Digital Literacy: Are You Up to Speed?

OK, before we get into things, there’s one mantra we all need to embrace: change is good.

Many of us are guilty of sticking to our old habits, only exploring the familiar, that which feels safe and comfortable. This is often true when it comes to the workplace; in many roles it’s easy to get stuck in the same old routine. You know what you’re doing and if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it, right?

However, there’s no hiding from the digital world that is springing up around us. We can communicate, shop, play games, order food and even date online, with just the click of a button. Although you may choose to shy away from relentless ‘internet culture’ and the digital world in your personal life, doing so in the workplace may put you at a professional disadvantage.

So, as tempting as it may be to continue doing things the way you’ve always done them, you may find that soon your methods will become outdated and seen as the ‘old-fashioned way’. This could leave you standing in the dust while your digitally-literate, change-implementing colleagues steal the spotlight. Embrace change, embrace the digital revolution!

What is digital literacy?

It’s a pretty broad subject, and one that’s not entirely easy to define due to it’s conceptual and ever-changing nature. However, good old Wikipedia describes the idea to be: “The ability to locate, organise, understand, evaluate, and analyse information using digital technology.”

The concept lies on the foundational idea that computing devices are not just machines, but portals to one big network.

Overall, it’s about knowledge, connectivity and communication. When you think about it, these are all things that can make a workplace run smoothly, so why wouldn’t it be important?

Why do employers look for individuals with digital literacy?

While you may think that some careers won’t require you to be tech-savvy, you may be surprised. Anyone from a Managing Director to a Retail Assistant will, at some point, need to use computers, tablets or computerised till systems.

The truth is that having at least a basic knowledge of computers, the internet, email and software such as Microsoft Office and their applications is considered to be part of everyone’s general knowledge in this digital age. If you are digitally literate, you can demonstrate to an employer that you’re open to change, able to learn and retain information and that you’re almost good to go – you won’t need any additional training on using computer equipment, and you’ll be able to adjust quickly to using new systems.

If you’re on the job hunt, or looking to progress within your own role, and you are not digitally literate, this may paint you in a bad light in the eyes of the employer. For instance, they may consider you to be someone who isn’t looking to develop themselves, willing to try new things and is a little ‘stuck in their ways’.

It not only helps to be digitally literate, but to keep yourself up to date with any major technological changes – your manager definitely doesn’t want that report on a CD-Rom!

What digital literacy skills do you need?

The exact skills required and the importance of each of these varies from job to job; some roles may require you to deal with spreadsheets daily, whereas others won’t. Some jobs will require a vast amount of internet research or using social media, others will focus more on word processing.

However, making sure that you have a good foundational knowledge of basic IT and digital skills, and being able to demonstrate them confidently, will stand you in good stead and get you on your way to being digitally literate.

Here’s a checklist of basic skills to bear in mind:

  • Operation of computers (and related equipment such as printers or scanners), tablets and smartphones
  • Basic maintenance of equipment
  • Effective use of the internet
  • Competent in sending emails and all related actions (e.g. inserting attachments and hyperlinks)
  • Word processing
  • Presentation software
  • Spreadsheet software
  • Social media (a basic understanding of this and how the main platforms work)
  • Navigation of computer desktop and filing systems
  • Confidence in use of a variety of systems and applications

Once you’ve got these skills down, keep working on them and building your knowledge so that you’re able to competently and confidently use many digital platforms to communicate and glean information from.

Not on social media yet? Give it a try; building a profile and actively using it will open up a world of digital communication to you and enhance your understanding further.

Yes, the digital world is so vast and constantly changing, so it can be intimidating. But, remember, what is change? Change is good! If you’re not a whizz on Word, an email expert or a Pinterest pro yet, it’s time to expand your horizons – you’ll certainly see the benefits when it comes to your career.

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