How to Sharpen Your Computer & IT Skills

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If you apply to work anywhere today, one of the first few questions they will ask you is ‘are you computer literate?’ In other words, can you operate and use a computer.

With almost half of the world’s population now running on smart devices, it’s not surprising to see so much emphasis placed on computer literacy. 

Being computer literate is now a must if you want to survive and advance your career in this digital world. 

Read on to find out how you can become better with computer & IT.

A Vast Majority of the World Are Still Computer Illiterate 

You must think you’re alone in this battle against computer illiteracy. But I want you to know that that’s not true. Forget all the noise and buzz you see on social media (Facebook, Instagram, and the likes). A vast majority of those people are not computer literates. Many of them can’t even complete basic tasks on PCs. Yes, they can handle a smartphone, but that’s where it ends.

If you read this article until the end, I can assure you that you’re one step closer to being better than most internet users (95% of them, according to Weforum).

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Image: NNGROUP

1. Start From the Basics and Get the Fundamentals Right

You cannot wake up one night and say you want to take computer & IT courses relevant to your field without first getting familiar with the use of computer systems.

At the very least, you must learn and master the operation of Windows and Mac computers. Get to know how to install, operate, manage and handle simple basic tasks. 

Until you’re familiar with both computer OS setups, it will be nearly impossible to become good with any IT skill.

The good news is it’s easier to learn about computers these days. If you look around your immediate locality, I’m sure you can find an internet café near me where you can enroll in a computer training program. Alternatively, you can take computer courses online – free or paid. 

2. Identify the Skills You Need to Learn

Having brushed up your computer operation skills, the next thing is to sharpen your IT skills. To get started on that, you’ll need to first pick out the skill you want to learn.

As you can imagine, there are thousands of IT skills out there. The best way to determine which one to learn is to figure out your purpose for wanting the skill in the first place.

Are you looking to advance your career in a field, or are you targeting a completely new field? Whatever the case may be, you should identify the skills employers in that field are looking for. Do you need simple Microsoft suite skills or basic task management skills? Do you need complex machine learning tools, or you’re good to go with basic AI understanding?

Another way to know what skills to learn is to network with people already working in the field. By talking to a few guys who are already making strides in your field of interest, you can have a good idea of what technical skills to learn.

Finally, you can check online. For example, if you are a young chemical engineering graduate, you might search for “relevant chemical engineering IT skills.” When you find skills that interest you, visit the NiceLocal site to check out the best providers of these skills. Usually, you’ll need to take computer courses to hone these skills.

3. Familiarize Yourself With the Idea of Internet Technology

Internet Technology is a different space entirely. Understanding how a computer works or how to navigate Instagram is, by no means, a guarantee someone will cope with internet technology.

You have to take internet technology-related courses to understand how this aspect of the computer community works. 

Crucially, you need to familiarize yourself with internet technology because a vast majority of the IT skills you’ll need to thrive in your field will require the use of the internet. 

For example, someone who wants to work as an SEO specialist will need to understand basic internet technology concepts like bandwidth, search engine, site speed, URL, Web page, HTTP/HTTPS, HTML/XML, backlinks, etc.

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Even someone who wants to start a self-owned business will need to understand the application of internet technology. Because, for example, he will need to handle his business marketing campaigns by himself and that require some understanding of internet tech to execute.

Here is a list of some free internet skills for you to get started:

  • A collection of internet-relevant courses – Coursera
  • G Suite Training Center (for Google Apps) – from Google
  • How the Internet Works – from Khan Academy
  • Computer Science 101 – from Stanford University 

4. Don’t Stop Learning

The secret to getting better at computing is learning as many courses as possible. You can’t take one online course or enroll for just one in-person class and hope to be good overnight.

You need to keep developing yourself. As you’ll soon realize, most computer skills are usually divided into basic, intermediary, and advanced levels in most cases.

For starters, chances are you would start with basic courses. After a while, you will need to upgrade your level by taking advanced courses.

The good news is there are many free course platforms online – places where you can continue to learn new computer & IT skills for free. YouTube is one such platform. You can learn virtually anything there.

If you’d like a more formal experience, you might consider paid course options like the ones on Coursera, Udemy, EdX, Khan Academy, Codecademy, etc.

5. Carry Your Company’s Leadership Along

Once you start making efforts to hone computer & IT skills, one thing that will quickly become clear to you is that these courses don’t come cheaply. One computer tech program can cost as much as $2,000 to enroll. 

Often, the prices of these courses drive people away from learning. In your case, you shouldn’t give up on learning a course simply because you can’t afford to finance it. Instead, reach out to the leadership of your organization to see if they can finance you.

Of course, you’ll need to show them how honing these skills can benefit the organization in the long run. If you’re convincing enough with your pitch, not only will the leadership sponsor you, but they may also consider financing other employees that could benefit from skill.

6. Make the Internet Your Friend

In the beginning, it’s normal to run into glitches and challenges – spells where you wouldn’t know how to handle certain computer programs. When these spells come, your best bet is the internet.

It doesn’t matter how confused you are about a subject; you’re likely not the first person to have encountered such a problem. Go online and search for answers. Chances are you’ll always find what you’re looking for. From sob/success stories of people who have experienced similar issues in the past to the opinions of bloggers, there are a host of resources online.

7. Practice…Practice…Practice

Practice makes perfection, isn’t that what they say?

A great way to get better at whatever skills you’ve honed is to put the skills to work. Even if you’re not demanded to use the skill set at work, it’s best to still find applications for it so that you don’t forget. The more time you spend practicing, the better you’ll become at whatever skills you’ve learned.

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Furthermore, once you’ve grown used to a skill, it is always easier to take up another skill (especially the upgrade level of the primary skill).

8. Prioritize Courses That Give Certificates

Sometimes, depending on where you’ve chosen to take your course, you may be qualified to receive a certificate. It makes sense to prioritize these courses and course providers, especially when the body involved is a reputed one.

Learning a skill via a course is great. But earning a certificate is even better. Certificates are a great way of showcasing and selling yourself. Remember, anybody can claim they have a machine learning skill, but only someone with the right certificate will be taken seriously.

You should strive to go after courses that reward you with certificates most times. Unfortunately, most free courses don’t come with certificates, only paid courses do. This is why people sometimes prioritize paid courses over free ones.

9. Learn the Shortcuts 

The beauty of computer literacy is there is always a reward for learning the shortcuts. Remember how we prioritize using CTRL + anything anytime we need to perform tasks on our laptops?

Nobody really likes to waste time completing tasks. Everybody wants someone who can complete a one-hour office task in forty minutes or less.

The only way to be that person is to learn the shortcuts to handling things.

Once you finish learning a skill (or taking a course), proceed to learn how to use that skill to crack tasks in a lesser amount of time.

This will seriously aid your case anytime you stand up for an interview or find yourself in a situation where you have to compete with others for a position. 

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