I was laid off from my IT job here in Toronto a few months ago, and am looking at retraining. I've been leaning towards biotech, but I want to find out more from others on what fields have the brightest prospects, and would therefore be most worthwhile retraining into.
I keep hearing about how everyone is moving out west, and that the best forecasts for future economic growth are in Alberta, etc. But I think I'd like to do retraining first, likely using that Second Career program, before I'd consider shifting to a different geographic zone.
I originally took chemical engineering in university, and co-op'd at various major chemical/petroleum companies, but I really hated it, and eventually dropped out. After puttering around in customer service jobs for a few years, I took some IT training and worked as a programmer for 8 years. Now I'm laid off again, and since my employment counselor is supportive of my desire for retraining, I've been looking towards biotech because I keep hearing about how it will be the next technology wave, especially with the imminent arrival of genomics and "personal medicine".
I like analytical/investigative/creative work where I can use my brain, so I thought that biotech could be a good fit. But then I've read threads in this forum where people with masters degrees in biochemistry have complained about the lousy pay they get, and the sparse opportunities. So naturally that makes me feel worried.
I took one of these Myers-Briggs tests which says that I'm "INTJ" (shy, intuitive, thinker, judgement), as well as this other Holland test, which says that I'm "IA" (investigative, artistic). I suppose it's good to look for a job that fits with your personality type, since you want work that allows you to be comfortable in your skin, instead of trying to contort yourself like a square peg into a round hole.
Obviously, pay/benefits/compensation matter a lot, as well as the future demand for an occupation.
I just don't want to waste my time by making a bad choice and then finding out just how bad later on the hard way.
I'm really grateful for advice from people here, as a lot of the threads here have proven interesting. Hopefully there are enough other people in the same situation as me, so that my question and any answers will be beneficial.
Feb 17th, 2012 04:14 AM #1
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- Nov 23rd, 2011
Which Field Has Brightest Prospects? Advice Needed.
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Feb 17th, 2012 07:42 AM #2
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I am in a similar position as you are in--looking for a second career.
I would think that the IT field is still as promising as any other field. But if you are intent on training in another field, there seems to be growing demand in
healthcare, the trades, customer service (I believe there is a post here about jobs that cannot be outsourced).
There are similar posts here to yours (including some by me). Do a more comprehensive search in this forum and you should find more info.
If you read the many posts here, you will see there is instability in all fields, and there is no guarantee in any field that you will have a job waiting for you at the end of training.
I still think you should consider trying to find another IT job, while augmenting your current tech skills and maybe some soft-skills will make you more marketable.
Feb 17th, 2012 11:28 AM #3
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- Feb 17th, 2012
IT is promising if you are well trained and with a lot of experience. Plus there are many areas of IT you could go in to, a lot of skills are transferable. WHat makes you want to change?
Feb 17th, 2012 12:09 PM #4
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- Sep 24th, 2007
I think biotech or healthcare in general has decent prospects. I think IT is also a good choice. I'm not sure why you don't like what you're doing now. Maybe it's just a matter of finding a different company? I find that the people you work with makes more difference than what you actually do sometimes. You might just be jaded you were laid off or maybe the company had a bad culture. If I were you, I'd try to find another IT job before retraining. This is especially true if you've got responsibilities and need the money. Retraining can be expensive, not to mention time consuming.
I'm not too fond of career counselors. They often give you "feel good" messages but don't offer realistic perspectives. Given how many years you've worked, I think retraining forces you to start from scratch again. You might come to regret it in the future when you realize you didn't earn as much as you could have. I'm supportive of doing what you love, but only within realistic limits.
Feb 17th, 2012 04:29 PM #5
Thanks for the great responses from all of you - I really appreciate them.
Well, various friends and former co-workers tell me the IT market is saturated right now, and that upgrading myself with skills training would be good to do while waiting for the economy to recover. I suppose I could focus on upgrading my IT skills, but I'm feeling a little burnt-out with IT right now. Yeah, some people I worked with were nice, but others were very dog-eat-dog and elbowing you out of the way.
What I thought would be good is to get skills in a related field, which could give me more of a niche in which to apply my IT skills. I'm an avid reader of technology and economic news, and for a long time I've been reading about how biotech is the next big wave, because all this genetic "personalized medicine" will save people and the economy much time and money while fulfilling fundamental needs (usually those 3 things are a guarantee that something will be big). Of course, that next big wave hasn't quite arrived yet, but I thought I could pre-position myself to intercept it. As they say, timing is everything - I just hope my perceptions aren't naive and pie-in-the-sky, because I don't want to end up like the acrobat who misses the trapeze.
I remember reading comments from big CEO's like Oracle's Larry Ellisson, saying "Yeah, the golden era for working in IT was from 1980-2000, but after that it's become more commoditized and saturated. My advice to youngsters today is to go into biotech, because that's the next big thing - that's the new IT"
So I'd always read stuff like this, and fully believe it. But when I research stuff online, I always see people in biology and biochemistry warning that jobs in their field are hard to come by, and suck in pay, unless you have a PhD:
Well, I don't think I can afford to get a PhD, and plus I'm too old to go that route.
Regarding jobs that can't be outsourced, I suppose that's why Alberta and Western provinces are doing better right now, because natural resources are embedded in the land, and can't be outsourced. Any jobs extracting/processing those natural resources are going to be secure and in demand, since the global population consuming those resources is only growing. I'd briefly considered the idea of using a retraining opportunity to try and finish off my chemical engineering, since that's a field that's very related to natural resources - but it's just that I hated it so much when I was taking it originally. Working in an oil refinery in the middle of nowhere is really miserable, not to mention boring - I have bad memories from those co-op work terms.
When I was originally applying to university all those years ago, I wanted to take molecular biology. I got accepted into a program at a good university in the US, but my parents wouldn't let me go. So I ended up going into chemical engineering, because somehow I rationalized that engineering was more employable than science, and that chemical engineering was the closest to getting me towards biotech. But all I got at the University of Waterloo was petrochemical, petrochemical, and more petrochemical - which I hated. Plus the only biotech I got exposed to was relating to mass industrial processes, and nothing to do with life sciences.
I've always thought that biotech is the future -- the ultimate dream field to be in. Plus, biotech is so data-intensive that IT is obviously a powerful force-multiplier, making biotech a natural technological beneficiary and innovation successor to IT. I thought that with our aging population and their growing healthcare needs, that biotech will be the great new savior, providing new solutions that save on both money and suffering. But it's really demoralizing when I search online, and see so many comments from people in biology/biochemistry/etc about how lousy the job market is. Hey, I'd like to pursue a dream, but I can't afford to be impractical either - I've got to pay the bills, too.
I just can't understand how there's such a big gap between the dream and the reality.
Last edited by manofsan; Feb 17th, 2012 at 04:51 PM.
Feb 18th, 2012 02:45 AM #6
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- Jun 22nd, 2011
the i in intj stands for introverted, not shy. there's a massive difference. some of they shyest people i know are very extroverted (they're typically shy at first, but outgoing after. they just lack confidence). Introversion just means you're typically inside your head (thinking, analyzing, daydreaming, whatever) and never really let loose like an extrovert. INTJs are the king in that regard and are (supposedly) very logical. I'm one as well.
i don't think that your career choice should have much to do with your meyers briggs test result.
Feb 18th, 2012 11:45 AM #7
Hi, thanks, you're right (I originally wrote "introverted" but then changed it to "shy")
I hear what you're saying about not taking any particular personality test too seriously, but I also believe that you've got to go with a job role that naturally suits your own personality, otherwise you'll be a fish out of water, and probably end up feeling and performing miserably.
What I've read about INTJ's is that they can't stay focused on their job unless it's personally meaningful to them. That part strongly resonates with me, because if the job I'm doing doesn't matter to me, then my mind will wander all over the place, and I'll lose my drive, and always end up waiting for the clock to hit 5pm. But if something personally matters to me, then I'll stick with it no matter how late the clock runs.
That's another reason why I'm looking at biotech, because not only has that field begun to progress rapidly due to information technology, but biotech is a field which has the potential to fundamentally improve people's lives (eg. medical cures, etc)
I just can't figure out why the jobs market is still so crappy for biotech/biochem/biology fields. I keep hoping that we're just on the cusp of a great new wave of employment, but can't seem to find much hard evidence for it.
On a related note, are there any other forums out there which are dedicated to career change discussion?
Feb 18th, 2012 12:40 PM #8
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- Aug 23rd, 2007
Couple of points.
- The tests often make mistakes and people mistype themselves. Don't look at the letters, look at the cognitive function order. These videos will give you better info
The key is to grow and develop you other functions by doing things you would never do. I am an INTJ... but I have developed my functions that I can play whatever part I want or have to at the time.
PS. if you are an INTJ, my sincerely condolences.
Feb 18th, 2012 09:43 PM #9
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- Jun 22nd, 2011
i like being an intj. makes it very easy to do most things. just sucks that it's hard (or impossible) to get along with most people on a social level.
edit: after watching the videos I agree that you can "develop" your other functions that way. But I wouldn't call learning to 'act' like an extrovert really developing it. He said himself that he has learned to play the role of an extrovert, but crashes hard after. So he's still just an introvert.
Last edited by Loke21; Feb 18th, 2012 at 10:15 PM.
Feb 18th, 2012 11:52 PM #10
As another argument in support of my choice, I'd like to point out an old but important saying:
"In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is King"
What that translates to, is that when you come from the competitive constantly-evolving world of IT, where your skills may be just average or mediocre relative to your peers in the industry, if you then transplant yourself into another field that is far behind IT in the way it does things, then you're suddenly Einstein. You're Mister Does-It-All. You're suddenly a man in demand.
(Hell, anybody who wants to move from Ontario to go out West probably has a little ego-trip in the back of the mind, believing that they can outperform the local talent pool. In the lands of the West, the one-eyed Ontarian is King.)
There was a famous speech by former Intel CEO Andy Grove, where he lectured the medical profession, admonishing them on the need for them to totally reform and transform their antiquated ways, and make themselves like modern technology industries - like his own Intel. (ie. they need to be systems-oriented in their view of the human body, they need to be data-driven, physics-oriented, and using all the modern analytical methodologies, etc)
(I read even DARPA wants to revolutionize manufacturing by making every manufacturer adopt the practices and approaches used by chip-makers.)
Somehow, I think that the cutting-edge dynamism of IT can rub off on other fields, to similarly revolutionize them.
But if you don't feel confident that you'll always be near the top of the heap in the industry you're in, then maybe you need to find another industry that would benefit from the juxtaposing/contrasting skills you can bring to the table.
What say you all?
Feb 19th, 2012 02:12 AM #11
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- Aug 18th, 2011
I know what point you're trying to make though. Bringing standard industry-specific practices into another unrelated industry can indeed create a competitive edge for the new industry. The trick I suppose would be knowing what practices would actually be beneficial, and which ones would be a step back.
Last edited by Hansol; Feb 19th, 2012 at 02:16 AM.
Feb 19th, 2012 04:22 AM #12
Hehe, that's why I called it an ego-trip.
But regarding the import of new practices and methodologies originating elsewhere, it should be seen as part of evolution.
You interbreed with another species and all of a sudden you pick up their claws and teeth, and you're a much better hunter than before. So maybe hopping from one field to another is like that cross-breeding or cross-pollination, that helps to mix up the genes and break up the groupthink and stagnation. I guess it's upto us to guesstimate which hybrid combinations are the most viable and useful, before making the leap.
Even in IT, you see a new emphasis on hiring people who can do both the Business Analyst and Programmer roles. (Of course there it's mostly associated with cost-cutting and doubling up)
Or look at how Steve Jobs pioneered whole new industries by pairing up different industries:
Pixar = classical animation + computers
iPod = music + computers
iPhone = phones + computers
But when I see how contrastingly dismal the biology/biochemistry job market is, something makes me want to groan "IT'S COZ YER DOING IT WRONNGG!"
(ie. if your occupation group were doing it right, then you'd be in so much demand that you'd have to beat the jobs off with a stick)
And that's where somebody will chime in, as they did to Andy Grove:
‘Chips are not people, go (expletive) yourself.’
Feb 19th, 2012 04:45 AM #13