Expand those skill sets now, and thank yourself later.

Last month, I threw out several self-help ideas for those who are currently looking for a job, as well as for those hoping to avoid having to look for a job. Here are some more ideas that may help the individual who has been affected by the economy, beginning with improving computer skills.


When you look at most software programs there are always advanced software features within the program. Most people barely tap the capabilities of programs like Excel, Word, and Visio to mention three Microsoft programs. With time on your hands, and needing a break from pursuing your next job, invest time in maximizing your skills by doubling or tripling the knowledge you have with specific software.

Another option to consider while looking for a job is to offer to work at a firm for no fee or salary. Think of it as “auditing the class.” You wouldn’t be paying to earn a credit in course when auditing it, so apply the same concept to auditing an associated business skill to diversify your knowledge, such as offering to work at a facility in operations or maintenance.

Get firsthand knowledge to how that equipment you have been designing actually works, as well as how often it needs attention. Ask a construction firm to audit their project estimates and create a database for them. Back when I was asked to take over the estimating department at a mechanical contracting firm, I found that after 40 years of estimating construction projects, we still didn’t have a database of projects sorted by application. What I found out was that every estimate was a new venture for us because our estimators kept the database in their heads. It wasn’t very helpful in this format if you needed a budget cost per ton, per square foot, per chiller installation, etc.

The byproduct of such a proactive initiative is that the construction firm benefits from this free consulting and the auditor gathers a wealth of information from the process. I recall how one of the estimators who worked on my database request said to me later that he had learned more about estimating that year than the previous 15 years, because he learned while collecting the information.


Last month, I mentioned the idea of creating a checklist library that you can open at your next interview to show the prospective employer your time management, quality control, and business tools that you will use when hired for that new job. See Table 1 for my checklist suggestion. Have this in an electronic folder, as well as in a three-ring binder within view in your workspace:

You can see the categories in Table 1 are applicable for each of the three job responsibilities identified. In other words, these skill sets are universal. Being proficient may also help that individual be more recession-proof in the future if they begin building their library during this recession.

It is worth noting the “future job description” section of the folder is an important one that an individual needs to know well in advance of any promotion. In economic good times and bad, I always recommend each person be looking at where they will be in three to five years from now. Planning your next business move, even if it is within the company where you are currently working, needs to begin years earlier so as time passes, you have some options. Having diverse skill sets can make the difference between having a job and not having a job when the economy slows down again … and be assured it will. ES

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