Next move: How can I increase employers' interest?

I used to earn £42,000 a year as a software developer, programming principally in Perl for the Unix platform. Following...

I used to earn £42,000 a year as a software developer, programming principally in Perl for the Unix platform. Following redundancy two years ago, I took a job as an IT manager in a university where I earn £30,000 doing roll-outs, application support and system admin. Now I am 40, I realise my traditional skill set is deeply unsexy and my age and salary make me vulnerable to future outsourcing. What do you advise?

The solution: Update your skills and move sectors

First and foremost, 40 is hardly old, even in IT terms. We are an ageing society and it will only be a few years until more than 50% of the workforce is over 50. Add the introduction of the anti-age discrimination laws in 2006 and the whole issue of age will have less and less relevance.

The skill set you have, although certainly traditional is far from "deeply unsexy". As with Cobol, the amount of originating code written in Perl means that the demand for candidates who can tackle this language should ensure a steady stream of work. You could consider training in a complementary language to update your skills. Some clients like to see C or C++ with Perl.

Possibly your biggest challenge will be your working environment. The education sector is often not taken as seriously as it deserves, so the sooner you move back into mainstream IT, the quicker you will find your skills being valued and your work becoming more demanding.

You have the added advantage of your development skills and this makes you a good all-rounder. That could be to your advantage should you look at a smaller company with a less structured IT department.

Solution by Tracey Abbott, divisional director, Zarak Group

The panel: MSB International, Plan-Net Services, Spring Group, E-Skills UK, British Computer Society, Computer Futures, Hudson, Elan, Reed Technology, Zarak Technology.

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