Whether we like them or not, computers are here to stay; they have infiltrated each and every area of our lives. For some older workers, however, keeping up with the fast pace of technology has been a significant career challenge, with many finding that they are struggling to compete in today’s job market as a result.
Even with years of experience, industry knowledge, education, maturity and a strong work ethic, an employee without computer skills may get passed over. It may not seem fair, but training someone on computer basics could slow down business operations and cost employers time and money that they don’t have.
Let’s take a closer look at the importance of computer skills for mature workers and how to log in and log on to greater success:
Why computer skills are essential
While there may be some entry-level positions that don’t require the regular use of computers, those jobs are becoming rare. Further, a lot of those positions are physically demanding, which is typically something that older workers might want to steer away from as they age. Job prospects can improve greatly with even a small amount of computer know-how. Here are a few key areas where computer skills are important for personal and career success:
- Job hunting – job searchers must be able to:
- apply for jobs online
- write, edit and save resumes and cover letters
- attach and open documents and emails
- conduct online surveys, or aptitude tests
- research companies
- show that they are committed to lifelong learning and skills development
- In the workplace – email, schedules, shipping, inventory, customer/client databases, research, stats, reports, product development, travel, budgets, accounting, marketing, advertising, hiring, innovation, and countless other business operations require computers.
- Outside of work – in our personal lives, computers help us do our banking, book appointments, see our blood test results, order food, gifts or household items, plan a trip, check reviews on a product, and connect with the world through social media.
How to gain computer skills
Now that we know why computer skills are needed, let’s talk about ways to improve or get them all together.
- Ask for help – connect with your kids, grandkids, or peers to show you basic computer skills
- Practice every day – if you don’t use it, you lose it
- Go to the library – you can rent out books, DVDs or attend tutorials or workshops (where available) to improve computer skills
- Volunteer – there is likely a community organization that could use your help for a few hours each week; ask for tasks that require basic computer skills and ask to be shown the ropes. Not only will you acquire skills, but you’ll also get new references and enhance your resume in the process!
- Hop online – we know this sounds like a ‘chicken before the egg’ scenario, but if you type “basic computer tutorials for free” (or get someone to do it for you) into a search engine like google.com, you’ll see some great opportunities to really dive in and progress with your skills.
- Take a course – there may be no-cost or low-cost courses in your community that you can sign up for. Heading back to school at any age is a great opportunity to reach your personal and career goals.
- Hire a tutor – there may be a local college student or someone whom you can recruit to get you started.
Once you break through that initial fear of computers, you’ll gain much more confidence! Sure, you may not type as fast as the person next to you and you may ask a lot of questions at first, but the investment in yourself will pay off. Further, seeking out new skills to develop and committing to lifelong learning makes you an attractive hire; businesses don’t want to do things the same old way, they are looking for innovation and progress!
In today’s job market, we all need to possess a balance of soft skills and hard skills to best compete. The hard skills help us get in the door, and the soft skills keep us there! As mature workers, you have a lot to offer an employer. Even if you feel you may never truly master advanced computers, you can still be a strong asset to an employer with just the basics.
If you want to learn more about gaining computer skills and improving your job prospects, stop by one of our locations and let the team at FOCUS Employment Services help you. We’ve got free computer workshops, resume building services, local job postings, referrals to community supports and other resources to help you land your next great job!