Janet Hanson, founder of 85 Broads, has some great advice for Comeback Moms. Named for the Broad Street address of her former employer Goldman Sachs, she started the group in an effort to stay connected to her female colleagues when she left the firm and became a stay at home mom. Today, 85 Broads is over 20,000 women strong and has expanded beyond the scope of the financial services industry to include women from a variety of industries who share a passion for excellence.
Recently, Martha St. Jean interviewed her for The Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/martha-st-jean/women-work-jobs-and-advic_b_230809.html St. Jean asked her what advice she had for women who were re-entering the workforce after a time away.
"Find the smartest young people you can to help you figure out how to use a computer. Lack of computer skills is what is going to hold older women back.....If you don't know how to create an excel spreadsheet or to create a powerpoint presention, you are seriously handicapped," Hanson explained.
Students today seem to learn Excel and Powerpoint in preschool! Okay, that's a slight exaggeration. But if your kids are older than 11 or 12, chances are they can whip up a Powerpoint and create some basic spreadsheets in Excel faster than you can say Jonas Brothers.
Take care not to be lulled into an inflated sense of computer savvyness just because you can surf the net, email, use Word, and do a mail merge. I did.....and boy did I scramble when I learned---on day 1---just how un-savvy I was.
Excel and powerpoint are the counterparts to yesterday's ledgers and flip charts. Excel is applied in countless ways today---mailing lists, client contact information and follow ups, financial reports, statistical analyses, creating charts, and much, much more. So, if you were thinking that you're not looking for a job in a 'numbers' field and won't be needing Excel, think again.
Powerpoint is used for speaker visuals, on-line written reports, meeting agendas, final reports, slide shows, and meeting handout sheets. I have seen it used in nonprofits, corporate settings, conferences of all sizes, actual and virtual meetings, recruiting fairs, and budget presentations. Like Excel, its use crosses industries and professions. Knowing Powerpoint is simply essential.
As Hanson mentions, you probably know a smart young professional (niece? son? neighbor? candlestick maker?) who can help you begin to master these. Not to worry, however, if they respond to your SOS with a look of unveiled horror. Here are some other ways to sharpen the proverbial saw:
- Adult Education Programs - Many communities offer low-cost courses in the evenings. In my town, the Adult School offerings run the gamut from Photopraphy and Speaking to Your Angel Guides to Microsoft Office and Business Writing. The price is under $100 for a 2 or 3 night session.
- (Take Your Pick) for Dummies- Okay, you may want to tear off the cover, but these are usually well done, easy to follow, and right on the money. Check out your local library to see if they have any of these in stock. The last time I checked amazon.com, there were versions for Excel and Powerpoint, along with others for Outlook (the email system that is often used for scheduling appointments and more), Access (a database program), and Word (could be helpful if you're not comfortable doing more than straight typing).
- County Colleges - Taking a county college computer course can be a great option if you want to get more instruction that an adult school program can provide.
- The Microsoft Website - Once you've gotten some basics down, the Microsoft website provides on-demand trainings on specific topics. There is also a 'type question here' space in the upper right hand section of Word, Excel and Powerpoint for quick answers that may arise as you're working.
Take the time to improve and polish your skills for a smoother comeback experience. Think how proud you'll be when you can add Excel and Powerpoint to your skills summary!
All the best,