NOTE: I wrote the original version of this article which ran in the Employment Press Newspaper when I was their Managing Editor back in 1992 during this country’s last big recession. I found it so relevant in today’s world of work that I decided to update it and make it available here.

Confidence, enthusiasm, assertiveness, skills, and an exhibited desire to work for a company are all ingredients to help you land that job. They must be reflected within all your dealings with a company...your cover letter, resume, telephone calls, and person-to-person contacts. Ironically, often the most important factor is how confident you portray yourself and if you are out of work this may be the last thing you feel.

But what about when a lack of computer literacy lends you to believe you are not marketable, which lowers your sense of self-confidence? It is difficult to portray a sense of confidence when you’re not feeling it. This article is to address, and hopefully help alleviate, some of those fears or concerns about computer knowledge or lack thereof.

Many positions, such as Business Managers, Administrative Assistants, Architects, Analysts, Artists, and so on, previously accomplished without computer knowledge require it today. Prior to the recession when it was an employees’ market, companies expected to train employees on the type(s) of program(s) they used, as it was more difficult to hire an employee whose skills specifically matched the functions of their job description. When the candidacy supply is high and the demand is low, companies are more inclined to ask for and get specifically what they want.

They may ask for a wish list and sometimes they get it.  Though companies are often flooded with responses to job openings and have a big resource pool from which to pick, only a small percentage of applicants who apply actually meet all of the requirements on a hiring manager’s wish list. But computer literacy in your field has become more important than ever.

Did you know that most classes to learn a program are taught in less than a week

If you tend to shy away from the subject of computers, you’re not alone. A good way to overcome this fear is to go out and take a short course in a program related to your field. The best way to choose the one right for you is to review the want ads under your profession for those programs most highly desired by hiring managers in your field and/or ask employment agencies. 

It’s natural to feel intimidated by computers; many people are. Since this in itself, however, can stifle your own belief system and ability to portray yourself as confident, it’s something that should be overcome. The biggest misnoma, and from it comes the fear, I believe is that people who are unfamiliar with computers think there are so many different types of computers that it must take a computer brain to learn everything, and once learned, computer literate people can sit down at any computer or program and know how to run them all proficiently. That certainly sounds like something far bigger than most people could ever handle in a life time! And nothing could be more further from the truth. You should know that most of us who are familiar with computers all felt that way to a degree when we first learned. It’s something you overcome, as familiarity takes over. The truth of the matter is most people who “know computers” only know one or two programs necessary for their particular job. 

For Example: Spreadsheet programs for accounting- and financial-minded people allow you to list all your categories and input the related data, and will do the calculating for you. Presentation programs allow marketing specialists to make slides and presentations directly on the computer instead of hand-writing them and sending them out to be processed. Project Management programs help you schedule and manage your projects. It’s pretty basic when you think of it. What you do by hand you can do better on the computer--and you need the skills you already have!

There are many courses available to you personally (some inexpensively through adult education classes and community colleges) to learn the one or two programs that can make you more marketable in your profession. And here’s another idea: put an ad in the classifieds for someone in your profession to train you. Pay them an hourly wage, and you decide how long you want to train.

In the event you are asked about a function with which you may not be too familiar, show the hiring manager how quickly you learned something similar, like an Architect with a Bachelors Degree who knows architectural infrastructure inside and out. Or a construction worker with five or ten years in the field. You have all the basics you need to know to input this information into the computer just as you would by hand, only now you’ll have some really neat tools to put it there, and no time calculating..that’s right a CAD program will calculate all your dimensions automatically. 

What about someone, like an Accountant or Financial Analyst who knows a different computer program than the one a company’s requested. Maybe you learned QuatroPro or Lotus 1-2-3 one, two, three!  And now this company wants an Accountant or Analyst who knows Excel or QuickBooks. So why wouldn’t you be able to also learn it one, two, three? I recall my father being adamently opposed to being anywhere near a computer. He was a Tool and Die Engineer. I just know if he ever gave it an opportunity he would have found that all his knowledge about tool-making would have found its way easily onto the computer instead of his desktop and made his life a lot easier and perhaps more fun. It’s not only worth a shot to learn, but you may find yourself enjoying it immensely. 

Learn the programs required in your profession so when a hiring manager asks if you are computer literate, you can say, “Absolutely!”

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By Evelyn U. Salvador