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You’re over 50, and you’re seeking employment.  You’re concerned that your technical skills won’t measure up in a new job. So how do you go about getting up to speed?

If you're currently employed, you'll need to take the initiative to acquire this knowledge, rather than waiting for your employer to provide training on the job.  General technical skills—including email, web searches, and familiarity with broadly-used office applications and social media—are now considered integral to almost any job, and a new employer will expect you to be comfortable with these tools before you join their team.

It’s easier to get started with new programs and applications than you might think. You don’t have to be a programmer, understand code, or make your way through massive technical manuals. All you need are a positive attitude and willingness to practice and experiment. Free quick-start tutorials are abundantly available (and using a search engine to find them online will hone your skills in web browsing).

The “Interns Over 40” blog notes that one of the mistakes often made by older job-seekers is the failure “to embrace your inner geek.” The author notes that blogging about her field and using Twitter were two easy ways to get noticed by potential employers.

She also quotes Asher Adelman, founder and CEO of the job site GreatPlaceJobs, who says: "I would highly recommend that older job seekers take advantage of social media platforms, which happen to be very easy to use, even for technophobes, in order to give the impression that they are in tune with the latest technological advances. This will work wonders for convincing young interviewers that you have the ability to work and relate with younger co-workers and excel in today's rapidly changing workplace."

Free tutorials, tips and tricks, and “cheat sheets” can be found online for all of the most widely used social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.

But what if you don’t know a social media platform from a diving platform? Your first priority, according to the job site Monster.com, is to get up to speed in these essential areas:

  • Basic computer skills, such as using a mouse, typing on a keyboard, and navigating file systems and menus.
  • Microsoft Office programs, with particular attention to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint—roughly in that order.
  • Essential Internet skills, such as email, web browsing, and searching.

Just remember that computers are easier than ever to use, training is widely available, and you don’t have to be a pro to master the basics of any of the popular programs and applications.

Libraries are usually a great starting point, since libraries may offer free use of computers, as well as classes or at least guidance on how to use them.

Another option is to take a computer skills test at a temporary employment agency. It's a great way to get a benchmark and determine where you need to go from there.

But the best advice of all: just get started. Before you know it, you’ll have a whole new skillset to offer, and you won’t mind at all when someone calls you an “old” pro.

 

18 Dec 2013 | Posted by Shannon Janeczek

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