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Sharpening your Tech Skills

Sylvie Garvey, Founder of Computer Fitness and our Women Returners go-to tech expert, suggests a variety of ways to update your IT skills for your return to work. 

Making the decision to go back to work is a tough one. Deciding what role might suit you best, incorporating the logistics of
family commitments, facing interviews and getting back into the mind-set of committing your time to something new can be very daunting.

Most of us have enough to think about without the worry of the whole IT side of things. The feeling that your technological
skills might have become obsolete over your career break does not help with building your confidence. IT seems to change so frequently these days, as we see from constant updates to computers and smartphones, and the worry can be that it
might be the same in the workplace.
Show up with the knowledge
Employers do expect you to get up to speed yourself with basic office management software before you start back to work.
You should be able to demonstrate this during your interview if the topic comes up. If you are able to say that you have been on a refresher course for MS Office or the Apple Suite of products, both you and the potential employer will
feel more confident about your return to work. You can do this in many ways depending on how big you think the gap in your knowledge is and the skills you need to feel confident. You could attend a course at a local training centre which would cover broad aspects of office management software. If you’re a self-directed learner, there are many online courses available (some free) which will guide you through software packages, for example Microsoft online  and YouTube can be an excellent source of knowledge for brushing up on how do to specific tasks like consolidating Excel spreadsheets using pivot tables or inserting links into PowerPoint.

If you prefer more personal, tailored training you can get a trainer to guide you to areas that are specific to the role that you hope to be going back to. You could also ask a student or friend to spend a few hours getting you up to speed on the changes.

Get your home IT fit for purpose
Another aspect of IT and your return to work to consider is whether your job will allow you to work from home and if
your home IT capabilities are up to scratch. You might be provided with a work laptop eventually but be prepared to access work remotely initially, especially if trying to put those extra hours in at the beginning. Trying to participate in video conference calls or working on documents from home maybe part of what is expected of you so make sure that your computer has a robust anti-virus, fast broadband, the capacity to access shared work folders and emails and the software to review and edit documents. For technically specific jobs, find out if the employer can get you up to speed themselves and if they will provide a
technical updating piece to your training. New software and applications and tools emerge every month so don’t expect to know what each one does or how it works. Many are custom-built tools used only within the company. It would be impossible to keep up with all emerging products and as with all aspects of returning to work, be patient with yourself and be open to trying new tools and accept all training offered.
Sylvie Garvey is the Founder of Computer Fitness, an IT troubleshooting and training company specialising in small business and home office environments. She worked in Management Consultancy for 15 years before starting Computer Fitness. She can arrange group or one-to-one training on most office software and can advise on future-proofing your IT [].