A Word from the Wise…Gloria Hurtado

Are you really proficient?

We’ve all done it. Put something on our resume that perhaps we thought we were proficient in until, well, our first public relations position. Suddenly someone is asking you to pull a screen grab into a PowerPoint and convert it into a jpeg. And oh, then you need to recreate some graphs in Excel and don’t forget to format them just how the client likes it. It should only take you an hour.

You stare at your monitor and suddenly, you realize, ‘maybe I’m not that proficient afterall.’

In my first month interning in the digital practice of a public relations agency, I realized that although I can find my way around a simple PowerPoint or Excel, I did not know these programs to their fullest capabilities and it affected my work.

In public relations you’ll use both programs daily. Because every minute is billed to a client, spending time fiddling around in programs you don’t know well is a problem. When you can’t figure out how to create something, you’re costing the client money.

The best way to prepare yourself is to figure out what you’re not really proficient at now. For example, have you ever seen someone format a word document in such a way that you thought, ‘how did they do that?’ Start making a list of simple formatting issues, tabs you don’t know the use of or things you may have seen in others’ work that you don’t know how to create yourself.

Once you know what you need to work on, here are some ways to make sure you’re proficient.

  • Play around. Spend time on the program you’re not too familiar with, opening tabs you don’t use and reading through the help sections. Microsoft 2007 is not the same as 2003, so if you’re stubborn like I was, it’s time to start using updated software.
  • Ask a friend. I’m a huge fan of asking others for help at work. Every time I receive a document someone else created, I don’t hesitate to ask them questions. You should also share the wealth. I’ve shown someone in upper management how to format bullets before, so don’t feel apprehensive about learning from each other.
  • Take a class. The University of Iowa offers a computer literacy class that covers all Microsoft Office programs and a few extras. As important as your proficiency is to your future career, consider setting aside a few semester hours for a course like this.

Lastly, don’t feel like you need to be an expert. No one expects you to know everything when you first start out, but employers will expect you to be proactive and reach out to others when you don’t know something. So, if you ever need help with that pesky bullet alignment, you know how to reach me!

Written by Gloria Hurtado

Former Vice President