Computers have become so prevalent in the workplace that we assume everyone knows what they're doing in front of a screen. However, it is surprisingly common for office workers to have no idea beyond the functions they use daily. Most people simply aren't motivated to look beyond what they use frequently, except when something goes wrong of course. Here is where you can make your mark.
I've encountered workers who believed they were advanced Word users, yet have used the space bar to create indents. People just don't know what they don't know. In this situation, anyone who can use the more advanced software features, and can solve problems within minutes, automatically becomes an IT genius in the eyes of their less-savvy colleagues.
So, if you're someone who enjoys saving time and solving problems, do what comes naturally to you and collect information that will make you indispensable around the office. Ultimately, there are few software problems that can't be solved with a Google search, but you might be the only one willing to invest your time in doing that search; you are the comparative IT genius.
You know enough to know you know nothing, but that's no reason to dispel your colleagues of this genius notion. There are many advantages to being considered as such, even though you know it isn't true.
You have an additional means of getting to know your colleagues. If you're the one called upon to sort out a rouge Word table, you get a chance to form a relationship with that manager or worker. Forming stronger workplace relationships may be a great leg-up when it comes to understanding how the business runs, and will definitely come in handy when restructures occur, or when internal promotion opportunities come up.
Being helpful tends to make people think of you as helpful. Instead of scoffing at someone's ignorance of section breaks, sort it out for them, explain it, and they will remember you as a committed team player, willing to spend your time to help. If your solution saves that person time, they will never forget you. (Of course, the way you provide help is important. Striding in arrogantly and administering a solution while tut-tutting over how badly the document has been put together is probably not going to win you any friends.)
Involvement in quality control. Being the one who hands out the advice means you can advise everyone to work the same way. In a smaller organisation, you may even end up being invited to develop templates, or a style guide, so that everyone ends up producing more standardised documents. If you're interested in details, you'll love this.
If being the office go-to person for software-related problems seems like a nightmare, feel free to keep your knowledge to yourself. But if you don't mind helping out occasionally, there are benefits to your ill-earned title. Here are some MS Office areas of knowledge that have improved my standing in offices:
- Tables—what can't go wrong with these? Rows breaking when they shouldn't, header rows not repeating, can't indent inside a cell, didn't know it was a table at all, embedded tables, cell padding and alignment issues...
- List formattting—bulleted lists with different sized bullets, or different styles is a common one
- Styles—usually only comes on the radar when someone tries to insert a table of contents, or make formatting changes that mysteriously affect the entire document
- Tab stops—always amusing when the space bar has had a workout to align text
- Page breaking—usually helps when headers or footers aren't doing what people want
- Auto-fields—either not being able to update them, or being unable to insert them are the biggest issues
- Macros (at least basics)—saving time with basic macros will make you a hero, even just find and replace on commonly misspelled words will be a winner
- Formulas—Lookup and IF functions are pretty valuable time savers
- Converting to PDF—getting those pesky hyperlinks to convert can be tricky
- Importing and linking between files—saving time by linking files that show the same information
Anything above and beyond this can be Googled at the last minute and you'll know enough to fill in the blanks pretty quickly. The more I learn about MS Office, the more I realise there is to learn so I often feel like a fraud when I receive a round of accolades for sorting out a document. But everything is relative, and if my feeble IT 'skills' are helping others, why not accept the kind words?
The IT genius crown may still sit somewhat uncomfortably, but at least you can assuage yourself with the mild workplace benefits to your reputation.
If your workplace doesn't have an IT genius, you can always ask someone to come in and provide that service. You never know what you could learn to make things run more efficiently.