Where would we be without technology? Most likely we’d still be battling with correction tape, typewriter ribbons, and carbon paper. Thankfully, technology has advanced our profession (and us) well past that era.

Now, we rarely go anywhere without our smartphones. Our laptops and tablets have almost become an extension of ourselves. We can connect to the internet from nearly any location, which makes working remotely much simpler.

But with all the existing technology we enjoy, how can we hope to stay current on everything? This is a question I’m frequently asked, so I’d like to share several simple strategies you can use to effectively stay on top of technology advancements.

Get your hands on the new technology as soon as you can.

Go to your local Apple Store, Best Buy, or other electronics store to test out display models for the latest and greatest tech. You don’t necessarily need to be in the market for a new device right at that moment – it’s sometimes enough just to get your hands on it for a bit. What do you love about it? What do you dislike?

If a friend or coworker has a new gadget or device, ask them if they have a minute to give you a quick demo. Everyone loves showing off their new toys!

Beta test new versions of the software you use.

Many software companies will offer a beta version of new software that you can demo or try for free even before the initial release to the public. Test them out on your home computer so you’re already a proficient user when the upgrade finally rolls out at the office. 

Most IT departments will look for internal staff to help beta test software for the company before it’s rolled out company-wide. Talk with your IT staff and find out how you can be included in those opportunities at the office. Volunteer to test it out at your desk first.

Tech support might not be in your admin job description. But admins are often the first stop when executives and colleagues need help with a new program or device, so it makes sense to learn as much as you can as early as you can!

Utilize the free online training tutorials and resources offered by software and technology companies to get started.

YouTube is packed full of free training and demonstrations if you search for them. Microsoft also provides extensive free online training for all of their Office suite programs.

If you’re a hands-on type, consider signing up for free trials or demonstrations of software you believe might prove useful to you or your organization. Before long, you’ll be known as the office technology trailblazer!

Research and study software packages that you need to learn to remain competitive.

Consider enrolling in some website development training – basic website development, basic HTML, and blogging. Learn how to utilize social media for business use. Almost every company has gone to web-based, collaborative platforms, and you need to understand how to use these technologies.

Begin with mastering the core Microsoft Office software programs, then dive into learning the premium suite programs that accompany it. If some of these skills haven’t shown up in your job description yet, it’s just a matter of time before they do.

Talk to recruiters and human resources professionals to find out what skills their clients are looking for.

Comb through the help wanted postings and job boards to see what skills are in demand for the types of positions you desire.  Ask your executives what skills they’d like you to develop further as you continue to support them. Better yet, assemble your list and give them some ideas of what you’d like to pursue and why.

Watch for networking events or open houses hosted by local technology service providers or community colleges.

I love to attend technology events where I can see the demos and try them for myself. A lot of times I’m the only administrative professional in a room full of IT gurus. Sometimes I feel out of place, but I view scoping out the latest technology and resources as part of my responsibility to my executives.

I’ll take feeling a bit out of my comfort zone any day over feeling completely helpless when I’m asked a question about technology my executives need help with!

Subscribe to free newsletters and blogs for technology-based websites and publications.

One of my favorites is the Wall Street Journal’s Tech section. Two other great sites are Business Insider, which has a daily email called “10 Things in Tech You Need to Know,” and Entrepreneur.

Social media is another great place to connect with brands online. Find three or four that sound interesting and follow them. You’ll begin seeing more like them in your feed and have an inside line on events, webinars, and training that they may offer. You’ll also be able to connect with like-minded people and help each other out along the way!

Technology touches everything we do in some way, and that’s not going to change. The more you expose yourself to and use new technologies, the more user-friendly they typically become. Don’t let technology intimidate you! Instead, choose to tackle it. When you do, it will become more useful in every area of your life!