I consulted with a veteran of several years in numeric data entry and added insights from my development of ten-key practice software to create a list of useful tips for job seekers and for those who wish to improve skills and proficiency.
Practice is the key
What enables the pros to type all day at high speeds with very few mistakes? It's actually quite simple--hundreds of hours of practice on the job, with pressure from the work environment to motivate improvement.
That means you'll probably keep honing your skills on the job in order to reach higher levels of perfection.
But the good news for the beginner is that simply by investing enough time in effective practice, with a little self-discipline, you can develop the skills you need to make a good start in the data entry field.
Research (or job search)
You can search job listings for "kph" or "kpm" (or "wpm" for standard typing) and get a feel for the range of acceptable speeds with entry-level positions in the type of work you are seeking, as well as insights into other concerns and interests of employers. Of course, it's even better to have information specific to the company where you will be applying.
If you don't have a position already singled out, try the major job search sites on the internet as well as your local publications. However, be very cautious about work-at-home opportunities in data entry, especially those advertised in sponsored search result ads; if you're seeking to telecommute, look for well-known or obviously above-board companies.
Set progressive speed goals
Test your typing speed and decide on a reasonable goal. It shouldn't be too high at first; this should be a level that you can reach, and it can be an intermediate goal. When you achieve it, you can set another and higher goal if needed, and continue this process to keep working toward your final desired speed.
This is where the practice comes in. Don't expect to meet your final speed goal in just a few minutes. You should devote some time each day for several days, at the minimum, in preparing for your job. Find a reliable practice tool and use it to work toward your goals.
Aim for very high accuracy
The accuracy level achieved on the job is often surprisingly high, more than amateurs might imagine possible for their own typing. Don't let that worry you; you can't be perfect on your first step, and practice will make perfect. But do take accuracy seriously right from the start. It's important.
When you've reached a speed goal, don't rush ahead to set another goal quite yet. You should take additional time to keep working at that speed in order to reduce your errors. When you can type almost perfectly at that rate, it's time to increase the speed goal.
Depending on the setup a company uses, even a small mistake may be troublesome to correct if it goes beyond a certain point in the workflow. So, your employer will appreciate concern for accuracy.
Don't forget the neat resume
To increase your chances, put style as well as substance into your resume. Employers, being human, often narrow down a stack of resumes based on appearance before getting down to a really serious look at qualifications--the style helps to get you noticed, and then you'll need the substance.
Therefore, after investing practice to hone your keyboarding skills, spend a little more time to update and polish your resume. It's your representative in the first stages of the job selection process. Give your resume a unique and attractive look so that it won't be passed by. Make sure there are no mistakes in spelling and grammar. Include any experience, training, or skills that may relate to the job you are seeking.
In the office
If a company asks you to fill out a job application, try to complete it as neatly and thoroughly as you can; either take it home or find a good place to sit down and work on it. Strive for good penmanship and again, accurate spelling and grammar. If you're not a great speller, invest in a pocket-sized dictionary. Also ensure that you have all your information with you before leaving home to visit the office, because you need to fill out applications completely. If you're not well-organized, type up a handy reference sheet with any information needed for application forms which is not listed on your resume. Don't forget your references.
Try to present your best appearance at all times; even your first visit to pick up an application may count. If a manager is not present, other employees may have been instructed to take notes on your appearance and manner which will be associated with your application or resume.
If you are required to take a typing skill test, it will be your chance to shine--provided that you've invested the necessary time in building your speed and accuracy!
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Curry Kenworthy is the developer of Agile 10 Key, a leading software tool for ten-key typing practice, training, and testing. Visit http://curryk.com/10.html to download a free trial and learn how this application can help you achieve your data entry goals.