You’ve made the decision: It’s time to make your job search a priority, but your technology skills are holding you back. You’ve been out of the workforce for 5, 10, maybe 15 years or longer, just as technology has rapidly changed how we work. You haven’t stayed current with the latest software required for the jobs you desire.
Sound familiar? The honest truth is that having good technology skills is expected in today’s work environment, and weak technology skills remains a top concern for employers hiring career re-entry candidates. The good news is that it’s never too late to learn new skills.
In my past three posts, we’ve discussed how to identify both the basic and specialized technology skills needed in today’s workforce. Plus I covered the steps that will provide you with resources to assess your current skills, learn some new skills, and find real opportunities to apply your technological proficiencies. In this final post, you will learn how to show potential employers that your technology skills are solid.
Step 6. Demonstrate to Employers that Your Technology Skills Are Current and Strong
Here is the kiss of death interview scenario:
Interviewer: “Tell me about your technology skills?”
Interviewee: “Well, I will need to brush up a bit since I have been out of the workforce for a while, but I am a fast learner. I pick up new technologies quickly.”
Unless you can give super concrete and impressive examples of picking up a new technology quickly, you are basically telling your prospective employer that your skills are weak. I once had a candidate describe a situation in which she was asked by her boss to hire a bunch of temps to enter a large amount of data located in an antiquated database into a new system. Instead she figured out how to write a computer program to extract that data from the old system and import it into the new one, saving significant time and money while improving accuracy. Now that was a great story that convinced me that she did indeed pick up new technologies quickly. If you have a story like this to tell, tell it.
Here is a more convincing interview interaction:
Interviewee: “In my previous jobs as an accountant, I always used MS Excel for data reporting and analysis. At XYZ company, I was considered the in-house Excel expert, and staff at all levels came to me for help. I used Excel extensively to produce commission, sales forecast, and budget vs. actual reports. I can import and export large datasets; create complex formulas; link spreadsheets; use pivot tables, Vlookups, and Hlookups; and create charts and graphs for presentations. Here is a sampling of reports I produced using Excel for the school PTA. I am currently taking a refresher course to learn how to use macros, which is considered a pretty advanced feature of Excel. I really love using Excel to crunch data and numbers.”
Always answering with honesty and accuracy, give concrete examples of how you used a technology required for the job. Weave into the conversation stories, comments and some technical jargon that reflect that you are up to date with the technology and understand how it relates to the job at hand. By doing this, you will be in the best position to convince your prospective employer that you have the skills needed to get the job done.
Because weak technology skills are a top concern for employers hiring re-entry candidates, another effective strategy is to answer the “how are your technology skills?” question before it is ever asked. A good job candidate addresses potential concerns head-on, rather than waiting for the interviewer to raise the concern.
Embrace technology NOW, on your own time and with your own money. Consider the investment as a critical part of your job search and a valuable networking activity. Honestly assess your abilities, determine what skills you need for the jobs you want, refresh your skills, and learn some new ones too. Follow this simple plan and, as an added bonus, you will gain a tremendous amount of confidence along the way. Lack of confidence is another top concern of employers hiring career re-entry candidates. So now you’ve killed two birds with one stone!
Sheila Murphy is Co-Founder/Partner of FlexProfessionals, LLC, a niche staffing agency that matches professionals seeking meaningful, flexible work with growing businesses looking for top talent. Karen Eye, FlexProfessionals Career Re-Entry Intern, contributed to the research and writing of this article. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.