Staying relevant

Getting up to speed with technology is an invaluable way to avoid being left behind in the workplace. Susan Moir explains how you can painlessly conquer new technology.

The company I work for has just upgraded all of the computers in my building. With so much new technology around I am afraid of being left behind. What skills should I now learn so that I don’t become redundant in the workplace? And how can I stay up-to-date on a day-to-day basis?”

Google and Facebook may have become verbs in the popular lexicon, but not everyone uses these terms with the ease of Bill Gates or the guys who founded Google. Across a broad spectrum of industries, computer literacy is now viewed as a must-have. Confessing to being ‘scared of computers’ or ‘from the old school’ will tend to date you. There is no need, however, to become a technology pro. Computers are far easier to use than they once were, and training is widely available, so you only need to master some basics to stay relevant.

Conquer your anxiety

The first thing is to get rid of the fear factor. If you have worked for a company for many years you may tend to think of training as purely your employer’s responsibility. However, you should ultimately be responsible for updating your broader technology skills as part of staying current in the world of work. If your employer does offer training, by all means do take advantage of it as a cost-effective way of getting up to speed.

Essential skills

In improving your technology literacy ensure that you are on top of basic computer skills, such as using a mouse, typing on a keyboard, and navigating file systems and menus. Other programs which are important to know are Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

And of course internet skills, such as email, web browsing and searching are vital. Building a LinkedIn profile for yourself is integral to working life these days. It could be extremely helpful if you are on the hunt for another role and is more useful professionally than Facebook.

Getting started

Enlist someone under 25 to help you to learn to play around with a computer. There are a phenomenal number of resources for learning about technology, many of them free (or close to it). Seek out libraries, learning centres, adult or continuing-education programs, community colleges and online tutorials. A library is often the best starting point, since libraries typically have computers available for general use and may even offer short computer classes (or know of the best local options). If you have already mastered the basics, consider visiting a temporary recruitment agency to take a test for computer skills to benchmark yourself.


Regular practice is essential to really learning the technology, so you need to use the computer and new programs on a daily basis. You could think about polishing your skills in situations where you might feel less exposed than at the office. You might think about volunteering at a community organisation to help with its mailing database, or designing a newsletter for a sports club or school. Such experiences help to build confidence.

Connect with others

Partnering up with other people who want to get to grips with technology is an excellent way to accelerate your skill development. Is there anyone else at work who would like to join you in learning about new technology? As your internet use increases you could think about joining a group forum where people post issues they are having with technology and others respond.

Becoming adept with technology is about more than just being able to do the job. Your skills in this area will also help you to present yourself as someone who is highly adaptable and flexible in learning new tasks.

Is This Thing On?: A Computer Handbook For Late Bloomers, Technophobes, And The Kicking & Screaming.

Abby Stokes

Workman Publishing Company, 2012

Accredited Online Training provides nationally recognised training and short courses across a range of subjects including computing.