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6 Essential Digital Skills For A Modern Career

We’ll cover the essential digital skills needed for a modern career, looking at why digital literacy is important and how to improve your skills. Learn more.

In the modern working world, digital skills are a must and there is a base level of essential digital skills required to land a job in this day and age. Although you may not be working in the tech industry specifically, digital skills are required for all types of jobs, such as in retail, finance, manufacturing, healthcare - virtually every sector. That’s why it’s never been more important to brush up on your digital literacy skills, get the basics down to a tee and enter the workforce with your best foot forward.

Learning new skills doesn’t happen overnight and can take some time and dedication, but it doesn’t need to be a daunting experience. We’re here to tell you a bit more about what digital skills are, why they are important and how to improve your digital skills before starting a new job or returning to work after a career break. We’ll cover:

  • What are digital skills?
  • Why are digital skills important?
  • What are the basic digital skills?
  • How to improve your digital skills and achieve digital literacy

What are digital skills?

Digital skills refer to the skills required to use digital devices, communication applications and networks, to manage and share information, such as a computer programme, smartphone app or spreadsheet.

Similarly, digital literacy skills refer to the ability to ‘read and write’ online, which means you should be able to know how to use digital devices and use them in everyday professional situations.

The essential digital skills framework run by the UK government outlines the five most important aspects of digital literacy for work and life. This includes:

  • Communicating
  • Handling information
  • Transacting
  • Problem solving
  • Being safe and compliant online

Why are digital skills important?

Digital skills have played a key role in the working world for as long as computers and floppy disks have been around, but this has only been heightened with the rising popularity of smartphones and other quickly evolving technologies. However, with technology advancing at such a rapid pace, it can be challenging to keep up with the ever-changing skills required to carry out your day-to-day role.

Did you know that 11.3 million people (21%) in the UK lack essential digital skills, 4.3 million (8%) have no fundamental digital skills at all and 5.4 million working adults (10%) lack the basics?

These figures emphasise the importance of having digital skills, and keeping them up-to-date, in order to confidently use technology at work, and in your daily life. Digital skills are also now important for educational purposes, with many university courses and qualifications taking place online.

Here are a few instances when you may need digital skills in your professional career:

  • Using a spreadsheet on a computer to input client information.
  • Accessing the internet to carry out market research.
  • Publishing to social media to promote your brand.
  • Messaging colleagues on an online app when working from home.
  • Making online transactions using a banking application.
  • Talking to clients remotely using online video conferencing tools.

Many employers will expect candidates to demonstrate essential digital skills, and may even require advanced digital skills for some roles. Millennials and Gen Xs have digital literacy ingrained into their daily lives, with 9 in 10 owning a smartphone, so it is important for older generations to keep pace and compete for the top job positions. Digital skills are guaranteed to improve your employability and support long-term career success.

What are the basic digital skills?

Employers will expect you to have a basic toolkit of essential digital skills to perform your job. This could include:

1. Using a computer

Being able to use a computer is the bare minimum when it comes to digital literacy skills. You should be able to switch on and operate a computer, smartphone or tablet, or whichever digital device is required for your chosen job.

2. Navigating the internet

The ability to connect to the internet, use a web browser (like Google Chrome or Safari) and navigate the internet are a few more fundamental digital skills. There are a multitude of instances where you will be required to use the internet in your professional career, from conducting research and reaching out to new and existing customers, to collaboration between colleagues and enhanced marketing approaches.

Gathering and processing information digitally is a key part of daily life. Whether that’s a simple Google search or an in-depth research project, you should be able to do this with ease.

3. Staying safe online

Protecting your digital privacy is imperative, to keep yourself and your business safe online - especially on the internet and social media. This means knowing what is suitable to post online, avoiding social harassment and being conscious of what you read online. Digital safety also includes being compliant with laws,company regulations and ethics, and avoiding illegal online activity - even if accidental. Read our tips on protecting your digital privacy for more information.

4. Communicating online

With the onset of COVID-19 and more people still choosing to work remotely, online communication and collaboration has never been more important. For the modern career, you may be expected to use online messaging applications and video conferencing tools on a daily basis to communicate with colleagues and work in teams. That’s why it is important to familiarise yourself with some of the most popular tools, like Zoom, Teams, Skype and Slack, for example.

5. Creating and editing online documents

You are likely to find yourself in a role using a computer to create and edit documents, be that using Microsoft Word, PowerPoint or Google Docs, for instance. To do so, you will need to feel confident using a variety of applications to enter and edit text, numbers and graphics, and save and organise these in your computer files.

6. Paying for products and services online

Carrying out transactions online is another essential digital skill to have. This is to enable you to shop online, deal with online bank transactions or access any other online services, such as paying for applications, issuing returns or paying for goods. 

How to improve your digital skills and achieve digital literacy

To begin, we recommend that you assess your digital skills against the national standards, using the Department for Education’s National Standards for Essential Digital Skills. It is only once you have a clear understanding of what you know and what you don’t know, that you can begin to improve your digital skills and achieve digital literacy.

How you choose to improve your digital skills will depend on your current capabilities, so each approach will vary from person to person. Whether you’re starting from scratch or simply looking for a skill refresh, here are just a few ways to enhance your digital skills:

  • Try free online classes - you can choose specialised classes depending on your strengths and weaknesses, such as Microsoft Word tutorials, how to use email or a 101 on spreadsheets. Lloyds Bank Academy is a good starting point.
  • Read books - if you’re a digital novice, you may want to start your digital journey through books. Why not try Digital Literacy For Dummies or something similar?
  • Test your skills in your daily life - integrating some basic digital skills into your daily life and using them for personal tasks can help you build confidence. This could be as simple as Google searches, creating your shopping list in Google Docs or writing emails to your friends and family.
  • Keep up to date with current tech and digital trends - why not sign up for a tech newsletter or magazine in the post? This will help you keep pace with the latest trends and upskill yourself accordingly.
  • Reach out for help - if you are struggling to teach these skills to yourself, we recommend reaching out to friends or a family member to help you.

If you’re looking to re-enter the workforce after taking a career break and land yourself a rewarding job in the technology industry, check out the FDM Returners Career Programme. Our award-winning training programmes will help you refresh your skills and give you the tools you need to thrive in your career, working with our industry-leading clients.

Get in touch or sign up to a Returners Open Morning to find out more.

About Preeta Ghoshal

Preeta is a content writer with over 10 years’ experience across print, digital and broadcast media. She has worked extensively in multi-media content creation. Her work reflects a mix of subject matter research and storytelling to produce content that is both informative and easily digestible. She is presently providing content support to each of the FDM programmes and the wider marketing team.


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