Basic Computer Skills Every Worker Needs
When we talk about computer skills in a professional context, we’re usually talking about job-specific skills, e.g. Python for data scientists or Salesforce for sellers. But before you get to the advanced stuff, you need to build a foundation.
Without basic computer skills, you may find it hard to move on to the more complicated software and tools that will help you advance in your career. In fact, there are some skills that are so essential for modern working life, you need them even if your job takes place entirely outside of an office environment.
If you’re having trouble starting or growing your career, ask yourself if you need to brush up on some of these basics. (Then, dive into these free ways to improve your computer skills.)
10 Basic Computer Skills Every Worker Needs Now
Don’t laugh – knowing how to use email in your personal life is not the same thing as knowing how to use it professionally. To get the most out of your email, you need to be able to:
- Stay organized. Use folders and rules to keep your inbox tidy and your deliverables clear – and delete the junk.
- Stay focused. Disable your alerts and check your email only once or twice a day. Choose a time when you’ll have a few minutes to file messages appropriately and plan responses.
- Stay appropriate for work. Using your personal email for professional purposes like job searching? Now’s not the time for the cute, silly, or NSFW handle. Keep it clean and intuitive – like [email protected]
2. Collaboration Apps
If you haven’t had an office job for a while, you might be surprised to discover that email is no longer the only – or at some companies, the principle – choice for work communications.
Collaboration apps like Slack combine the interoffice memo functionality of email with the immediacy of instant messaging. You may find that most of your watercooler chatter and casual collaboration takes place over a messaging system like this.
Meanwhile, workflow management apps like Asana and Trello have crept out of software development and into the workplace in other industries. This roundup provides a good overview of some of the most common collaboration tools, as well as other productivity apps that might make your workflow easier.
3. Word Processing
Most offices around the world use either Microsoft Office or G Suite for their enterprise applications, including word processing software. (No seriously: according to Statista, the two providers combined have 93.2% global market share.)
But just because you’re probably using one or the other (or both), doesn’t mean that you know all the tips and tricks – or even how to get your formatting to go back to normal after an inadvertent keyboard lean moves your margins to the center of the page.
If it’s been a while since you really looked at the options in Microsoft Word or Google Docs, it might be time for a refresher. Both Microsoft and Google offer tutorials: Word for Windows TrainingHow to Use Google Docs
4. Basic Google Skills
And speaking of Google, do you know what the world’s most popular search engine is showing employers about your work history – and personal life? Even if you don’t use a computer for work, it’s a good idea to Google yourself when you’re applying for jobs.
Chances are that the hiring manager will do the same. According to a CareerBuilder survey, 66% of employers say that they use search engines to research candidates, while 70% review candidates’ social media profiles. Post something that makes you appear unprofessional – pictures of you partying, for example, or rants about a former employer – and you could find your resume moved to the “no” pile.
But Google-proofing your online reputation isn’t the only reason to start searching. Google and other search engines can help you find out more information on the employer, as well. Check Google News for recent stories about the company and its officers, and run Google searches on the names of anyone who’ll be interviewing you.
You might find out that you have more in common with your potential boss than you knew – or you might find some deal breakers that change your mind about interviewing.
5. Social Media
Your social media use can work against you during a job search in some surprising ways. While those party photos are an obviously bad idea, the solution isn’t to become completely invisible online. (Not that you’re likely to achieve that unless you just bought your first computer yesterday.)
The aforementioned CareerBuilder survey showed that employers are even more likely to look up candidates on social media than they are to look for them via search engine.
And if they can’t find you on social, they might think twice before extending an offer – 20% say that they expect candidates to have an online presence. Need help curating your social profiles? This primer will tell you how to get the right sort of attention online.
If you use spreadsheets for work, chances are that you’re using Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. The two products have a lot in common – as well as a few key differences. (In short: Excel offers more storage and a formula for just about everything, while Google Sheets makes it easier to collaborate with others and a low, low price point of zero dollars.)
Want to improve your spreadsheet skills? Get help from Microsoft 365 Training, the G Suite Learning Center, or one of HubSpot’s resources.
7. Presentation Software
Employers want solid public speaking skills, but just knowing how to deliver a speech won’t be enough to hold your coworkers’ and clients’ attention.
Facility with presentation software can make the difference between a riveting presentation and an awkward yawn fest. Microsoft PowerPoint dominates this space with some competition from Apple Keynote, Prezi, Google Slides, etc.
Learn one of these, and you’ll learn enough basics to transition to whatever presentation software your future employer prefers. PowerPoint for Windows TrainingKeynote Support
8. Video Meeting Software
Unsurprisingly, the pandemic led to a boom in video meeting software downloads. But video meetings – and job interviews – are here to stay.
Certainly, today’s office worker needs to be able to navigate a Zoom or GoToMeeting. To avoid looking like the clueless coworker in every Zoom-themed commercial, learn more about video meetings and interviews here.
9. Security Best Practices
Surveys show that over half of computer users choose the same password for multiple accounts. You don’t need to be a security pro to know why that’s bad. But that’s not the only security mistake most of us are making.
Even if you never use your computer for work-related purposes, it pays to bone up on security basics. Why? Because ID theft can cause big problems during the background check phase of the job interview process. Keep your information secure and save yourself some headaches.
10. Touch Typing
If you’ve made it this far hunting and pecking, you might be tempted to give touch typing a pass. But there are plenty of good reasons to learn to type, even later in your career. (Just for starters: you’ll save yourself loads of time and appear more professional when you type in front of coworkers, for example, in a meeting environment.)
Best of all, there are loads of excellent free touch-typing programs online, so you can learn at your own speed and on your own time.