Basic Computer and Mobile Device Skills

Basic Computer and Mobile Device Skills

If you’re not already spending an average of 4-6 hours a day on your smartphone, tablet, or computer, you may be considered not “tech savvy.” It can be a good thing to detach from your devices. However, if you’re looking for a job, your lack of tech skills could be a liability.

But there’s good news: if you’re reading this article, you already know the basics that can help you become familiar enough with computers and devices to do well in a wide variety of jobs—and to get hired.

Why You Might Not Feel Tech Savvy

Do you know why most people think that they aren’t tech savvy? They think that they’re not smart enough. But that is just not true at all. Something that feels new or foreign can make you feel challenged even when you’re not. The truth is that you are plenty smart enough to learn the basics of computers, smartphones, and tablets. You just need to give yourself a chance to learn and feel comfortable using these devices. Also, once you get the hang of it, using these digital tools will feel second nature to you.

What Are the Basics of Computers & Mobile Devices?

There’s almost no job out there that doesn’t require a job seeker to understand the basics of computers and mobile devices. Thankfully, with just a little bit of knowledge and practice, what feels scary to you now will feel simple in just a matter of hours.

Before you keep reading, remind yourself of a couple of things:

  • First, you can learn how to use technology. New technology is just that, new. All things that are new feel scary or out of reach at first. In time, you’ll feel as comfortable as the next person.
  •  Second, computers and mobile devices really do make your life a million times more convenient. Using them will allow you to accomplish more with less effort.
  • When it comes to getting answers to your questions, you will easily become one of “those people” who can use Google to answer every question you can imagine.
  • Also, because most of your friends and family are likely using computers and mobile devices to socialize, you will also be able to feel more connected in personal and professional relationships.

So let’s begin.

The Differences in Computers & Devices

At the risk of oversimplifying, we are going to start by explaining the difference between the various kinds of computers that you are likely to use at a job. The first one you probably know plenty about: the desktop computer.

Desktop Computer

A desktop computer can be a three-part computer system, which includes a monitor (screen), a computer, and a keyboard. Or, a one-piece, folding laptop computer can act as a desktop computer, too. If you work in a standard office environment, you will likely have a computer assigned to you. As a general rule, the most rigorous of digital tasks are performed on a desktop computer, but the downside is its lack of mobility. That’s why it’s increasingly more important that you learn how to use smartphones and tablets for work.


It is hard to not own a smartphone nowadays. If you do but don’t feel comfortable doing much more than using it to call family members, you should take some time to explore your device. In many jobs, you may be required to use a smartphone for work. For example, employees working in retail (such as Target, Lowes, etc.) use smartphones to track inventory and report issues around the store.


Tablets work like smartphones but are much larger. The most well-known tablet in the U.S. is the iPad. Many contractor or trade jobs use tablets in order to geo-locate job sites, examine plans/blueprints, track inventory, and more.

Operating Systems

If we didn’t have operating systems (OS for short), only computer coders could use computers. An operating system is preloaded software (that is, your device will arrive with an OS already installed) that makes your device user-friendly and easy to understand.

There are two popular OS programs for computers —Windows and Mac (Apple or Macintosh)—and two popular OS programs for mobile devices—Android and Apple (iOS).

While both are fairly simple to use (and having experience using both is a plus), most of the time, you will only be working on one OS at work. When you turn on the computer or device, the OS presents you with a desktop and labeled icons on your screen. This home screen is where you’ll begin and choose which computer program to run for work.

At work, most employers only expect you to know what they mean if they ask you whether you know how to use Windows/Mac. All they mean is, “Have you used a computer/device with this operating system and do you feel comfortable using the desktop to find the programs you need?” 

As you become more familiar and more comfortable with your computer and devices, you may begin to notice software update notifications. Because technology moves quickly, devices require that the OS download and install an updated version of itself on a regular basis. Many times, your employer’s IT department will be responsible for keeping up with these updates. However, if you find that your computer/device is running slower than normal and notice that updates are required, you may choose to simply maintain these updates yourself.

Basic Settings & Components

Login screen. Username and password in Internet browser on computer screen

When using a device, most employers expect you to know how to turn the device on/off. Additionally, you should be able to connect your computer/device to WiFi (Internet) by opening the device’s WiFi settings, selecting the appropriate WiFi network, and entering a password.

Speaking of passwords, most employers assign you a login and password for your device and/or any software programs that you will be using for work. This is to ensure that not just anyone can use the computer and gain access to sensitive information.

Lastly, mobile devices often require you to use your Bluetooth signal to connect to another device (like a barcode scanner, a printer, or a headset). Bluetooth is more or less another wireless setting that connects to other devices but does not itself connect to the Internet. When using Bluetooth to connect a new device to your smartphone or tablet, the device will guide you in “pairing” itself to your smartphone or tablet.

When your colleagues speak of “troubleshooting” your device, frequently they are referring to basic problem-solving techniques if the device or program is malfunctioning or frozen. Oftentimes, restarting your device or logging out then logging back into your device will solve the problem. Here are some of the computer hardware skills that may be required for troubleshooting.

Email Configuration

When adding your email account to a mobile device or to a software program like Microsoft Outlook, you may have to configure your email account to that device. Often, this simply requires you to pick your email provider (such as Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, etc.) and then login with your username and password.

Other times, you may be required to enter in email settings manually. From your email account online, you can go to your settings to find IMAP/POP settings. It is not necessary for you to know what these acronyms mean. All you need is to find the name (or number) for the “Incoming Mail Server” and “Outgoing Mail Server.” These give the email software a digital “address” to properly locate your email account and then add it to your device. Match the server names from your email settings to your mobile device settings, and within a few minutes, your email will be configured.

Video Calling

While you may or may not be required to use video calls on your computer or device, it’s good for you to be aware that the devices have this capability. Just as you would “FaceTime” family and friends, work associates frequently video call for meetings and such. There are a number of different software programs—such as Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, and more—that work similarly to FaceTime. 

Instant Messaging

Similar to text messages, work-related group chats are also growing in popularity in the workplace. Many of the same programs that allow for video calling (like Hangouts and Skype) also have a simple chat room, allowing for instant messaging between colleagues. Since many jobs are becoming remote, work-from-home jobs, it’s very likely that you’ll need to use instant messaging on your computer/device at work.

Software Programs

In addition to the enhanced communication abilities afforded to you with computers and mobile devices, getting work done often means recording or organizing information within productivity software or other software programs

The most popular set of productivity software programs is known as Microsoft Office. These programs include Microsoft (MS) Word, MS Excel, MS Outlook, MS Access, MS Publisher, MS PowerPoint, and MS Note. Most employers require you to have a basic understanding of MS Word and Excel. If you are not already familiar with these programs, consider obtaining a Microsoft Office Certification.

Depending upon your profession, there is likely a myriad of computer programs with which you may want to become familiar. Some of them you may already be familiar with while for others you may want to search out free tutorials online to enhance your resume.

Learning New Skills

Learning any new skill takes time, and that is certainly true with technology and computer programs. But it’s not essential that you master everything right away. What matters is that you expose yourself to new things, pick up a few new skills where you can, and take pride in your progress.

As you become more comfortable with these computer and mobile-device skills, be sure to list them on your resume for employers to see. 

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  • January 2, 2023