In the latest installment from our guest business writer, Carissa Doshi, she discusses the six cardinal skills that anyone considering a career working in an office needs to excel (no pun intended) at.
There are a few basic skills that anyone interested in clerical work needs to know. They are also essential for entry-level positions in most offices, regardless of the field. If you are looking for a job as a data entry clerk, receptionist, administrative assistant, or something similar, make sure you have these basic skills under you belt:
Jobs that call for typing skills usually expect you to type around 60 words per minute with very few errors. If you use the "hunt and peck" method of typing, this probably sounds impossible. But there are lots of free typing tutorials available on the web that teach how to type using all the fingers, and now is a great time to learn. With a little practice, you'll be surprised by how fast you can type. If you already know how to type, keep your skills up by instant messaging or typing emails to friends, or by playing free typing games online for a few minutes each day.
Data entry is similar to typing but includes the numeric key pad as well. For data entry clerks, accuracy is very important. Data entry tutorials are also available for free online.
Alphabetical filing may seem simple, but a surprising number of people have trouble with it. To file alphabetically, you need to know two things: the alphabet, and that when two file names start with the same letter, you have to look at the next letter to see which goes first (e.g., "Dog" goes before "Duck" because "o" comes before "u" in the alphabet; similarly "Dodge" goes before "Dog" because "d" comes before "g" in the alphabet). It's that simple.
Microsoft Word is the word processing program used in most offices. It has more features than most people use regularly, such as mail merge, but all of its features are useful to know. Goodwill's online learning website has a free Word tutorial that you can access free of charge at www.gcflearnfree.org.
Microsoft Excel is the spreadsheet program used in most offices. Like Word, it has more capabilities than most people ever learn, including some very useful ones like graphing and pivot tables. You can master Excel for free online at www.gcflearnfree.org too.
How to transfer calls and put calls on hold on a multiline phone are easy enough skills to learn on the job. The skills you need to bring with you are smiling and always being polite, no matter how irritating a caller might get. Smiling is important because it comes through in your voice — and employers are more apt to hire smiling, friendly employees. Being pleasant to work with counts for a lot on the job.
If you've already mastered the six skills above, you can make yourself even more marketable by learning computer programs such as Microsoft PowerPoint and Access. Tutorials for these programs and others are available both on www.gcflearnfree.org and in person at the GoodTemps Manhattan office. If the jobs you want call for other skills and you aren't sure where to learn them, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'd be glad to help however I can.
Carissa Doshi is a business writer and the president of Gen Y Media Group. She gives career advice and blogs about her experiences on www.carissadoshi.com. You can also follow @CarissaDoshi on Twitter.