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6 Steps To Learn A New Program—Fast!

As CSR’s resident millennial, I am often dubbed the “tech-savvy” one who knows how to use every program and website. I’ve even had people ask me to teach them how to use software I’ve never heard of before!

What’s the key to this amazing ability? I’ll tell you a secret: I’ve never taken a software class in my life. I just happen to know the quickest and most effective ways to learn the basics of a program or app. It’s a pretty simple process, really—just follow these steps:

  1. Download the software. You need to make sure that the program works on your computer (or phone) and that it costs what you think it does. If you have the wrong operating system, you need to find a different computer to work on. If you need to update your phone, get the download started. If it’s expensive, make sure it works within the budget.

  2. Educate yourself. If it’s a well-known program, read the Wikipedia page. Go to the developer’s site and take a look at the program description. Read some opinions on popular review sites. Watch an advertisement on YouTube. Basically, get an idea of what this program is, what it’s for, its history, what’s good and bad about it, etc. It may not be obviously relevant to your situation, but it’s really important to get some context so you’re not flying blind.

  3. Play around with the program. Familiarize yourself with the interface, try opening files, creating tasks, drawing some squiggles, highlighting cells, adding a text box, whatever is applicable. It’s OK if you’re flying blind, just get a feel for what the program is like and what you definitely don’t understand. Randomly click on buttons if that’s all you can figure out!

  4. Follow the leader. There are tutorials, webinars, or even entire courses available for free on YouTube for most programs. You can also search for walkthroughs (either a presentation or a blog post with screencaps) that explain a particular functionality. Have the guide open on one side of your screen and the program on the other (or on a different monitor, if you have one or are on a phone). Go through this step slowly and carefully, so that you “get it” the first time around. Be patient with yourself.

  5. Put together a guide. Take notes as you go along. This can be as simple as a list of links to support pages or as involved as a 15-page manual with an index and best practices. At the time, it may seem redundant and unnecessary (“I can just look it up again if I forget!”) but sometimes even the most basic facts can slip through the cracks if they’re not recorded somewhere.

  6. Fly solo. Even if you don’t feel quite ready, try using the software for its intended purpose without training wheels. Input your sales pipeline. Generate a pie chart of the month’s budget. Set up recurring events. Recreate the company logo in plaid. Make a video montage of your dog. Build up your confidence.

And there you go! You’re not an expert (yet), but these steps will allow you get the hang of new software without having to pay for a class or buying the For Dummies book. But be careful—if you get too good at it, everyone will come to you with all their questions!

What do you do when you have to learn how to use new software, fast? What was the last program you had to figure out? Share your ideas (and stories) in the comments or on social media.



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