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Starting over

Molly advises a 54-year-old businessman to follow his interest in programming and look for corporate systems analyst jobs.

Dear Molly: I am forced to sell off my business because it’s not running well, and am interested in a career in the computer industry. I have just started learning computer programming. Could you please tell me if I have any chance to restart a new career at the age of 54, and which programming languages have a promising future? I have a bachelor’s degree in economics from an Indian university.

Molly says: Many people start off in different career directions when they retire because they finally feel free to pursue something they have always been interested in doing. You are not at retirement age yet, but through this setback you’ve been given the opportunity to change direction.

You’re not too old to re-start your career–you are never too old to do that, in my opinion. If you wanted to become a doctor at your age you might have a problem convincing a medical school to accept you, but you want to get into programming, and that doesn’t take years to do. Even if you decide to retire at 65, you’ve still got ten years ahead of you in whatever you decide to do. You might as well aim for something that interests you.

Take your experience in running a business and your degree and concentrate your programming studies in a language that is used in business, such as COBOL (still a need for these skills around the world), Oracle or DBase. Fortran and Java are two others you might want to consider.

Before you choose a programming language to learn, spend some time on the Web looking at the Web sites of the companies that make the products I have mentioned. Look for case study information to see if you find some interesting applications related to your experience.

You may find that you can package yourself better for a new career in IT if you use programming skills as the base for applying for systems analysts jobs inside of businesses like the one you are having to give up.

Molly Joss also writes the monthly Career Advisor column for ComputerUser magazine. Ask a career-related question at [email protected]

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