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New Tools for the New Year: Technology

New Tools for the New Year: Technology

    There’s nothing like getting ready to start a new year and making sure that all of your ducks are in a row, especially when it comes to the technology tools that you are going to use. We are strong believers here at Lifehack of trying not to follow the “shiny new thing” and stick with tools that we can learn and trust over the long term. Most of the tools that I am recommending for the new year have been around for a while, but it just shows that they are tried and true, and if you haven’t made the switch or started using them in some fashion, then maybe the beginning of the new year is time to do it.

    Productivity apps you need

    There are several productivity apps that you should have ready to go for the coming year. We highly recommend picking a set of tools and sticking to them, but at the bare minimum you will need a way to track projects and create and edit documents (presentations and spreadsheets too), and keep track of notes and information.

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    For project and action managers, we can’t recommend Toodledo, Remember The Milk, OmniFocus, or Asana enough. OmniFocus is the only one that is Mac only (but probably the best on the Mac) while the other are web based and have access via your mobile device (iPhone and Android apps).

    For editing documents, spreadsheets, and presentations you don’t have to go much further than using Google Docs. Google’s awesome set of online tools coupled with about 8GB of free storage is definitely enough to get a lot of your work done, not to mention collaborate with others. If you are in the camp of wanting to create documents locally, then you may want to hunker down and buy a license for Microsoft Office (either for Windows or Mac or both). Yet, if you aren’t willing to pay the hefty fee for Office, then try out OpenOffice.org (for all platforms).

    For taking notes we recommend Evernote. Seriously, if you aren’t using this cross-platform tool for taking notes and storing snippets of information with its suite of apps, then you need to stop reading, get an account now, and start making your life easier by using it. If you are a plain-text-lover (like me and Mike), you can augment Evernote with the use of a ton of plain text apps like:

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    Oh, and start using Markdown.

    Paperless tools

    I told a co-worker who has been working in the insurance field for 20+ years that I was going paperless this year. He reluctantly reminded me that he has heard that one since the 80s. But, I am going to make a concerted effort to get as close as possible to paperless, but not without the proper tools.

    A good paper scanner is important to keep all of your paper out of cabinets and into a digital system. I have to recommend either the ScanSnap S1500 or on the less feature-rich and price side the portable ScanSnap S1300. Both are sheet-fed and duplex scanners that definitely are reliable and get the job done. You could also give a try to the newer Doxie or Doxie Go that offers non-duplex scanning but in a tiny, portable package. The prices for the Doxie is definitely nice starting at $149.99.

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    After you get a good scanner you will need a way to store all of your documents. Our preference is using an Evernote account (possibly updating to Evernote Premium) and using Evernote’s great OCR search, tagging, and sorting capabilities to keep everything organized. Also, if you aren’t comfortable with storing everything in the cloud you could role your own system or use tools such as Microsoft OneNote or DEVONthink for Mac.

    Store and backup

    Dropbox is another app that is so important and useful that if you don’t have it in your arsenal of tools then you need to drop everything and go get an account (kind of like Evernote above). Dropbox has been moved from “just an awesome app that I love to use” to an app that is essential for my work. I keep all my important files in Dropbox, share documents with co-workers, upload/offload pictures and video, share TextExpander snippets, use it for storage for apps like 1Password and others. It’s my portable, digital file system.

    Also, if you aren’t backing up your computer regularly then you are somewhat insane. It’s part of a knowledge worker’s responsibility to keep her data intact and there is no better way I have found this year than doing so with services like Carbonite, Mozy, or even something like SuperDuper! for Mac that makes a clone of your bootable drive so you don’t lose anything important.

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    Conclusion

    Using iron clad technology tools for the new year is the only way to ensure that you are ready to be and stay productive. While there may be new tools and technologies that come and go, we feel that the apps, services, and products recommended above are here for the long term. Learning to utilize a strong set of tools that are reliable will not only help you into 2012, but may last many years down the road.

    (Photo credit: Hand pushing a button via Shutterstock)

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    Published on November 9, 2018

    How to Improve Your Computer Skills to Get Ahead in Your Career

    How to Improve Your Computer Skills to Get Ahead in Your Career

    Technology has taken the business world by storm. People and businesses are progressively reliant on technology world these days. As a result, the people with impressive knowledge and experience with a computer are in demand.

    Considering this growing market trend, if you too wish to bag a profitable job, this article is apt for you. Here, we will dig deeper into the business and technology world to look into what are the best computer skills one should invest in and what resources to get help from.

    So, are you ready? Here we begin.

    6 Most-In Demand Computer Skills This Year (and Beyond)

    When talking about computer skills, following are the 6 computer skills that can fill your mailbox with endless job opportunities (besides, having an English and Hindi typing speed of 40+ WPM):-

    1. Spreadsheets and Databases

    Considering the treasure trove of data companies are handling these days, Spreadsheet and Database management skill tops the list. It is considered the most wanted job skill in the market, with a salary of around $53,129/yr for an entry-level position. However, the spreadsheet skill does not confine to auditing data from cells.

    To get hired based on this computer skill, you need to become a Spreadsheet ninja. From storing data to organizing them, applying complex mathematics formulas, and creating complex macros, you need to be an expert at all.

    In other words, you need to have an expertise at working with:

    • Microsoft Excel
    • Microsoft Access
    • Statistics
    • Data Analytics
    • Adobe Campaign
    • Quickbooks
    • XML Database management system
    • Filemaker Pro
    • MATLAB
    • Hive
    • FORTRAN
    • RDBMS (Relational Database Management System)
    • SAS

    2. Social Media, Email, and Blogging

    Though people are socially active, not everyone knows how to use the social media tools on the professional front. In such a scenario, having an expertise at writing engaging yet professional emails, writing blogs, and managing social media activities is a ticket to entry in reputed organizations.

    Some of the skills related to social media, email and blogging that will have a leg up in the hiring process are:

    • Content Management System (CMS)
    • Google Analytics
    • Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
    • Email Marketing
    • Web Page Design
    • WordPress
    • Digital Media
    • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
    • Campaign Management Software

    3. Graphic Design and Word Processing

    A solid grasp of skills to present the gained information in the much readable form is another market need. When considering this computer skill category, you need to enhance your skills at:

    • Adobe Photoshop
    • Adobe InDesign
    • Adobe Illustrator
    • AutoCAD
    • CorelDRAW
    • Microsoft Visual Studio
    • Maya
    • Microsoft Word
    • Microsoft Publisher
    • Operating Digital Cameras

    4. Software and Hardware Design and Development

    The Software and Hardware development, in simpler language, means designing, implementing, and testing the computer software/hardware applications. It is the most profitable computer skill, with a different job opening, including Software Architect, Software Analyst, Software programmer, Hardware configuration, etc.

    To be capable of developing and testing the software and hardware, you need to peruse your users’ needs and build an application that hits their pain points. You need to work with different web and mobile app coding languages for gaining the attention of your audience, some of which are:

    • HTML
    • C/C++
    • Java
    • Python
    • XML
    • UI/UX
    • LINUX
    • CISC and RISC architecture
    • Embedded Processor Hardware Design
    • Memory Management
    • PCB Layout
    • SQL

    5. IT Troubleshooting

    Working on computers is one thing and having a knack of looking into the associated issues and resolving them in real-time is another. There are various employees and graduates who work with computer systems in their daily lives, but get confused when it comes to dealing with frozen programs and performing routine maintenance.

    So, if you are familiar with the basic anatomy of computers and machines and know the tricks to perform such tasks to streamline the working process, enter the IT support arena. The prime IT troubleshooting skills one needs to work upon are:

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    • Backup management
    • Diagnostics
    • End User support
    • Client-Server management
    • Installation and configuration
    • Issue tracking system (ITS)
    • System administration
    • Tech support

    6. Enterprise Systems

    Many Enterprises have their own enterprise solutions like PeopleSoft for managing their data and operations.

    Becoming a master at using the enterprise solutions mentioned in their ‘Requirements’ area can also lessen the barrier to get a job.

    The Roadmap to Excel Your Computer Skills

    Now that you know the 6 most popular computer skills in the market, the first decision, you need to take is which computer skill you want to work upon. All the skills are equally considerable for making a career ahead. So, choose one as per your interest.

    Once done, look forward to the following resources for boosting your computer skills and getting a reputed, handsome job.

    Depending on the computer skill you opt, here are the online courses you can turn to for elevating your career opportunities:

    1. Become a Spreadsheet and Database Ninja

    a. Microsoft Excel Training Online Course – Basic & Advanced

    Whether you are a beginner, intermediate or expert at working with spreadsheets, this online course has something new for everyone to become excel efficient users.

    Divided into 48 interesting lessons, the course empowers you to learn the technique of using mathematical, statistical, logical and text functions, sorting and filtering the data, creating Pivot Tables, building macros, finding a value with VLOOKUp, and much more.

    b. Excel- Online Courses, Classes, Training, Tutorials on Lynda

    This is another impressive course to unlock the power of Excel. Designed for people from all walks of life and familiarity with Excel tools. This course helps you gain in-depth knowledge from the experts about this data-analyzing tool and make the magic in spreadsheet creation and management process.

    c. SQL & Database Design A-Z™: Learn MS SQL Server + PostgreSQL

    Build a successful career in the data analytics world with this online course.

    Revolving around the two top databases, MS SQL and PostgreSQL, this course will give you a comprehensive knowledge of the working of the databases and understanding of all the related elements, including how to create, update, organize, and safeguard the data.

    2. Rule the Social Media World

    a. Free Social Media Course by HubSpot

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    Introduced by the top experienced inbound professors from Hubspot, here you will get a comprehensive knowledge of Social media marketing.

    From understanding how to build relationships on different social media platforms to creating a perfect strategy to engage them, leveraging the benefits of social advertising, and analyzing your social media ROI, this course will bring out the best out of you.

    b. Write Professional Emails in English by Coursera

    This online course will be the right weapon to look into the differences and similarities between different email styles, improve your English writing skills, write effective subject lines, maintain the formality tone in emails, and more to make a powerful impact on the receivers with your email.

    c. Ninja Writing: The Four Levels of Writing Mastery

    Founded by Udemy, this online course will excel your skills to build a masterpiece everytime you write.

    Here, you will get the guidance from the editors of the top newspapers and websites, and understand what kind of words and tone to use for leaving a spellbinding impact on the readers.

    3. Launch Your Own Software or Hardware Equipment

    a. Hardware and Software Courses by Coursera

    From Big Data to IoT, Sensor Circuit Design, Embedded Software and Hardware Architecture, and Motor Control Circuit, this course will give you a glimpse of all the hardware devices, equipment, and programming languages to build wonders.

    b. Free Software and Web Development Certifications Online by Alison

    Become the software developer market demands with Alison’s Java, C#, Python, R, PHP, or MySQL database course. From backend to frontend development and software testing.

    The course helps you to learn how to design, develop and test software and working in a team while contributing to the team success.

    c. Free Online Software Development and MOOCs Course by Class Central

    The Class Central online course will make you a master of software development. Here, you will learn the basic concepts of development like Agile, Design Patterns, and Version Control with Git, along with gaining experience of working with the top programming languages.

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    4. Live and Breathe Creativity

    a. Udemy: Introduction to Graphic Design

    It is a top-rated program for the new learners and designers to explore the Graphic Design world.

    From the history of communication to the design principles, the course will help the students to learn everything specifically and implement in the real world.

    b. Canva Design School

    From a beginner to advanced level, this course will provide you with an elaborated and comprehensive knowledge of graphic design. In the form of 4 modules, this course will help the interested graphic designers to try out their skills at Graphics, ranging from fonts to colors, backgrounds, images, shapes, and layouts.

    c. Microsoft Word – Basic & Advanced

    62 personalized lessons, premium video tutorials, and unlimited tests and quizzes – this certified course has everything that will make your entry to the business world easier.

    d. Microsoft Office: Word, Excel and Access Productivity Bundle

    The course will make you productive in Word, Excel, and Access through video lectures, articles, and various other supplemental resources.

    Besides, it will offer you exclusive tips and tricks to enhance your skills at using Microsoft office.

    5. Raise Your Reflexes to IT Troubleshooting

    a. IT Troubleshooting Skill Training by Udemy

    IT Troubleshooting Skill Training will upgrade your logical concepts over technical components to find and repair faults.

    It will provide you with a methodological approach to learn the basics of troubleshooting, practice them via exercises and drills, and enhance your IT troubleshooting intelligence.

    b. IT Help Desk Online Course on Lynda

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    The Lynda’s IT troubleshooting online course will train you how to respond to the issues related to Windows 10, Office 365, JIRA software, and more, from a local as well as a remote location.

    Mobile Apps and Websites to Enhance Computer Skills

    The aforementioned online courses will undoubtedly train you for a successful career ahead. But, in case you want a long-term support, turn towards the following websites and mobile apps:

    • Duolingo – Duolingo app will improve your spoken and written communication skills in different languages. With the magic of gamification added to the study, the app will make learning a fun and addictive task.
    • Hemingway – Hemingway app defines the length, complexity, and common errors associated with the sentences. In this way, it helps you to write effectively and go ahead in the career.
    • Udemy – The Udemy, with its 2000+ courses, is a great platform to master new skills, advance your career and explore the newer technologies and programming languages. Enrol a course as per your budget and make a brighter future.
    • eDX – eDX is yet another commendable platform you can look forward to. The platform offers you the best of the tutorials prepared by the business professionals and technology experts, ensuring a great boost in your computer skills.
    • Excel Easy – Excel Easy, as the name depicts, will make working with Excel easier for you via their detailed tutorials and 300+ real-life examples.
    • GCF LearnFree.org – It is a one-stop platform for accelerating your future in the computer world. From graphic design to Microsoft Office, resume writing, enhancing adaptability, and much more, the top experts will guide you with everything on this platform.
    • QuarkXPress – The QuarkXPress will aid you to add soul to your design with its unparalleled collection of font style, size, and typography. The best part is that it is avails all the options in different languages, including English, Spanish, German, French, and Italian to name a few.

    Bonus: Tips to Accelerate Your Approach For a Better Career Ahead

    Though these resources will make you stand out from the crowd and get hired at once, you need to focus on various other things, such as:

    1. Practice, Practice, Practice

    It is common to forget what we learn. To ensure that you do not miss any opportunity just because you forgot, keep practising.

    Make it your routine. Polish your computer skills and you will surely end up getting an offer letter from a recognized firm.

    2. Work on Your Efficiency

    Remembering what you learned is not enough; practice to enhance those skills to do better.

    For example, if you take around 50 minutes to create a design, target for 40 minutes.

    3. Look for Shortcuts

    Smart work rules over hard work more often. So, look forward to learning shortcuts to do any task. This will increase your chances to crack an interview and get selected.

    4. Apply for an Internship

    Last but not the least, apply for an internship to see what’s trending in the market and how much you are ready for it. While doing an internship, pay attention to your weak points and work on them. This will ensure a success when you apply for your dream job.

    By the late, it’s never too late to be an intern or grab whatever opportunity to learn something new! Here’s how:

    How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

    The Bottom Line

    Seeing the current market scenario, it is evident that having computer skills is a boon for a better career ahead.

    So, rather than struggling with thousands of other things and trying to crack interviews, focus on the computer skills mentioned in this article. Utilize the resources and experts’ tips shared and look forward to having a successful and prosperous future.

    Featured photo credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters via unsplash.com

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