Behind in the Technology Curve
How to Improve Your Basic Software Skills to Get or Keep a Job
Written by Darla Palmer-Ellingson in Home Technology for Your Home
Do you feel held back at work because of a lack of technical skills? Maybe you want to apply for a promotion, but are concerned you don’t have the skills to keep the job. Ready to rise above other candidates? Here are some great ideas―most of them free―to increase your software knowledge and technical skills.
Start with the basics. Microsoft Office has a wealth of tutorials online for Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive, Skype for Business and SharePoint for free. To learn more complex concepts, Microsoft has teamed up with LinkedIn Learning for a host of advanced video seminars for a fee.
Check for community education classes, workshops and seminars. Some people benefit more from classroom experiences than independent online learning. Check with the local high school or community college for software courses. Community education courses are shorter than a college class and are affordable. There is the added benefit of collaborating with peers in class.
Add tech sites to your favorites list. Popular tech magazines such as Wired are now online, and there are a host of other websites and blogs with contemporary tech content, such as CNET, Techcrunch and Gizmodo. Get in the habit of browsing technical advancements and trends to improve your knowledge.
Make Friends with IT staff. You can learn more about software, basic programming and computer operations from a friendly and patient IT person than in many other learning environments. Don’t be afraid to ask questions—many people love to share their knowledge, and geeks enjoy talking about technology.
Read free books. If you have a particular technical subject or software package you are trying to learn, tap into free resources available online such as freecomputerbooks.com. A recent article from Lifewire lists the top 20 sites to download free books. Just make sure the book you choose was published within the past five years—technology changes fast.
Practice with software applications. If you already have software on your home or work computer, take a few minutes to practice every day. Make a copy of a document or file you are working on and save under a practice name. You won’t hurt anything on the computer. If you get stuck, use the help feature on the software. As you become more experienced with applications, you will be better prepared to take on more complex projects.
Ask about company training. Many companies provide education benefits, from tuition reimbursement to access to online classes. It is a positive move to seek training, especially when its tied to your existing job. Companies want their employees to be more knowledgeable. You will show initiative while gaining valuable job skills. Ask your boss or personnel director what opportunities there are to advance your knowledge of different software packages or technical subjects. If a policy doesn’t exist, ask if the company would support the cost of your intended class.
Volunteer on technical projects. There may be opportunities in your community to volunteer and gain technical skills. For example, in Fergus Falls, Minn., a community planning group asked for volunteers to create 3D maps of each building in town—no experience necessary. The project included an eight-week course, free software and a book in exchange for volunteer time. If this were a paid opportunity, most in the class would not have qualified. Volunteering is a great way to gain experience while working with members of a technical team.
With so many inexpensive resources to learn about new technology and software, the only thing you need to bring to the table is your willingness to learn. If you are diligent, the benefits from adding to your knowledge base and job skills will follow.