Career Advice

September 18, 2013

Career advice: Rusty PC skills worry Mac user in new job

Q: I’ve been an Apple fan/user for many years, and have been fortunate that my employers for the past decade-plus have provided me with Macs for my work. However, I recently started a job that requires me to use a PC. The last time I had to use a Windows-based computer was in the 1990s, so there’s been a steep learning curve that has created a greater drag than I anticipated. My efficacy and productivity are not what I would like. How do I explain this to my boss without looking as if I’m making excuses for my less-than-stellar performance?

A: Operating systems come and go, but making excuses without looking as if you’re making excuses is a skill that no technology will ever disrupt. This is an interesting iteration of that commonplace challenge, because it’s probably not obvious to your employer that there’s any learning curve at all. We’re not talking about mastery of some obscure, ultramodern software here. This is Windows, one of the most familiar technology tools in the history of technology tools.

Offer your excuses in overlapping layers of good intentions — what you’ve done and what you’re planning (or willing) to do. Try saying something like: “It’s been a while since I’ve used Windows, and it’s changed just enough to keep me from being as productive as I usually am, so last night I started brushing up with an online tutorial. Are there other resources you’d suggest to help me get up to speed as quickly as possible?”

Should this inquiry yield a useful answer, great. But the point is that this is a pre-emptive strike: You’re indicating that you know there’s a problem, that you’re working to fix it, and that you would welcome — but don’t require — help.

Whatever you do, don’t wait for a manager to be the first to bring this up &mash; or, perhaps even worse, for one of your colleagues to sit you down and tell you to stop being so needy.

Submit questions to Rob Walker at workologist@nytimes.com.

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