Dear Matt: I feel like I am falling behind technologically. There are so many new software programs out there and while I am technologically savvy at my job, what should I learn or know that will make me more marketable to employers? I want to stay on top of things. How can I do that?

Matt: You don't have to be in IT, or a so-called "computer geek" to know that understanding technology is a key to making progress in today's world of work. There isn't an industry or profession where some form of technology, software or computer skills aren't necessary.

That's why it's important to keep on top of technology trends. What does that exactly mean? It means being able to proficiently use programs that are used in your industry. Every profession has industry-specific software that one must learn in addition to his or her regular job duties. At the very least, you should have a firm understanding and knowledge of how to use Microsoft Office products such as Word, Excel and even PowerPoint - those seem to be standard for any industry.

How can one know what to learn for the present, and future? Here are some tips:

Read employment ads in your industry to see what jobs in your field are requiring. Look for trends and keep up to date on what employers are looking for.

Contact a local WorkForce Center, library, community college, technical college or computer training center to find out what programs/classes are available. Many communities also offer free basic computer classes through adult education programs.

Check with peers in your networking groups - what programs are they using, what are the trends they see, and what are other companies doing?

Read industry websites and forums - what are people talking about? What are the hot trends and topics related to technology?

Think outside your industry: Learn programs that can be used in numerous professions - you never know when you may make a change.

Read business publications and websites to find out what the newsmakers are doing. Those who are succeeding are likely on top of the tech game.

Understand that in today's workplace, technology plays a big role in what we do everyday. Learning is lifelong, especially with technology.


Matt Krumrie is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, and has nine years of experience reporting on the employment industry. The first Sunday of each month this column will answer readers' questions. E-mail questions or subject ideas to askmatt@startribune.com.