Yesterday, I stood in a long line to get my new ID badge. As part of my company's re-branding, we're all getting new badges with the new logo. And when I finally got to the front of the line, wouldn't you know it? The computer program they were using decided to stop cooperating. I sighed, and looked over at the program.
It was a basic database, a bit outdated, and resembled strongly the database program that I used when I worked as a librarian. I could tell what the problem was; the program was double-opened and both were trying to access the camera at the same time. All that was needed to do was a basic Ctrl+Alt+Del to pull up the Task Manager and force quit the non-responding programs and restart it--once. (This is a simplification--there was a little more to it, but there's no need to get into the details.)
But, strangely, I know that I couldn't say that. It is just one of those unwritten rules--I am an administrator and don't work in the Security Office, therefore I have no business telling them how to fix their computer problem. Half an hour later, they finally did what I knew they should have done to start with, and the problem was resolved. I got my mugshot--er, photo--taken and my badge printed and was on my way.
This all resonated with CNet's survey on the under-utilized skills of Generation Y at work. According to their poll, people who have graduated college in the past three years (or five in my case) are far more confident working with technology than people of older generations.
Speakman warned that businesses are failing to make the most of this innate love of tech.
"We've all got e-mail, and we've all got access to the Internet, and so we probably tend to think we're completely up to date. But what we've tended to do in many businesses is we've automated a paper process rather than necessarily look at the capability of the technology that you have and ask if there are even more efficient ways to use it," he said.
I've seen this happen a lot in career, where people don't want to embrace what technology can do for them, whether it's wasting database usefulness or not comprehending the impact of shared documents rather than multiple copies of the same document with changes.
In my current job, I'm building a database to manage the information on my grants. It's a slow process, because I'm starting from scratch, but when it's up and running (hopefully this summer) I'll have all the data where I want and need it, so I can provide better guidance and management to the PIs that I work with.
My advice to new graduates and job seekers is to use technology to your advantage. If you've never used Powerpoint, start playing with it now. Learn how to work formulas in Excel. And one thing I've found that never fails to impress is the ability to use Word to create text boxes, paragraph borders, or mail merges. Go to a temp agency and ask to take their MS Office assessments to find out what you don't know that you could learn. Put your tech skills to work.