Since I launched this blog, quite a few readers have asked me for advice about their job searches, options for changing their work, or their entrepreneurial ventures. Once we start discussing the specific steps they have taken to date and what they have learned, I inevitably get to a moment when I feel compelled to tell them a simple truth: You need to learn to use more technology tools.
The best benchmark for your current technical skills: a middle schooler’s
As a reality check, I talk about the technology curriculum that I see integrated into my three children’s schooling, along with observations from the nearby school district where I teach.
- In my fifth-grade daughter’s class, every single child understands and participates in the class blog, hosted on Mybigcampus.com
- My sixth-grade son keeps his writing for his English Language Arts class on Google docs instead of a flash drive or thumb drive
- My oldest son was able to explore Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator as part of his seventh grade curriculum, and in eighth grade, he uses it regularly
- In the nearby district where I gig as a substitute teacher, middle schoolers use Garage Band, a Macintosh application, to record and mix music, and Sibelius musical notation software for writing, refining and printing musical scores
So I ask you: Are your computer skills better than a middle schooler’s? And, if they aren’t, what is stopping you from improving them and getting closer to proficiency?
You may not need any software programs beyond the basics. But mentioning “Word, Excel, PowerPoint” on your resume is not going to impress anyone.
A friend of thirty years has given presentations on how libraries can access grant moneys. She possesses an M.L.S. and a bachelor’s degree in business, and has found job hunting tough. I asked her, “What if you were able to put a SlideShare presentation on your LinkedIn profile, with content that explains how to get grants?” She also mentioned that in follow-through to potential employers, they couldn’t even recall receiving her resume. One solution: posting her resume on a URL, with embedded software a viewer could use to turn pages and see past the cover letter. They might possibly remember that!
Be truthful here: Who wouldn’t be more confident, more effective in communication and persuasion, and more creative with better technical skills?
Commit to learning one new software app or tool by the end of the year
Here is the challenge that I put to readers: Make it your mission to learn to use one new piece of software or new handy technology tool by the end of December. I am not saying you need to do it by close-of-business. We all have busy calendars with family commitments and seasonal experiences. But, as you peek towards the New Year, start now to be better than you were in 2010.
If you already know an application, it doesn’t count! Your challenge is to train yourself in an additional one.
In Resources, we list some of our favorites. Whether you aim to become proficient in something we cite or another application that you identify, pore over it and soak up knowledge about it. Here are three options to check out: (1) learn to use a self-publishing platform for your e-book; (2) use a free website comparison tool to identify the weaknesses of your own site (either the one that presents your entrepreneurial work, or your employer’s services); or (3) try holding online meetings with your partners, clients and customers for free, or at half the price of other service providers. Enjoy the challenge!
- Block out time for Internet research into programs that would integrate well with your professional function
- To decide on your first new web app, use your Accountability Wingman and other people in your network who have experience with the software or tool and can vouch for its benefits
- Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to learn and incorporate that software or tool into your work. Keep in mind what times of day you are most productive. And remember that scientific research definitively shows that discrete, repeated blocks of learning usually produce greater retention than a few (or a single) long-ass afternoons
Tell us what you use to expand your technical chops, in the discussion below.
Photo courtesy Creative Commons, Argonne National Laboratory
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