The economy is ever changing before our very eyes – for some of us, we may have at one point had a very nice paying full time job with benefits – enough money to support a whole family on one income… and for some of us, this was done without any higher education.  Sadly, however, this is quickly becoming a thing of the past.  Times change, and if you don’t keep up with them, then you are bound to end up getting left behind.

In times like this, your best course of action is to reconsider careers – with the looming threat of automation growing, there is no longer much security in a manufacturing job, and on top of that, automation stands to make the need for human workers doing certain tasks totally obsolete.  It’s a worrying matter for many of us, but it doesn’t need to be.  In this post, I will tell you a great way to jump start a brand new career – and best of all, this is one career you don’t have to worry about losing your job to a robot or AI anytime soon.

I’m talking about getting into computers and support here, but namely, I’ll be talking about getting certified as a Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS).  At this point, just about all of us are at least a bit familiar with this suite.  Certainly at some point, and likely often for quite a number of us, we’ve used some of the programs included – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access, to name a few.

Consider past experiences when using Office – you’ve likely used it enough to come to notice that they’re very deep, powerful programs that have a myriad of features available to them.  So many in fact, that it can seem overwhelming.  Though like many other skills, with a bit of time spent learning about it and practicing using various features, it will quickly become second nature – and before you know it, you’re going to become everybody’s go to person to assist them with all of their MS Office struggles.   So if you’ve begun to learn it, then why not take it a step further, and get certified?

Getting yourself certified is much easier than you might think, and it won’t require too much of you, beyond hitting the books and studying up and paying the fee to take the exam.  But we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves here – let’s backpedal to where you will be starting out your journey to becoming a Microsoft Office Certified professional.

First things first – you’ll want to begin researching the content of the exam – that is, seeing what sort of topics will be encompassed in it.  For this, you’ll want to learn as much as you can about Microsoft Office and all of the programs that encompass the suite.  Many of us have a bit of a head start already from using some of these programs in our lives – possibly for school or work.  But, just because you feel familiar doesn’t mean that you’re in the clear… these are some extremely in depth programs with feature counts reaching into the thousands; chances are pretty slim that you know all of the little tips and tricks.

Which brings me to the next step – look into resources available to help you expand your knowledge.  There are a wide amount of options here for you to utilize:  first and foremost, if you are in school right now, look into what courses your school offers.  Chances are quite high that your school of choice will offer one or in many cases, more than one course that covers Office – as well as others that focus entirely on a single program, such was Word or Excel.  You’ll also want to hop on the internet and look for more resources there as well – a quick Google search will net you literally millions of links to helpful resources such as YouTube videos and tutorial web pages.  Ideally, you’ll want to utilize multiple resources together – plus, working with tutorials and online help will further assist your in-school learning, if you are using classes to help you learn.   Prices can vary here – online resource are often free, but with college courses, you’ll need to pay.  Technical schools like MATC are a great way to get this knowledge without getting deep into debt along the way – most courses will run you somewhere in the $500 range, but of course you’ll want to see what tuition costs are at your local schools.

Once you have gotten yourself some resources together to help you learn, the next step will be to create a study plan.  Plan to allocate at least an hour or two each day if you can (and more is always better) to study the resources.  Allow this time to be for you to only study – try to avoid distractions like TV and Netflix and keep yourself focused on your studies.  If you have a room you can use solely for this, like an office, even better – use that.  The key here will be to minimize distractions to allow you to direct all of your attention to learning.

Coming up with a study plan is incredibly important – but if you don’t follow through with it, it doesn’t really do you any good.  Which brings me to the next step – execute your study plan!  Don’t let yourself get pulled away from it if you can avoid it.  A good idea is to take a chunk of time you know you generally always have free – let’s say 9PM, for instance – and have that be part of your daily routine to focus solely on this.

Now that you’re filling up your brain with knowledge of Microsoft Office, next you will want to look into taking a practice exam.  This is an extremely useful way to do things – you’ll be seeing the majority of (or possibly even all of) the content of the exam to let you get an idea of how prepared you are.  Being a practice exam, the grade here does not matter – but it will work wonders for giving you an idea of how well you know the content.  If you get a good grade on it, then you’re probably ready to go.  A more mediocre grade will be a clear indicator that you’re not ready yet, and that you’ll want to keep studying before trying for the real thing.

After taking your practice exam, provided you did decently on it and are feeling confident that you will do well on the real exam, then it’s time for you to pick a day to do your exam.  You’ll want to see where the testing centers are in your area and what days and times are open for taking the exam.  Once you do this, it’s just a matter of finding a time and place that will work for you to do it.  You also will want to buy a voucher to take the test during this phase.

Now we’re at the main event – it’s time for you to take the exam.  The usual rules for a big and important day apply here – you’ll want to make sure that you do a good amount of studying the night prior, but don’t go crazy and stay up until 3AM doing it.  Being well rested is vital to help you be able to focus on the task – most of us are probably quite familiar with that hazy, cloudy brain feeling we get when we’re tired.  When we’re like this, we don’t operate nearly as well as we could be.  Waking up that day, you’ll want to make sure to have a nice and healthy breakfast – you don’t need your mind being distracted by how hungry you’re feeling.

Once the exam is complete, you’ll be getting your score on it.  Hopefully you managed to pass the exam – but if you didn’t, don’t give up yet!  You can still do this – review what you answered incorrectly on the exam, taking note that these are the areas you need to continue to study more.  Keep your study plan in place after this and continue to study, and then schedule a re-take of the exam.

Now that you’ve finished the exam with a passing grade, let me start out by saying congratulations!  You have just earned yourself a valuable and in demand skill that offers some very nice career opportunities.

However, just passing the exam doesn’t really get you much of anything if you don’t take initiative afterwards and take steps.  Right off the bat, you’ll want to update your LinkedIn account to reflect your newfound certification.  Many of us have an account here already, but if you don’t, you definitely will want to sign up for one.  It’s free, easy to use, and is a highly valuable resource to network with people and put yourself out there – there’s a pretty good chance that once you get your certifications, you’ll have job opportunities start to come in on here.  If you’re already working, you will want to look into asking your employer for a promotion to put your new skills to use – provided your employer has a need for employees with said skills.  If they don’t, then you’ll want to start looking around elsewhere for work – and with your new skills and MSO certification, you should have no problem finding yourself a job that offers you better pay then what you get now.

I hope that this article has been helpful to you, the reader.  With any luck I have planted some seeds in your mind about a great way to advance your career – and with any luck, these seeds will soon be in full bloom as you enjoy your nice new job!