Hard to imagine a job in today’s world that doesn’t require some level of computer competency. In fact, computers today are a major part of the office furniture, so much so that "traditional jobs now require basic computer user skills to perform them more efficiently," writes tech expert John Steven Niznik in the computer learning section of website About.com.
If you have any doubts about this, type "computer skills" in the search box of an Internet job board. One recent inquiry on Craigslist.com resulted in 6231 Bay Area openings ranging from a Unix System Administrator to a volunteer coordinator.
Perusing the list, you wonder if anyone can earn a paycheck anymore without having to pound a keyboard at some point in the workday. Customer sales reps, telephone interviewers, dental assistants, hotel sales managers, billing and collections, café counter person, concierge, interior designer, mechanic . . . the list is as endless as the variety of software applications customized to assist most any job.
Job Market Minimums
Each opening has a particular computer skill required. You can tell by the wording of the ads that most employers simply take it for granted that applicants naturally have the required computer expertise. In other words, these skills are now part of the basic minimum requirements to apply.
Which means if you lack the most rudimentary computer ability or experience, you are automatically eliminated from even being considered for any of these 6231 positions. Consider the following examples of jobs listed that probably did not require too much computer knowledge just awhile ago:
Animal Control Officer: "To perform this job successfully, an individual should have knowledge of Chameleon database software or become proficient within the first six months from hire date. Basic knowledge or become proficient with Microsoft Office and computer keyboarding skills (data entry)."
Sales Rep: "Qualified individuals need to be fluent with the computer including a working knowledge of Microsoft Office Suite, be comfortable in an "email" environment and with customer management software."
Summer Food Program Monitor: "Office administrative skills, aka computer, needed."
Life Skills Trainer: "MS Word, email needed."
Office Assistant/Receptionist: "Strong organizational skills & computer skills needed – Outlook, Word and Excel."
It doesn’t take a mathematician to realize that to improve your odds at finding work, you need to acquire or upgrade your PC proficiency, and pronto.
Learn From Dummies
Where do you begin? The answer depends upon your current competency.
If you need to start at the very beginning, consider the book PCs for Dummies by Dan Gookin. To better help you decide if you need to go this basic, ask yourself if you need to read the content under this heading in the book: "Turning Your Computer On." Or do you need to learn items like this in the same book "The manual tells me to boot my computer: Where do I kick it?" The response: "Booting simply refers to turning on a computer. To boot a computer means to turn it on. Rebooting a computer is the same as pressing the Reset button. It’s all weird nerd talk."
If this is too rudimentary for you, then read on. If, on the other hand, you learned something, you need the Dummies book.
If you have some basic ability with computers, you can use it to advance your skills by visiting various websites or by enrolling in online classes. At About.com, for example, writer Niznik describes the basic computer skills many employers require. "Many corporate employees use computers to perform one of more of the following tasks, regardless of their job titles: Log on to workgroups, communicate by email, compose documents, provide budget input, enter database information, create presentations, plan projects, download company forms, make benefit choices, and preserve (back up) important data."
In addition, Niznik emphasizes that mastering the latest operating system – be it Windows Vista or Apple’s Mac OS – enhances your employability as well. For more articles about computer skills and links to online classes, go to About.com and type computer skills in the search box.
If online classes are not for you, there are numerous alternatives to finding the help you need. Many temporary staffing agencies, for instance, provide training for job candidates. All you need to do is call and ask what training they offer and if there is a charge.
If you are not interested in pursuing work as a temp, there are many other training choices. The state’s One-Stop Career Centers offer a variety of training programs, though they vary by location. Find a One-Stop near you at edd.ca.gov/one-stop.
Training classes abound at adult schools, regional occupation programs, local community colleges and countless private technical schools. Many are affordable and some offer financial assistance.
Of course, cost should not be your only measure of quality. Some low or no-cost programs have accomplished offerings.
Consider this listing from the Sacramento ROP (Regional Occupational Program) class guide: "Prepare for a career in the world of business by developing computer technology skills vital to the workplace. You will produce business documents using word processing, spreadsheet, database and presentation software. You will also acquire/improve keyboarding skills, operate business equipment, apply alpha/numeric filing procedures, demonstrate telephone etiquette, manage time and projects, develop interpersonal skills, examine employer/employee interactions, evaluate professional career options, develop job preparation skills, prepare for MOS certifications. Internships may be available."
Complete this class and you’ll be able to use this class listing as a foundation for your resume. No doubt many of those 6231 employers would be impressed.
For more info on improving your computer skills, visit these websites:
Carocp.org – Website for the California Association of Regional Occupation Centers and Programs. Click on California ROCPs for a complete listing of programs near you.
Cccco.edu/find/alphabetical.htm – Just click on community colleges in your area for their class schedules.
Otan.us/caaeproviders – Nifty program allows you to type in a zip code and find an adult education program within ten miles.
Edd.ca.gov/eddtraini.htm – This California Employment Development Dept page has links to various training resources. Click on ‘Find Training Providers in California’ to locate a school or employer that provides subsidized instruction.
JobStar.org – A website created by California public libraries, this is an excellent guide to all sorts of career information. Click on ‘Search Site’ and type in ‘computer training’ to find online and other resources.