Do you have the computer skills you need to succeed at work? If not, there are free resources you can use to upgrade your skills and boost your career. With technology becoming more and more prevalent in the workplace, it’s more important than ever to have basic computer hardware and software skills. There are some basic computer skills every worker needs to have.
An employer will be looking for computer skills on your resume, and that means you need to be able to know how to use a computer when you’re on the job.
Here are 5 free and easy way to improve your computer skills.
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1. Identify what you need to learn.
Most likely, you only have so much free time that you can dedicate to learning a new skill. Accordingly, it’s important to use that time wisely. Whether you’re looking to pivot your career or level up within your current field, analyzing the job description of your ideal position is a great way to identify what skills employers are looking for, as well as the tools you should know how to use.
Tip: The “Requirements” section of a job description is generally a good place to find this information.
Networking is another great way to discover what technical skills other people in your field have, or what software and apps they use on a day-to-day basis. This can be accomplished with a simple question, such as “Have you learned any new skills lately that have helped you in your job?,” or “What’s your favorite software or app that use regularly for work?”
In addition, you can also find much of this information online. If you are a customer service representative, for example, you might search for “customer service software.” Keep an eye out for the specific products that appear in your results. Capterra, a software review company, is another helpful resource for identifying common tools in your trade.
Not sure where to start? The specific skills you need are highly dependent on your position and your field, but you can familiarize yourself with this list of top computer skills to start out. Also review some of the best skills to include on your resume.
2. Start with the basics—and ensure you know how to use a computer.
While this goes without saying, before you learn any specialized technical skills, at the very least you need a fundamental understanding of how to use a computer—ideally, both a Windows or Mac. There are many free resources online. Sites like Lifewire, for example, are very helpful in providing comprehensive tutorials.
These days, it’s pretty common to find free (or affordable) computer training events. Check with your local library, community center or community college to see what they have to offer. In addition, you can take free Mac courses at an Apple store near you.
If you’re working in an office role, consider getting certified in Microsoft Office to improve your skills and add value to your resume.
3. Familiarize yourself with an understanding of how computers (and the Internet) work.
While this goes without saying, before you learn any specialized technical skills, at the very least you need a fundamental understanding of what a computer it is and how it works. In some cases, it can be helpful to learn how the Internet works, too.
Now, do you need master computer science? Absolutely not. But, having an elementary understanding of how the technology that you use functions provides a strong foundation for future learning. Here is a list of some free online computer skills lessons that you can start with:
4. Take a free online or-in person computer course.
There are many free resources available, both offline and online. Be sure to check out offerings in your community, such as at your local library, community center, community college or YMCA. You can also search on sites like Meetup or Eventbrite for educational events or groups. If you live in Los Angeles, New York City or Chicago, CourseHorse is another excellent resource.
If you’d rather learn tech skills for free online, there are plenty of ways to do so! You should be able to search on YouTube for pretty much anything you want to know. If you’re looking for a more formal learning experience, you can find tons of free college-level courses online on sites like Coursera, EdX and Class-Central. You can also find free, introductory courses on sites like Khan Academy, Codecademy, and Free Code Camp.
Tip: Here’s an extensive list of free and low-cost online computer classes you can take to get started.
5. Apply the knowledge and get hands-on practice.
If a job description requests familiarity with a specific tool, try to see if there’s way to get hands-on experience. For example, say a position requires that you know how to use Trello, a project management tool. You could consider ways you might be able to integrate Trello in your current position. If this is not possible, perhaps there’s a case where you could use it in your personal life—like for planning a trip.
Get as creative as possible. Need to learn how to use Google Calendar? Start using it to plan and schedule your families’ appointments and activities. Need to know how to use Skype? Create an account and use it to make a video call with someone you haven’t talked to in awhile.
Alternately, if you are learning a skill like graphic design, web design or development, there are many ways to practice: you can enter contests on 99Designs, or solicit gigs on Fiverr, for example.
If you need to be familiar with a paid tool or software then you cannot gain access to, look to see if that app offers a demo or has any training videos on its website. At the very least, you’ll have a chance to garner a basic familiarity with the structure and functionality of the software
Remember, you should always be honest with an employer about your skills and abilities. Don’t oversell your skills. If you’re lacking a skill that is listed in the job description, you can always mention that it is something you are currently learning (or intend to learn), and emphasize your ability to pick up new skills quickly.
Bonus tip: Does your company offer an education stipend?
Be sure to check if your company offers any stipends for their employees’ professional development. There are a lot of high-quality online learning programs available for relatively low costs – LinkedIn Learning, for example, is a great option.