By Chip Cutter, AP Business Writer
NEW YORK — Even the most hardened technophobes are looking for ways to beef up their computer skills amid the downturn. But many don't know where to start.
Laid off workers are hoping to get better with technology to find new jobs. And people still in the work force want to keep their positions by staying up-to-date with the latest trends.
Where to begin? Here's a primer on how to become more computer-savvy, whether you're a novice or an experienced user:
DISCOVER WHAT SKILLS YOU NEED
Before you open a book or sign up for computer training classes, determine what skills you'll need in your career or prospective job. Will bosses expect you to be a wizard with spreadsheets, for example, or do you only need to know the basics of everyday tools such as Microsoft Word or PowerPoint? Find out by asking employers directly, if possible.
Robert Kelley, an adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business, suggests that applicants set up informational interviews with the companies they're interested in.That way, they can learn the specific computer skills and experiences needed for the position, while also making a connection with the employer.
If you can't set up such an interview, take a look at online job postings in your desired field. Many list specific computer requirements, says David S. Murphy, membership director of the International Association of Information Technology Trainers.
Then assess your skills, and decide what additional training you might need.
ASSESS THE STRENGTH OF YOUR SKILLS
If you're a computer novice, start by spending time on a computer at a public library, says Jean Riescher Westcott, the co-author of "Digitally Daunted: The Consumer's Guide to Taking Control of the Technology in Your Life."
Most libraries offer free courses on a range of topics. If you've already mastered word processing and the Internet, for example, try taking classes on social networking and databases.