A Weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch





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Ocotber 4, 2002

Career Choices

© 2002, Douglas E. Welch

Much of the work I do can best be described as "computer coaching." I am often called in to assist someone in learning a particular program or task, whether this is word processing, spreadsheets or dealing with digital pictures for the first time. Over the years I have discovered that one of the best ways to place clients on the right track is to engage them in some form of pleasant activity that can be used to teach basic computer skills. Such activities reduce the level of stress and allow users to gain a confidence with their computer that they may never have otherwise experienced. Finding a way to combine computers and play can be a way to keep your clients coming back for more while also building your client list from referrals.

The quick six

In my 16 years of computer training work I have found 6 specific tasks to be on the computer user’s hit parade of computer skills. These tasks are a great way to introduce general concepts to new or timid users while giving them a sense of immediate gratification. By the end of your first session, your clients will be able to do something concrete and useful, even if they are only scratching the surface of their computer’s power.

1. Printing envelopes

You might not consider this task to be #1, but I have found that some users, especially those who create a lot of paper correspondence find this one feature immensely useful. Perhaps they volunteer to send out a regular newsletter for their reading circle or simply write a lot of letters to relatives and friends. Printing envelopes seems to be one feature that allows users to feel in control of their computer, sometimes for the first time.

2. Sending email

Introducing a user to email can be an extremely enjoyable experience for both of you. Many people, especially those with children and grandchildren far away are amazed at the simplicity of email and how it lets them stay in touch. Grandparents can feel more a part of their grandchildren’s lives even when they live all across the country.

3. Digital cameras

Helping users integrate their digital cameras into their lives opens yet another door. I recently worked with a client to purchase, install and train him in the use of his new camera. Now, only 4 weeks later, he is showing me amazing photos of his recent trip through Europe and using online services to make prints for his family. He found that using a digital camera greatly increased his enjoyment of the trip as it removed worries about fogged or destroyed film due to the recent increases in airport security. The camera also allowed him to share his photos with many more people than ever before.

4. Searching the web

One of the first places I take a new Internet user is Google ( This search engine opens the door of the Internet and quickly shows them the wealth of information it can provide. This is also one of the first places I go when teaching my Beginning Internet class at my local library. People are amazed at the information you can find on the Internet and Google is an amazing source.

5. Word Processing

In many cases, clients have a book inside them just waiting to get out. This can be the "Great American Novel" or simply a family history to share with their children. Whatever the project, introducing them to the power of a word processor gives them the ability to get their ideas down on paper, perhaps for the first time. And it involves the most basic, yet most necessary "tricks" of any program ? new, open, save, print.

6. Financial management

Helping a client get a handle on their personal finances can be one of the most rewarding tasks of all. Whether it is a new graduate or a retiree with many investments, software such as Intuit’s Quicken or MS Money can help them keep their financial lives on track.

Teaching your clients any of these six tasks can be the beginning of a wonderful and profitable relationship. It establishes a level of trust with your client that you are truly giving them the keys to their own success. In fact, every time you work with a client there should be some concrete result, some task, some product that the user produces on their own. For me, this is the only way to insure a long and happy relationship with your clients. You will find that developing these relationships is one of the keys to developing a long and healthy high-tech career.

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about this column.

Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on Douglas' web page at:

He can reached via email at

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