10 Essential Computer Skills You Need to Know for Your First Job

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First jobs rank with first loves and first cars as milestone moments in a person's life. Your first real office gig promises new experiences in a professional work environment, filled with experiences that grow your expertise as an employee and add to your accumulated subject-matter expertise. But of all the things a new office worker must learn, one of the most important but least sexy is the wizardry of using computers effectively in a networked environment.

Related: AchieveMPLS: My First Job Experience

Explore the Environment

Linux Alive

Most computers work more or less the same way -- they're driven by mice and keyboards and use menus with drop-down commands. Some corporate environments use custom software that doesn't look exactly like Windows or Mac, but most of the conventions are the same. If you find yourself faced with a computer OS you don;t know, though, don't worry. Focus on the familiar to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Related: Locker Gnome: What Are the Similarities Between OS X and Windows?

Batten Down the Hatches


Experts offer detailed laundry lists of things you should do to keep your computer and data both safe and private. Often overlooked is the simplest and most basic habit you ought to develop -- locking your workstation every time you leave your desk. It's the best way to keep bad guys and co-workers out of your stuff.

Related: George Mason University: Good Security Practices

Review the Usage Policy


Most businesses big enough to have an IT staff usually have policies that govern "fair use" of the company's computer equipment. Read it! Even if you're not blocked from looking at Facebook, for example, you could be held to account if your boss catches you looking at last weekend's party photos instead of working on the morning status report.

Related: Baseline Magazine: Creating An Acceptable Use Policy

Browse Safely

Inventing Interactive

Big companies are sometimes slow to update Web browsers. Although current browsers have up-to-date security protocols in place, browsers from yesteryear may not. As such, avoid clicking suspicious links or allowing apps or scripts to execute on your computer.

Related: NBC News: How Your Old Browser Threatens Your Security

Send Professional Messages


The relative informality of younger workers emailing among friends may not resonate with more conservative executives who expect a crisp, no-nonsense approach to messaging. Pick your words carefully to leave a favorable impression on any audience.

Related: Inc.: 25 Tips for Perfecting Your E-mail Etiquette

Use the Right Tool for the Job


Microsoft Office includes a word processor, spreadsheet, database and note-taking program because each app is optimized for specific tasks. To a guy with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail, but the business world is rife with problems that cannot be whacked into submission. Master the appropriate use cases for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote so your tool belt has more than just a hammer.

Related: Spreadsheets vs. Databases

Print with Gusto

Concept Draw

Networked printers aren't plug-and-play simple -- you'll need to install drivers or other software using either standard Windows procedures, or through a special tool that your company's IT department provides.

Related: Microsoft TechNet: Connect to a Printer on a Network

Save Files Sanely

The Network Nerds

Unless your company requires it, avoid saving files to your computer's local hard drive and instead save them on a network location. If your computer crashes, the data is still safe on the network. Be careful, though -- many companies prohibit the use of personal cloud storage like Google Drive, Dropbox, or Microsoft OneDrive.

Related: Que: Organizing Electronic Documents Successfully on a Shared Network Drive

Know How to Use CTRL+ALT+DEL

The Verge

Need a handy way to reboot, shut down or even just lock your PC when you get up for coffee? The CTRL+ALT+DEL key sequence opens a screen that simplifies basic system tasks, and in some companies, the key combo is a necessary part of logging into the network. And if it seems a bit wonky, well ... Bill Gates did take the blame for it.

Related: The Verge: Bill Gates Admits Control-Alt-Delete Was a Mistake, Blames IBM

Call 1-800-HELPDESK

Business News Daily

When things go awry, most corporate help desks are just a phone call away. Before you call -- reboot. It really does work in many cases. Just don't call IT to ask how you can pirate software.

Related: Business News Daily: The 15 Strangest (and Funniest) Help Desk Questions