My clients frequently worry that their computer skills are lacking. In most cases, they don’t need to worry. Here’s an easy test. If you’re seeking a job similar to your most recent jobs, you probably have the right kind of computer skills. You might not have used the same software, but you performed a similar function. As a second test, collect 10 job posts for the kind of positions you to want pursue. Check the computer and software skills that employers require. If they seek experience in a program you don’t know, research that software. In many cases, you have used something similar.
Think of computer skills as your tool box – what tools do you need to know to do your job? Once you have a good answer to that question, you can decide if you need to pursue training. Community colleges often offer reasonably priced computer classes. The Internet offers several online training services, some of which are free. If you need to brush up your skills find the option that works best for you. Don’t let a lack of computer skills be an excuse not to pursue your job search.
Clients frequently worry about not knowing how to use a certain software program or package. I will reassure them that it’s only important to know what you need to your job or the new type of job you want to do. For anyone working with financial data, Excel is a must. It’s not enough to know how to enter day in rows and columns. Professionals in financial fields often need advanced skills, which include formulas, v look up, and pivot tables. How do you know if you need these skills? Gather a sample of job posts for the kind of work you want to do (8-10 job posts), and review them for technical skills. If they mention Excel, look for the word advanced or terms like formulas, v look up, and pivot tables. Companies that require these skills will often test applicants, so you can’t bluff your level of knowledge. It will be time to find some kind of class or online program that will let you build your skills.
Just as some people change fire alarm batteries at the fall time change, the New Year is a good time to look at your resume and update it. The first question to ask is if your resume still fits your career goals. Are you doing the same thing? Looking for a promotion? Attempting to change careers? If you’re not doing the same thing, your resume needs to change.
Even if you’re not making a major change in your career, the New Year is a good time to take stock of what you have accomplished in the past year. Before you edit the resume, make a list of your success stories from the last year. Compare these achievements to those currently listed on the resume. Refresh any dated material and add new elements. You don’t have to add everything you’ve accomplished over the past year. Add only those examples that make your resume stronger.
Finally, test important details that are easy to miss. Is your contact information (address, phone number, and email) correct? Have you learned any new software or technical skills that should be added? Have you completed any new education, training, or certification? Have you joined any professional groups? Give your resume one more good review. This time your goal is to take off any information that is dated or no longer relevant.
The New Year is a great time to plan and make changes. If you’re plans include career advancement or finding a new job, remember to refresh your resume.
One of my clients is seeking to make a career change. At three points during a 20 minute meeting, she asked the same question: Should I learn Excel? It’s a great question, but not the most important to ask in a career change. The most important thing to do is to find types of job that fit the kind of skills you want to use at work. The next step is to find some job posts and analyze them. If you keep seeing that the employer wants someone who knows Excel, it’s time to learn how to use that software.
This example is true of almost any job search. Know what the employer requires before you worry about the need to learn new technical skills. Almost every job lists computer skills, but they tend to vary from job to job. Take the time to research what skills are needed for the work you want to do. Don’t waste your time or money on training for a skill you may never use.
I recently asked a client what MS Office programs she used at work. My client asked me, “Won’t they know that? Everybody uses Office now.” There are two problems with her statement. First, not everyone knows the software or uses the same program. The second problem is that it ignores the employer’s message. I’d estimate that more than 50% of job postings ask for specific examples of software. If we as job seekers don’t include a list of software, the employer is likely to assume that we don’t know software needed to do the job. Don’t let your assumptions lead employers to make incorrect assumptions about you. Know what the employer needs and spell out your qualifications.
Sometimes clients will tell me about their computer and technical skills, and I can hear doubt in their voice. I ask them a simple question: If an employer were to give you a hands-on test at an interview, could you use the software. If your answer is yes, list the software on your resume. If not, don’t list a program you can’t use on the job.
Be fair to yourself. Some programs, such as Excel, have degrees of skill. If you have used a program on the job, take credit for that skill and experience. Be careful about what programs you cite on your resume. At the same time, don’t cheat yourself.
When it comes to computer skills, clients frequently tell me what they don’t know. Or they talk about programs they have the least experience with. Technology is always changing, and we tend to think that we need to know the latest version of a software.
Think about computers and software a different way: They are tools that help us do our job. I ask my clients how they use a computer at work. If they use Microsoft Office programs (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), that’s fine. But I also want to show how they use software or database programs. Another computer skills that’s coming into use more and more in the workplace, especially for marketing and sales, is social networking.
How do you know what computer skills employers are looking for. Take a poll. Review 5-10 job postings for jobs you want to pursue. What programs or skills are listed in most postings, those are the ones that should go on every resume.
Use the computer skills section of you resume to list programs that the employer will care about. Don’t worry about what you don’t know. If you need to learn a software program to do your job, it’s time to go back to school. Otherwise, list what you know and find other ways to tell employers that you are someone they want to interview.
Quite a few clients have told me that they don’t need to list computer skills on their resume. “Everybody knows Microsoft Office,” they say. I caution that this assumption is not true. More importantly, I point out that employers ask for specific software skills in most job postings. It is in your interest to list as many of those skills as you are able to use.
The best way to determine what computer skills are needed by employers is to conduct a market profile (the same way you determine other skills needed in your resume). Collect 6-10 job postings for the kind of job you want to apply for. Make a list of the computer skills that are required. If you lack any of those skills, it might be time to pursue some training. List the programs you know on your resume. Don’t second guess yourself too much. If you have used software on the job and can still use that program, I recommend putting it on your resume. If you haven’t used a program in years or if you have little experience using it, don’t put it on your resume.
IT professionals will often have detailed lists of technical skills. These lists will change depending on the job seeker’s professional role (programmer, network administrator, help desk). The challenge for these professionals is to demonstrate that their skills are up to date and that they fit the employer’s specific needs. It is vital to read job postings and adjust technical skills to match each application.
Never assume that the employer will know what computer skills you have to offer. List them on your resume. Almost every job requires use of a computer. We need to let employers know how we can use this important tool.