Career Development

Computer Literacy: What It is And How You Can Improve Yours

May 12, 2021

Computers and technology are everywhere. They're heavily implemented into workplaces because they make our lives easier in many ways. Creating, sharing and communicating is usually all done through some form of technology these days. Having basic computer literacy skills makes it easier to complete everyday tasks and can increase your productivity. Depending on the role in your job search, hiring managers usually want candidates that are computer literate.

For those without computer skills, navigating the world of computers can feel intimidating. If that's you, don't worry. Just like any skill, computer literacy skills can be learnt and improved with practice. In this article, we dive further into workplace computer literacy and suggest ways to improve yours.

What is computer literacy?

Computer literacy is a way of defining a candidate's level of computer and technology skills. Computer skills vary from document creation to software programming. It makes sense then that computer literacy can range just as broadly. Basic computer literacy usually means knowing how to use a computer and perform basic tasks.

Some software systems are used uniformly among offices. Microsoft Word, for example, is a standard way to create a text document. Knowledge of Microsoft Word is generally considered to be necessary for basic computer literacy. In comparison, employers may only require more complex software like CAD for specific job roles that involve 3D modelling. Most workplaces would consider particular software knowledge, like CAD, a role requirement and not a part of computer literacy.

Why is computer literacy important?

The impact of the technology era is immense. The implementation of computers and software in Australian businesses is foundational. It has affected nearly all jobs in some way. Within office workplaces, computer literacy has become as common as a shared language. A nice bonus of having computer literacy skills is that they're highly transferable.

There's a good reason why computer literacy is essential in many workplaces. Technology has streamlined many processes. Drawing, writing, communicating, modelling, engineering, construction, retail and many other industries in between use technology in their workplace. Computer software has improved the way we work. So, computer literacy is likely to live on long into the future.

Common computer literacy skills

Professional skills can vary broadly depending on the role, but some common computer literacy skills can be useful for many roles. Some positions may be highly technical and require precise software knowledge. However, the majority of roles need a basic level of computer literacy. These may include the following common skills:

Basic computer skills

Basic computer skills are a great place to start if you haven't worked with a computer before. Workplaces that use computers usually seek candidates with these skills. Understanding how to turn your computer on and off, open applications, connect to the internet, and typing are basic computer skills. If you can learn how to do these tasks, it can be a great foundation to build more computer literacy skills.

Microsoft suite of Gsuite

Microsoft and Google have similar versions of the software that facilitates many work tasks. Documents, presentations, reports and data analysis are a handful of the countless tasks done with this software. Three of the most used ones are:

Microsoft Word or Google Docs

Microsoft Word or Google Docs offer a great way to do tasks that involve text. Most office jobs use Word or Docs daily to form reports, memos and other documents to communicate with others. You can get started with these by simply opening them up and starting typing. From there, you can search for the relevant guides to format your work.

Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets

Excel and Sheets both use spreadsheets to manage data. Whether you'd like to track data, create professional charts or create a schedule, spreadsheets can help. Spreadsheets are a tool for anything data related, basic calculations or complex formulas. Once you start to get used to spreadsheets, they can help you work a lot more efficiently.

Microsoft PowerPoint of Google Slides

As the presentation gods, PowerPoint and Slides are filled with sleek designs and user-friendly tools. If your position requires you to present information, creating a slideshow can be the best way to power your presentation. You can start to become literate with PowerPoint/Slides by choosing a presentation theme, uploading images and creating graphs.

Email and communication platforms

If you have basic computer skills, knowledge of email platforms can be a natural next step. Emails are the most used form of communication between people with a computer. They're universal as you only need your counterparts email address to contact them.

A computer literate person may know how to use a standard email or communication platform, like Gmail or outlook. If a role includes computers, hiring managers may expect their candidates to understand how to use email and messaging platforms. It has become an efficient way for teams to send information and queries to each other and others outside of the organisation.

Network connection and diagnoses

Connecting to the internet can be a necessity for jobs that rely on computers. It's hard to do much without an internet connection, and even if you can, you may still need a connection to then send it to a colleague. As well as connecting to the internet, it's good to learn how to diagnose when something is wrong. In an office environment, small issues like these can be resolved without a call to IT. Learning how to diagnose a problem with your network connection can enhance your computer literacy skills.

Search engines and internet knowledge

Search engines are used to find important information online. These can be valuable for anyone in any situation. Many workplaces rely on referencing information that's found online. Understanding how to use search engines to navigate the internet can help increase your computer literacy.

As an added benefit, search engines can help solve many other computer problems and advance your computer literacy. For example, if you don't know how to find a slideshow theme in the PowerPoint section mentioned above, you could search for guidance.

A general understanding of how the internet works is also a great step in computer literacy. Nothing technical is required, but basic knowledge of how to navigate the internet and how to use an internet browser can be important to many roles.

How to improve your computer literacy skills

Below are some suggestions to help you improve your computer literacy skills:

Online tutorials

It can be comforting to know that online tutorials can help us with just about anything we use in our daily lives. This means you can easily find a tutorial on how to use a specific piece of software. Tutorials are videos that show you, step by step, how to do something.

When it comes to teaching computer skills, tutors will usually share their screen. In this visual setting, you can understand things easier and pick up skills quickly. Watching someone can be an efficient way to learn computer literacy skills. These can be found online by searching "tutorial on how to use Microsoft Word", for example.

Search for the answers

Search engines are a great starting place for problem-solving. There's usually a countless number of websites with information on how to fix or do something. Using this to your advantage can help you pick up more computer skills.

The truth is, computers can be complex. Even people who have worked with computers for years encounter problems that they need help with. A common fix is to enter a quick Google search to get back on track. With more knowledge, you become more proficient. Search engines are a rich source of knowledge that can help you. After all, that's what the internet was made to do.

Practise your skills

Like with any skill, an excellent way to improve your computer literacy skills is to practise them regularly. The more you use the skills you already know, the better you become at them. Find ways to use your computer skills more often or practise in your spare time. If you use computers in your role, you might find you naturally improve at the associated skills. Once you become confident in your current skills, learning further computer skills can become more manageable.

Ask colleagues for help

Colleagues who are using the same software can be a great source to improve your computer literacy skills. They may have had more experience and practise in an area you would like to improve. Asking colleagues for help can be a great way to overcome a problem in person.

Ask seniors for training

Your company may have training courses in specific software that they use. An excellent way to improve your computer literacy skills is to ask your seniors or colleagues if there are any training courses that you can attend. By asking this, you could show an interest, and they may be more likely to offer you training in the future.

Learning computer skills through training can be a great way to learn efficiently. You may have the opportunity to ask the trainer your specific questions, and they can help you understand them in real-time.

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