We live in a digital world, and these five digital skills will give you the best chance in getting into any career you want. The good news? You might even have all five skills already!
There is no getting away from it – we live in a digital world. Computers are at the heart of so many of the things we do in life and in work, and you’ll be hard pressed nowadays to find a job posting that doesn’t list some version of “computer literacy” as an essential skill.
The government have recently released a new report, the Essential Digital Skills Framework. This outlines the main skills that all adults should have so that we can safely and effectively take part in digital life.
There are dozens of ways we use technology to communicate with each other. You probably do this all the time without even thinking about it! Sending an email to your boss, posting a cute cat video on Facebook, or chiming in on the family WhatsApp chat all count as communicating online.
This skill also includes creating documents and sharing them with other people. You might use Microsoft Word or a similar tool to create a piece of written work and then send it to somebody else using email or Google Docs. For example, this article you’re reading right now is being written in Microsoft Word and when it is finished, I will email it as an attachment to my editor!
At work, you might need additional communication skills such as using Skype to video-chat with colleagues, using a Virtual Private Network to log on if you’re working from home, or managing professional networking pages such as a LinkedIn profile.
2. Handling Information & Content
“Content” simply refers to the words, pictures, videos and other material we see all around us. For this skill, you should be able to find the content you need online and engage with it in a positive way. This might include using search engines such as Google to find out information, storing and organising files on your device or in the cloud, and streaming music and video from legal sources such as Netflix or Spotify.
In your work life, you might need to find information for a colleague or share it with them securely. You may also want to sync devices so that certain information – such as your calendar – is available on both your computer and phone.
Transacting relates to money – that is, buying and selling things, using services and managing your money on your computer. If you use shopping sites like Amazon, sell unwanted items on eBay, or use an app to look at your bank account, you are transacting online. It’s vital that you learn how to do this safely. This includes using strong passwords, never sharing this information with anyone, and only using genuine and secure programmes.
You can now book your holiday, train tickets, a GP appointment and many other things online. If you’re job hunting, you will probably be asked to upload your CV onto a recruitment website or fill in an online application form.
4. Problem Solving
There are lots of ways digital tools can help us to solve problems. If you’ve ever used Google to settle a debate, watched a YouTube video to teach you how to do something, or had a spreadsheet do sums for you, then you have used your computer to problem solve.
Problem solving is a vital skill at work. Managers usually prefer you to try solving a problem yourself before asking them. If you’re stuck on a task, you can look up information on the internet, use live chat customer service systems, or turn to an advice forum for help.
5. Being Safe & Legal Online
There are laws that say what we can and can’t do online. These keep people, their work and their data safe. Posting something online creates a permanent record which others might be able to see now and in the future. You should never post hateful, offensive or damaging things. Essential digital safety skills include installing an anti-virus programme on your machine and keeping it updated, using strong passwords that you don’t share with anyone, and knowing how to identify suspicious or “scam” content in emails or pop-ups. (A good rule of thumb is, if you don’t know and trust the sender, don’t open it.)
Staying legal online also includes not using other people’s words, pictures or content. This is copyright infringement – a simpler word for this is stealing. You should get permission before using, create your own original work, or use free stock sites such as Pixabay.
In some jobs you might also have a responsibility to follow GDPR. This stands for General Data Protection Regulations and means that people who have information about you (such as your bank, your doctor, businesses you buy from and charities you support) have a responsibility to keep it safe. If you are handling data in your job, this will be explained to you and you should receive training.
Want to brush up your digital skills?
As you’ve been reading this piece, you have probably noticed that you can do many of these things already. Many of us do them all every day without even thinking about it! But if you think your digital skills need brushing up in any areas, you can:
- Talk to Student Support at your school or college.
- Ask your manager about additional training.
- Use the free resources available online (if you’re 19 or over and live in England, try https://www.vision2learn.net/).
- Look for evening courses at your local college or university.
- Ask a computer-savvy friend or family member to help you.