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Success at Work: Techniques: Computer Literacy
It's hard to believe that there are people in today's workforce who don't know how to use a computer. In today's society, being computer illiterate is equivalent to being functionally illiterate. Obviously no one reading this article is computer illiterate, but maybe you know someone who thinks they can avoid computers and still be successful at work.
Let me tell you a story about a good friend of mine back when I worked at Motorola. The company moved the manufacturing of automobile alternators offshore, resulting in his transfer to my department. Although he had about 20 years with the company, this was to be his last stop before being booted out the door.
He was assigned to me as an Electronics Technician, and the first assignment that I gave him was to lay out a small printed circuit (pc) board. It was a tiny circuit for a tester, so computer drafting was not required. He could just sketch it out on paper. After several days, he came back to me explaining that he didn't have the technical ability to lay out a pc board.
An Electronics Technician that couldn't lay out a simple pc board? Don't all Electronics Technicians make little hobby circuits at home? At least all the technicians I knew did.
I explained that he needed to draw outlines of the components and then use the schematic to draw lines between the components connections. Then, maybe rearrange the components if that would result in fewer crossing paths. I also explained something much more profound, how to deal with the complexity of technology.
Many people, when they come into contact with technology, consider themselves too stupid to deal with it. Technology is only for geniuses and geeks. Sometimes technology is too complex, but it's not because people are stupid, it's because the technology is poorly designed.
For example, take software, like a graphics program, spreadsheet or database. Is the intended user of the software a computer programmer, or an average person? These applications are intended for use by an average person. If an application is too complex for the average person, the application is at fault - not the user.
Why are most computers and software applications too complex for the average person? Because they are designed by programmers who are under pressure to get the product out the door. Does the application have simple, easy-to-use help files? Software developers consider help files even less important than application usability.
- The bottom line is, people are not stupid - computers and software applications ARE too complex.
In today's world, where workers are required to use computers and technology, how can they deal with the complexity? Back to the story about my friend at Motorola.
After receiving my instructions, he successfully completed the pc board layout. I then introduced him to Computer Automated Engineering (CAE). I showed him how to drag electronic components from a library, use the mouse to draw circuit paths, make the computer simulate the function of the circuit, and then make the computer layout a pc board for the circuit.
He was able to easily master complex technology because he now understood that he wasn't stupid. Computers ARE complex. When he needed help, he studied the help files or asked someone for help. Eventually, his CAE skills became known and I lost him to another manager. "His last stop before being booted out the door?" I don't think so. There's no way Motorola is going to let this valuable employee get away.
Even though it's the programmers fault that computers and software are too complex, that doesn't relieve you of all responsibility. You must make an effort. Like my friend at Motorola, you must study the help files or ask someone for help when you need it. Not only must you study the help files, but you must also be willing to "try things".
Many people fear that if they click on the wrong thing, the computer will blow up and they will be blamed for it. A properly designed software application prevents the user from making a fatal mistake, either by making it impossible, or by providing a warning message. A properly designed application lets the user "back out of" or reverse any action. One of the best ways to learn is to "try things". If the computer blow ups because you made a mistake, you're using improperly designed software.
When you're learning how to perform a function with a computer, if you expect you may need to perform that same function again, take notes. No one will think you're stupid if you take notes. But if you keep asking over and over again how to perform the same function, they will think you're too stupid to take notes.
When I worked at Motorola, I used a technique called "strokes" to make symbols appear and move around the computer screen like magic. Some people called me the "Electronic God". How did I get so good? I tried things. I failed. I studied. I tried again. I understood that technology IS complex. So what?
In today's society, being computer illiterate is equivalent to being functionally illiterate. Make the effort to study the help files and to "try things". Don't get discouraged or blame yourself if you don't succeed on the first try. The computer won't blow up if you make a mistake. You can't be successful at work if you fail to embrace computers and technology.
Copyright(C) 2004 Bucaro TecHelp.
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About The Author
To learn how to maintain your computer and use it more effectively to design a Web site and make money on the Web visit bucarotechelp.com. To subscribe to Bucaro TecHelp Newsletter visit http://bucarotechelp.com/search/000800.asp.
Defining Success Your Way!
In my career advising practice, I often find that my clients are not clear about what success means for them. Our society defines success primarily around three elements: power, money and fame. Many of you reading this may be saying, "wait a minute ?those elements are not the most important things to me." Success is often intangible. It's certainly unique to each person. Have you considered how you will know when you are successful?
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Taking Your Words Seriously
When we ordered the stained glass window as an accent piece for our home, the artist-proprietor told us he was a bit behind. "So," he said, "to be on safe side, plan on six months." That was two years ago. We still don't have the window. Each time we call or stop in, he has yet another plausible reason why our project isn't done, the appropriate apology and a new promise of a delivery date. What he doesn't have is credibility. Wishful promises don't cut it in small-town businesses or big-city corporations. It doesn't matter what role you're in. If you tell me you'll do something, I expect you will do it whether you're a business, an employee, a co-worker or my boss. You're the one setting my expectations, so why wouldn't I believe what you tell me? It baffles me. I've found in twenty years of management few people meet or exceed the expectations they set and they control. I'm not talking about deadlines other people set for you. I'm talking about the ones you establish. Maybe it's because few people take their own words seriously. If you do you can differentiate yourself at work. People who consistently do what they say they're going to do, without sandbagging, are memorable. They're the people with credibility. They're the ones you want to hire and promote and do business with. People fail to establish credibility without even knowing it. If someone tells me she'll provide information by Friday, but what she meant was "around Friday," she'll feel she met her obligation to me when she pushes send on her email Monday morning. I'll view her as lacking credibility when the information for a project I wanted was late. However, if she told me I'd get the information no later than Tuesday and delivered it on Monday, while her delivery date remains the same, her credibility soars. By managing the words that define what others can expect from you, you can surprise and delight your co-workers, boss, and customers. To do that, replace casual-speak and wishful promises of what you'd like to have happen or believe can happen, with commitments of what will happen. But here's the key. You can't commit what you can't control. If I tell a member of my staff he'll get his review next week, but I only control when I finish writing it not when it's approved, the likelihood of me failing to meet an expectation I set with him is strong. But if the review is written, signed by my boss, and in for processing at the time I set the expectation, I'll meet it. Our delinquent artisan could have called three months into the project, told us he accepted an unusual opportunity to restore an historic building, was putting his other projects on hold until that was complete, and offered us the choice of waiting until he resumed work or getting our deposit back. He could have preserved his credibility and the relationship. Actions may speak louder than words. But it's our words that provide the backdrop for whether our actions measure up. If I'm your customer, your boss, or your co-worker, I'm taking your words seriously. I think you should, too. (c) 2004 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.
A Concept That Could Double Youre Income in Mystery Shopping
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Use Job Search Hacks to Get Hired Faster
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A Bit of Pollyanna
"Stop being such a Pollyanna," a trusted, more experienced colleague counseled as we took the long route back to my office. He had just witnessed my project idea annihilated as co-workers eagerly argued why my idea wouldn't work, where it was flawed and why it shouldn't be funded. Despite naysayers in the room that day, I believed it was worth pursuing. Ultimately, it did receive funding and became, in time, a successful endeavor. A bit of Pollyannaism got me though.
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Wake Up and Learn Something New
The US Government has just released last month's job creation figures. It was the lowest number in two years. This is a revealing and disturbing snapshot of what is actually happening in the real economy, not the one artificially created for the headlines. Our US GNP or Gross National Product, is based upon manufactured durable goods. Unfortunately, the manufacturing economy in the US has not yet recovered from the devastating collapse it saw commence in the spring of 2000. The recent improvements in jobs and growth are substantially confined to the service sector. Manufacturing is what drives the US economy and it is suffering.
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