I am looking to make a career change in the upcoming future, and having tossed around many avenues, it seems that System Administration is where I'd want to end up.

I've ran across IBM's LPI exam prep, which has links to other info as well. Would this be a good place to start, IYO? reference developer works exam prep

I've read through a lot of free e books available, but they seem to be not as specific as would need be to actually prepare to take any LPI certs.

I guess my main questions are:

1- Am I putting the cart before the horse, with looking directly at the LPI through IBM and it's other links?

2- What suggested reading would you recommend to better prepare me for the above?

3- I know it's possible to prepare as self-taught, but is it looked down on by those who do the hiring and firing for these positions?

4- Any specific advice to be aware of? (things to do and/or not do in the pursuit)

5- Friendly advice for stepping stones along the way? (eg... employment opportunities to snag during the learning process)

6- How important is youth (age of applicant) considered for this type of work? Seriously.

Really appreciate any and all responses!