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The following is an excerpt from my new book, "MORPHING INTO THE REAL WORLD - A Handbook for Entering the Work Force" which is a survival guide for young people as they transition into adult life.  The book offers considerable advice regarding how to manage our personal and professional lives.  As a part of this, I found it necessary to describe the basic business skills required in today's corporate world.

Basic Business Skills Required

I cannot possibly list all of the business skills you are going to need to suit your particular line of work.  However, there are some rather basic skills you will need to effectively perform in just about any office:

*  Computer skills - in all likelihood, you will need to interact with a computer somehow during the course of conducting business, whether it is to place an order, track a shipment, record your time, or to write a letter or memo.  As such, you should become familiar with the basic operation of a computer.  Most High Schools today do a fair job of teaching the basics, but if you missed the course, there are plenty of places you can receive training, such as at public libraries and community service associations.  Of course, there are also professional training programs you can also attend.

In addition to the use of the keyboard, mouse, and monitor, one of the most important things to learn is the concept of the computer's "clipboard" which is used to copy and paste data from one program to another; e.g., from a spreadsheet to a word processing document.  When using a computer, this is one of the most common features you will actively use.  Also, learn the basics of the computer's file management system; e.g., the organization of the folders, the various file types used, and how to search the computer for its contents.

Also learn how to use the computer's help facilities to assist you in problem areas.  Most programs use similar help facilities making it easy to learn and follow.

*  Word Processing - word processors are perhaps the most extensively used programs on a computer and there are a variety of programs available offering comparable features.  Aside from basic typing, you should learn how to format a document in terms of setting up margins, pagination, headers and footers, and font selection (type, style, and size).  More importantly, learn how to effectively use spell checkers and grammar checkers.  I am amazed how many people use word processors yet know little about how to use such facilities.  Consequently, a letter may look graphically appealing but is inundated with spelling errors and weak sentence structures.

*  Spreadsheets - if your job requires any basic number crunching, you will undoubtedly have to learn how to use a spreadsheet.  Their ability to perform basic math is an incredibly time-saver.  Do yourself a favor and learn how to express a formula (such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division).  You cannot believe how many people use electronic spreadsheets yet still perform the math manually. Pretty scary.

*  Graphics - office workers will inevitably need to work with graphics, if for nothing more than scanning, cropping and sizing photographs and illustrations.  They may not need to know how to use robust graphic   design tools (unless they are in that business), but they will need to know how to perform basic graphic manipulation.  Also, depending on your job assignments, you may need to learn how to use slide presentation software; e.g. Microsoft PowerPoint, Lotus Freelance, etc.  Such presentation aids are useful for sales and training situations.

*  Desktop Publishing - if you will be responsible for producing brochures, books, and formal reports for presentation, in all likelihood you will have to learn a Desktop Publishing tool, such as Adobe InDesign or    Microsoft Publisher.  You will also have to learn how to produce documents in the Portable Document Format (PDF), a popular file format from Adobe.

*  Multimedia - most office workers will not need to know how to produce audio/video files, but it would certainly look good on your resume if you did, as well as making you a more valuable resource to your company.

*  Internet - this is an invaluable tool for communications and research. Here you will need to know:  how to send and receive e-mails (including how to attach files), instant messaging, maintaining an address book, how to use a web browser, and how to effectively use a search engine. It may also be necessary to learn how to send and receive files using FTP facilities (File Transfer Protocol).

*  Other computer utilities - two common types of programs actively used in business are calendars and calculators.  Calendars are invaluable for coordinating schedules on a corporate-wide basis, and calculators, of course, help us with math.

This brings up a point, most offices require their workers to have good basic math skills, to prepare such things as orders and purchases, calculate estimates and schedules, and to write a cost/benefit analysis.

*  Telephone etiquette - it's interesting, despite the elaborate phone systems companies use, people still do not know how to properly answer the telephone.  First, when the phone rings, answer it promptly, do not let it continuously ring thereby upsetting not only the caller but your coworkers as well.  Second, when you answer, properly identify yourself and ask how you can be of assistance; for example, "This is John Doe.  How can I help you?"

If you are using Voice Mail (which seems like everybody does these days), put down a professional message that will not alienate callers; for example:  "This is John Doe.  I cannot take your call right now but if you leave a message I will be sure to return your call as soon as possible."  Now for the real trick, follow-up on your promise and check your messages regularly and respond promptly.

*  Writing & Penmanship - there are primarily three types of writing you will be involved with:  memos, business letters, and reports.  I do not have sufficient space here to provide you with the tutorial needed    to instruct you in this regard.  I suggest you either take a course in effective writing or research examples on the Internet.  Nonetheless, write professionally (avoid slang) and courteously, get to the point and do not ramble.

I realize people today are more inclined to type than to write something by hand, but if you do, write legibly so people can read it.  Your penmanship says a lot about your personality, your professionalism, and level of education.

*  Speaking - regardless of your job, you will undoubtedly have to meet and converse with people, attend meetings and presentations, and possibly conduct interviews.  As such, it will be necessary for you to be able to articulate your ideas and positions.  If you are shy and resist engaging in professional discussions, you will have to learn to overcome your fears.  

If you would like to discuss this with me in more depth, please do not hesitate to send me an e-mail.

Tim Bryce is a writer and management consultant located in Palm Harbor, Florida.

He can be contacted at:  timb001@phmainstreet.com

Copyright © 2008 Tim Bryce.  All rights reserved.

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