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Get Tech Training to Fill Skill Gaps

By Lily Garcia
Special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, August 8, 2007 4:31 PM

I have been unemployed for quite a while. I recently landed a job close to where I live. During the interview, I was upfront about my computer skills: I can navigate around Word and Excel, but don't have a depth of knowledge about certain other computer functions.

They knew that. They offered me the job because they liked my personality and HR background. The girl I was replacing had assumed another position in the company and was also preparing to go on vacation, so the amount of time he had to train me was at a minimum.

I was able to pick up what they showed me on the computer and did what was asked of me. My boss called me into the conference room this past Tuesday and told me she didn't think it was going to work out and I should get a job that doesn't require computers.

I reminded her that I was upfront with her when she interviewed me. In all honesty, I wasn't that bad and picked up what little I was taught. Had they invested a little time in training me, they would've had a great employee.

I am at a loss and am trying not to feel bad about myself, but I think I was treated unfairly. I worked there a total of seven days with a minimum training time of maybe an hour! How in the world can someone expect a new person coming in to pick up and run with a job?

Two things apparently went wrong here. First, you and your former employer did not have a meeting of the minds regarding your level of computer proficiency at the beginning of your employment. Second, you were probably not given a fair opportunity to succeed.

They liked you; they really liked you. And maybe they were feeling rushed to fill the job. So when you said in all honesty that you "don't have a depth of knowledge" about computer programs other than Word or Excel, they heard what they wanted to hear. "She'll pick it up," they thought. They never planned on needing to provide much training.

It also sounds like they invested very little time in equipping you to succeed. Even if you were a Microsoft Office suite wizard, an hour of training would not be adequate except for the very simplest of jobs. The hiring of an employee creates an implicit ethical compact that both parties will do their best to make the relationship work. Based on what you have told me, this employer gave up on you too soon.

What next? I urge you to take a basic computer skills course so that you never again find yourself having to confess to or suffer from a lack of knowledge. In addition to Word and Excel, make sure you have mastered such programs as PowerPoint and Outlook. Having some level of comfort with basic HTML will also give you an edge.

Lily Garcia has offered employment law and human resources advice to companies of all sizes for 10 years. To submit a question, e-mail lilymgarcia@gmail.com. We reserve the right to edit submitted questions for length and clarity and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered.

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