Having run workshops and courses for women returners and administrative staff over the past 8 years Jackie Sherman is very much in touch with the concerns women have about working with computers. She is well aware of the fears female learners and work returners have of being out of date. If you are one of these, there is no other book that specifically covers the issues that concern you.
WHAT DO EMPLOYERS LOOK FOR?
Whether you want to return to work, change job or simply develop your career, you will be aware that a major revolution has taken place in the field of computing. Today, computers are an intrinsic part of most higher level professions and nearly all the jobs open to you if you are not offering specialised professional or technical qualifications still demand ‘computer literacy’ or ‘good IT skills’. So what do these phrases mean in real terms?
They are simply another way of saying that the jobs require confidence in using a computer and, in most cases, a working knowledge of the Microsoft Windows operating system and Office products such as Access™ (databases), Excel™ (spreadsheets and charts), Word™ (word processing) or PowerPoint™ (presentations). As most companies use e-mail for communicating and many have their own Websites, they will also require you to have an understanding of the Internet and World Wide Web and perhaps know how to use Outlook™ (an e-mail and diary management system).
Along with this knowledge, you need to be familiar with the keyboard; it helps if you have reasonable (but not ‘super-fast’) typing speeds; and you must be able to write clear and accurate English.
Even if your organisation uses an alternative to Windows PCs e.g. the Apple Mac, or asks for related skills such as audio typing (creating documents dictated via an audio cassette), once you have mastered the most common computer packages, an employer will be happy to train you further as you should find learning extra skills or working with new software relatively straightforward.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
There are hundreds of books on computing and IT in the bookshops, but very few are aimed specifically at those in general or administrative positions or, particularly, women returning to work. Having trained hundreds of office workers and women returners, it became clear to me that a single book was needed covering every aspect of general computing that you are likely to face.
Not only do you need to know how to set out long documents, create a spreadsheet, search a database and attach files to e-mails, nowadays you are also likely to be asked to find information stored as a PDF file, save work onto a CD, edit pictures taken using the office camera, scan in images to incorporate into a newsletter, add sound effects to a presentation and even set up a video conference.
Hopefully, this book will give you the confidence and provide all the guidance you need to carry out the many and varied tasks you may be asked to perform.
USING THIS BOOK
If you are returning after a career break: whatever post you might have held before leaving work to bring up a family or look after a relative, and even if it involved some computing, you may be worried that your skills and knowledge are now out-of-date and that it will be hard to compete in the market place.
If you are in work: it can be daunting to be asked to carry out tasks for which you feel unprepared, and where there is no time for the necessary training that you need.
This book has been written to address both these concerns:
- a)Work through it at home well before the application process gets underway so that you can feel confident you are truly computer literate and will be prepared for the range of IT demands you may face once you start your new job; and
- b)Keep it next to your computer at work, to use as a reference guide if you suddenly need to carry out an unfamiliar or complex task on the computer that you haven’t met before.
To update yourself thoroughly, the ideal would be to take a computing course at a local college or community education centre, but if you cannot do this because of work commitments, childcare or other considerations, it is perfectly possible to teach yourself computing at home. Many families now own a computer, but if you don’t have access to one at all, there are drop-in centres in libraries, village halls or Internet cafes where it may be free or comparatively cheap for you to spend an hour or so each week brushing up your skills.
At the end of the book, you will find information on some of the more common IT qualifications accepted by employers today as evidence of computer literacy. How-ever, it is not necessary to have any of these if you are applying for jobs which simply ask for good IT skills. As long as you include on your CV the names of all the software packages you can use e.g.Microsoft Word™ and Excel, and can describe some of the tasks you can now perform on a computer such as searching the Internet for information, word processing documents and sending and receiving e-mails, this should be quite adequate.
The book assumes that you have a very basic knowledge of computers i.e. you can use a mouse to select and open applications, understand how to use the keyboard and printer and have carried out simple word processing or similar activities. If you have never, ever used a computer before, it is a good idea to find a very basic introductory book aimed at complete beginners, to help you get started.
Although the material in this book is based on ’Windows 2000™ or AT™ operating systems and Microsoft Office 2000™ or 2002 (XP)™ software, you should find it easy to transfer its contents to Windows 98™ or ME™ machines or earlier versions of Office, if these are the ones you have at home or that are used by your new employer.