tech, you don’t need to go back to school as a full-time student. It doesn’t even have to be expensive with all the free and affordable places to learn. With so many options out there, you can find something that works for your budget and schedule. (For instance, Skillcrush Blueprints allow you to learn on your own schedule. And if life gets in the way and you fall behind, it’s not a problem.)
- “I don’t have money to buy a nice computer/expensive software.”
Gadgets and gizmos are expensive (but luckily, getting lower in price all the time!).
But you certainly don’t need top-of-the-line equipment to get going. In fact, there are people who learn how to code on a mobile phone or tablet? Seriously—there are apps for that!
Obviously, though, you’ll ideally want a laptop you can work from. It’s hard to be productive on a smartphone. And you will need the right software and tools so you can get experience with real-world coding.
Solution: Lots of the premium software/tools, like Adobe, have monthly plans and payment plans, as well as special discounts/sales. You can also buy used laptops/gear on marketplaces like Amazon. Also keep in mind that there are free versions of lots of software. For instance—free text editors like Brackets, and free image editors like Canva and Gimp.
- “I don’t have time to learn all these new skills.”
Everyone wishes they had more hours in a day (I certainly do!). But the problem many people have is not a lack of time, but an issue taking control of their time. You have 24 hours in a day. Are you making the best of them all?
Sure, you sleep for 7 or 8 hours every night. But that still leaves you with 16 hours left. Say you also work for 8 hours. That leaves you another 8 hours. What are you doing with them?
There are tons of life hacks for getting more hours in the day. But, the key is to remove the big time suckers we can all fall prey to. Stop watching so much Netflix. Limit time spent on social media. Stop saying “yes” to every favor or request that comes your way. Take a train or bus to work so you can use your commute time wisely—or listen to a podcast in the car.
You can control your own time. And by carving out just a few hours every week to learn a new digital skill or take an online course, you can accomplish a lot.
- “No one around me can relate—no one is in tech.”
Feeling alone and isolated is very common when you’re learning new things on your own. I can completely relate. During my first year of learning how to code, I felt totally alone.
You know what helped me stop feeling so isolated? Starting my Learn to Code With Me blog. Not only did blogging help me stay accountable as I taught myself, it also allowed me to connect with others also learning how to code, as well as more experienced people in the industry.
The idea of starting a blog doesn’t excite you? No problem. There’s lots of other things you can do, like:
- Join in-person groups like Meetups
- Attend conferences
- Start going to a co-working space a few times a week
- Get involved with online communities
- Volunteer at an organization like Girls Who Code or Girl Develop It
- Start a podcast
Whatever it may be, you need to put yourself “out there,” in person and/or online. You’re not just going to meet like-minded people sitting on your sofa, pinning design inspiration samples to your Pinterest board!
- “I’m too extroverted/outgoing to work at a computer all day.”
Tech positions can vary far and wide. Just because you know how to code or design a website doesn’t mean you have to sit at your computer all day typing till your hands cramp.
One of my childhood best friends is a very outgoing software engineer. Not only did she secure a job a year before graduating college, she climbed the ladder at that very large company partly because of her extroverted nature. (Of course, she’s extremely intelligent and talented, too!)
When she first joined as an engineer, she was one of hundreds in her department. But she quickly rose above the rest. Now, she manages her peers. The company is even paying for her to get her MBA—something they don’t usually offer.
The point is: having an outgoing personality in tech can be an advantage. You’ll stand out from the rest and could be prime management material.
- “My past experience is irrelevant—how can I ever get a job?”
So many people believe that what they’re doing now is so different from tech that they can never make the switch. That’s not true at all.
On my podcast, I recently interviewed Astrid Countee, who works as both a software engineer and an anthropologist. Talk about combining seemingly disparate industries! This is a person who started off studying psychology and has “reinvented” herself throughout the years numerous times. But as it turns out, rather than getting stuck after having to start from the bottom several times, Astrid is stronger than ever. Her diverse skillsets and her passion for learning make her marketable.
The fact is that software and web development can tie into all kinds of industries. And your irrelevant previous experience may actually be an advantage when applying for certain roles. (Like, if you’ve previously worked in project management and you apply for a developer position at a company that creates project management software…though the crossovers might not always be so obvious.)
- “I have so many other passions/interests—do I have to give them up?”
“Passion mashing” is a term I like to use to refer to combining different passions into one. A great example of this (which I have used numerous times) is Skillcrush’s very own Director of Content, Randle Browning. She uses her tech skills to fuel her blog about vegan cooking, The Waco Vegan.
When you learn to code, it doesn’t mean you need to stop doing other things that you care about. In fact, it may make your passions for other things even stronger, because you can express and pursue them in a new way.
- “What if no one takes me seriously?”
Finally, a huge fear of many beginners is, “What if I do everything like I am supposed to…and no one takes me seriously?”
Rejection is a very human thing to fear. We don’t want to be laughed at or told we’re not good enough. But you have to remind yourself that this is just your inner self talking! Have confidence in yourself, silence that little voice of self-doubt, and pursue your goals. In the words of the entrepreneur Jim Rohn, “If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”
If you put in the time and energy, build the projects, take the courses (and finish them!), you’re going to get there. And people will take you seriously.
There are hundreds of fears a beginner can face when breaking into the tech industry; these only scratch the surface. If you’re a little nervous, realize that you’re not alone in feeling this way. But more than that, know that it’s okay to be uncomfortable.
As the saying goes—all the good stuff happens outside your comfort zone.
Image credit: CC by Macey Buchanan