By Michelle V. Rafter
Fox Searchlight/Everett Collection
This article is reprinted by permission from NextAvenue.org .
Jim Landis, 53, is job hunting after a year spent as his wife’s full-time caregiver. Because she has ongoing medical issues, one of Landis’ must-haves is the ability to work from his Denver home at least part-time. To make himself a stronger candidate for remote work, the requirements-analysis manager and software programmer paid roughly $500 for four online classes in advanced digital skills such as data science and data analytics.
Landis says his previous employer wasn’t very cutting edge, so his digital skills lagged behind. “I wish I had been a bit more focused on my own interests and kept an eye on staying technologically current with the broader industry,” he says. Landis doesn’t expect the courses to lead directly to a job offer, “but if a hiring manager is thinking about moving to a new technology in the future, being able to say I have course work — that will get me some points,” he notes.
Brushing up on digital skills is a smart move if you want to work remotely in your 50s or 60s. That’s true whether you hope to get hired as an employee who works remotely, or you want to get freelance jobs that let you work from home.
To stand out at a time like today when the demand for remote-based jobs outstrips the supply, it helps to be competent with the digital tools necessary for success as a remote worker. These include the latest applications for communicating and collaborating with managers and teammates, regardless of where they’re based.
Apps for remote-based work
Older workers can possess all the qualities that make them a great fit for remote work and not get an offer if they aren’t up to speed on popular apps for sharing files, participating in video chats or communicating with co-workers.
A younger candidate might be less qualified, but if that person can use the tools and speak the lingo, it can give an employer peace of mind, says Laurel Farrer, a remote work strategist and founder of the Remote Work Association,
Farrer, Kate Lister (a longtime remote-work analyst and president of Global Workplace Analytics) and other experts group must-have digital skills for remote work into four categories:
File-sharing platforms that let co-workers upload and share work-related documents, including apps such as Google Drive, Dropbox and Box.
Videoconferencing applications such as Zoom, BlueJeans, me, Skype and WebEx.
Enterprise communications platforms that have taken email’s place as the main source of interoffice communication, including Slack or Microsoft Teams. Remote workers can use the platforms to exchange public or private messages with individual co-workers or groups and search old messages (like a Facebook newsfeed but for the workplace). Most communications platforms connect with other workplace apps so remote workers can share files and calendars or participate in video chats.
Collaboration apps that make it easier for people on a team or project to work together, including project management applications such as Basecamp, Asana and Trello. Collaboration apps typically include some type of shared project checklist so team members can see who’s responsible for what and check off tasks as they’re finished.
At Dell Technologies /zigman2/quotes/203822527/composite DELL +0.87% , for example, six out of 10 employees of all ages work remotely at least one day a week in a typical month. When they work remotely, employees stay in touch through Skype, Zoom, Slack and Chatter, an enterprise communications platform owned by Salesforce /zigman2/quotes/200515854/composite CRM +0.71% . “We strive to make the process of leveraging flexible and remote options easy and simple for all of our employees,” says Mohammed Chahdi, Dell’s HR service director.
Independent contractors who are savvy about digital tools find that expertise beneficial in landing assignments.