How to Improve Your Computer Literacy
Some level of computer literacy is required in most workplaces in the modern world.
For some, gaining those important IT skills can feel overwhelming, but once you have made a commitment to learning, you might find mastering the basics is easier than you expected.
Basic IT skills are becoming increasingly necessary, not only within the workplace itself, but also for those looking for work.
Traditional job hunting methods, such as going door-to-door with resumes or looking in the local press, no longer reflect the fast-paced nature of modern recruitment.
Thousands of job vacancies are listed online each day on recruitment sites. Jobs are also being advertised more and more frequently via social media.
Many large companies also have a specific page on their website that showcases all of their current vacancies.
Online adverts can reach a wide audience quickly, they are easy to update and are often less expensive and time consuming than other recruitment methods.
This means it is becoming an expectation that jobseekers are able to find and access online job advertisements and respond to them appropriately, usually via email.
Those without some basic understanding of computer skills, in particular, how to search online, use email and create an online resume, are putting themselves at a significant disadvantage when looking for work.
Many functions within the workplace are also becoming increasingly automated, with workers required to interact with technology on a regular basis.
Where once, one could legitimately expect to avoid the use of computers in certain roles, businesses are becoming increasingly reliant on apps, email and computer programs to assist with:
- Tracking hours worked
- Sharing the weekly or monthly schedule
- Ordering stock
- Communication (such as staff newsletters)
- Tracking paid leave entitlement
- Sending payslips
Although basic skills are becoming increasingly essential, some job roles will require more in-depth knowledge of using computers than others.
Jobs within the finance, IT, engineering and the corporate sectors, for example, might require employees to have specialist knowledge of certain computer programs.
Some roles may require employees to know how to code (writing the instructions for a computer program using specialist language that the computer understands).
The world of technology is constantly evolving and, as such, people have to change and adapt their skills within this field.
Once the basics have been mastered, people have the opportunity to build on, or diversify, their skills.
Without a strong foundation in basic computer literacy, workers might lack the necessary knowledge to enter and thrive within the workplace and can begin to feel overwhelmed and anxious about simple tasks.
Those who have grown up in the digital age are now entering the workplace. To keep their skills relevant and to get the interest of hiring managers, it is advantageous for even the most technology-averse individuals to overcome their anxieties and learn at least the basics of computing.
The exact knowledge of computers you will need in the workplace will likely depend on your job role and level of seniority.
The most basic skills that will act as a foundation for everything else you learn about computing will include:
Computers generally fall into two categories: desktop or laptop. You might be required to use either at work.
Desktop computers have a separate computer screen, which is called a monitor, and keyboard.
The keyboard contains letters, numbers and other useful buttons that help with typing and formatting documents.
Desktops are usually quite large and not designed to be moved around. They will usually be plugged in and set up on a desk or table.
Desktop computers often require the use of a mouse. This is a small device that sits next to the computer. They can be plugged into the machine with a wire, although modern ones use wireless technology.
Using a mouse allows you to move the cursor around the screen on the computer and point it where you would like to click or type.
Laptop computers fold up and are designed to be portable. The keyboard and monitor are integrated.
Laptops can be used with a mouse or a touchpad, which is similar to using the touchscreen function on a smartphone. The touchpad allows the user to navigate their way around the screen, click, select where to type, highlight text etc.
Both options will have a power button that you hold down to switch the machine on. There is usually a drop down menu somewhere on the home screen that you can use to switch it off, with options including:
- Shut down (this switches the computer off)
- Stand by (select this if you are planning on coming back to your work within a short time)
- Hibernate (this puts the machine into a low power mode but doesn’t require a full restart when you come back to it to turn it on again)
A search engine is a computer system that is designed to search the web based on keywords.
The user inputs text into the search box, or bar, and clicks to search. This will generate a list of results based on the search term provided.
The most popular search engines in the US are:
The ability to search online and find relevant results is helpful when looking for work, researching information about a company prior to interview, as well as looking for locations or directions.
It is a skill that will be required in job roles that require information to be researched online, facts to be checked, or online reviews to be monitored.
It can also help workers to stay up to date with global news, market-trends and industry related topics.
These are two popular programs that are used to write documents, design presentations, input and analyze data and send email.
Microsoft Word or Google Docs are useful when typing up documents. These require basic typing skills, but have integrated features such as word count, spell-check and formatting options to help you as you work.
In roles that require data to be input, tracked on analyzed, you may find yourself needing to use Excel or Google Sheets. These programs look like a grid on the screen, with separate cells in which you can input numbers for simple tasks, such as stocktaking, or for more complex tasks such as web analytics.
More sophisticated users can input formulas to analyze the data that has been input and make predictions.
Powerpoint or Google Slides are often used in corporate settings and education. These programs are useful for workers who are required to give presentations at work.
Both Powerpoint and Google Slides are user friendly programs that allow text, photos, videos and pictures (including graphs and charts) to be made into a slideshow presentation.
Email has changed the way businesses communicate with their employees and clients. You can type up and send an email and in a matter of seconds it will be sent to someone across the globe. They are also useful for mass communication.
Among the most popular email platforms are Outlook and Gmail.
Emails are used to communicate messages to people. They can also be used to send documents by attaching them electronically to an email using the paperclip icon.
Emails arrive in your message box, known as an inbox. To send an email, you require the recipient’s email address.
You have the option to include a subject, for example ‘Tomorrow’s Meeting’ in the subject line and you type your message in the body of the email. When you are finished, simply click send.
Setting up an email is simple. You will need to select an email address that is unique to you and a password.
Both Outlook and Gmail have clear instructions on how to set up your email; simply follow these and start to navigate your way around your inbox.
Having a resume that is saved electronically will be useful when applying for jobs online.
You can type one up easily using Microsoft Word or Google Docs and attach it to applications. Some recruitment sites, such as Indeed, allow you to build and save a CV on their website.
Typing up a resume requires some basic word-processing and formatting skills. You should also make use of functions such as spell check to highlight any spelling and grammar errors.
Businesses are increasingly turning to social media to share information and news, reach new clients and make meaningful connections.
You might already be familiar with social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, where individuals post pictures and updates about their life to their friends or followers.
LinkedIn is a networking site that is designed for professionals to connect and share information.
Setting up a social media account is simple. You will need an email address to verify your account, and then you will need to select a strong password.
You can share as much, or as little, information as you wish with your audience. When posting updates, do keep in mind that potential employers may check the content that you share on your social media.
Becoming more literate in a subject means that you are improving your knowledge of it. To stay ahead in a competitive job market, you might wonder how to improve your computer literacy.
Improving your computer literacy can:
- Help with finding vacancies and applying for jobs
- Increase your chances of getting hired
- Give you an advantage over other candidates
- Boost your confidence
- Increase productivity at work
- Assist with communication
- Improve your prospects for promotion
- Help you to upskill in other areas
Improving your computer literacy will be entirely subjective and will depend on the level you are approaching it from. You may be a reluctant beginner or have some basic or intermediate knowledge that you wish to build on.
Some helpful ways to improve your computer skills might include:
Set up an email account, send emails to family or friends and practice opening the replies.
Practice attaching images or files to emails, as well as navigating your inbox, outbox, sent folder and junk folder.
You may want to set up a social media account and attempt to share posts or pictures and select some pages of interest to like or follow.
You can do this without adding any friends, or by changing your settings to private, if you would like some time to learn how to use social media without anyone being able to see or interact with it.
Some people react best to in-person learning. Check your local area for night classes that you can attend around your other commitments.
There, a tutor will be able to teach you how to navigate your way around a computer and you will be able to complete practical exercises to check your understanding in a classroom environment. It’s great for beginners.
Many websites offer online computing courses, some for free.
You would need to be confident enough with technology to find and work through a course on the internet for this to be a useful route to take. It’s best for those with some basic knowledge of computing.
There will be a few questions that you find yourself asking as you begin your journey through computing.
Searching for answers online will often yield useful information on forums and websites, from both experts and regular computer users. It’s great for anyone who has questions that they would like answered.
Being computer literate is vital if you wish to succeed in a competitive job market.
With the increased use of automation and technology in the workplace, the ability to confidently use a computer has become a basic expectation of today’s workforce.
Although using computers may seem daunting to some, particularly those who grew up prior to the digital age, with some confidence and practice, you can easily improve your digital skills, master the basics and even go beyond these if you wish.
For anyone with intermediate, or even expert, computer skills, there will always be something new to learn as the field of technology rapidly and constantly evolves around us.