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7 Important Digital Skills Everyone Should Have
Being able to thrive in our increasingly digital work and social lives means possessing some basic digital skills. While no one expects everyone to be skilled in computer programming languages, or have an intimate understanding of systems engineering, there are some common elements of basic digital literacy everyone should have.
Below are the seven most important digital skills.
1. Digital Marketing
Digital marketing includes a variety of components, including SEO, social media, PPC, email and analytics. Together, they comprise the majority of most marketing budgets, at least for companies that do most of their business online. Knowing how digital marketing works is not only important as a consumer but is a highly useful skill to include on a resume and even to start your own business or side hustle online.
If you are a small business owner and are not fully confident in your digital marketing and SEO skills, or would prefer to outsource this function, a quick search of something like “SEO Brisbane” will turn up professional, reputable digital marketing and SEO specialists to provide you with expert service.
2. Digital Emotional Intelligence
With the wholesale shift to remote work during the 2020 pandemic year, most of our interaction in the workplace now takes place digitally. For older people who did not come of age during the social media era, much of this still probably feels quite new. There is unspoken etiquette that people observe when interacting online.
For example, being able to make good use of visual aids by using things like screenshot tools makes it easier for your conversation partner(s) to follow along with your train of thought or to recall them to a previous conversation or point you made. Likewise, knowing how and where to deploy emojis, including who to use them with and who not to, is important, as is the judicious use of exclamation marks as being able to evaluate a person’s digital communication style and tailor your interactions with them is key.
3. Microsoft Office (Especially Excel)
At this point, anyone from generation X and younger is likely to be very familiar with Microsoft Office and all, if not most, of its applications. PowerPoint presentations and Excel files are part of most people’s daily professional life, even if they wouldn’t consider themselves experts. But programs like PowerPoint, and particularly Excel, are expansive, which makes even claiming to have a “basic” understanding of how they work and what they do quite a bold statement.
Advanced Excel skills would include things like using VBA (Excel’s programming language) to create macros in order to automate tasks or building powerful pivot tables. But everyone who works or goes to school would be doing themselves a big favour by spending some time watching tutorial videos on more “basic” but still very powerful Excel knowledge. This includes data validation, Vlookup, cell formatting, charts, key shortcuts and managing page layout.
4. Google Docs Editors
Google’s cloud-based alternative to the Microsoft Office software is basically a carbon copy of the Office suite in many ways, and it is an essential part of online collaboration in the era of remote work. Google documents and sheets are definitely the two most commonly used, and being able to quickly navigate both of these, including knowing how to set and change sharing options and how to edit, make comments and suggestions and respond to the comments and suggestions of others, are fundamental digital skills.
5. Basic Cybersecurity
The need for basic cybersecurity literacy and competency is something that modern human beings leading digital social lives, working, banking, shopping and viewing media online are going to have to come to terms with. This basic cybersecurity literacy is particularly important in what is often referred to as “technologically marginalized” communities - people who, for various reasons, including age, race and gender - where the threat of digital exploitation and manipulation is higher.
Basic cybersecurity includes a knowledge and understanding of things like two-factor authentication and what phishing is, and how to spot it. It includes how to set proper security and privacy settings on applications, how to use public internet connections, how to make use of a VPN, good password creation protocols and how to set cookies settings on websites, etcetera.
6. Information Authenticity
Information authenticity refers to the legitimacy of a source of information, whether print or video. The information ecosystems that most people inhabit, especially social media like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, are increasingly characterized by an abundance of false and misleading information. It is a mix of deliberate disinformation and ignorance, and knowing how to navigate it is of the utmost importance. Increasingly, being informed requires knowing how to spot suspicious sources of information, fact check using a mixture of one’s own journalistic skills and intuitions, and knowing how to cross-reference facts and statements elsewhere.
6. Gmail Proficiency
While there are plenty of email clients out there to choose from, Gmail is the dominant email service, with more than 1.5 billion users globally. What Gmail proficiency refers to is the ability to get the most out of Gmail’s long list of features. There are plenty of lesser or poorly known Gmail functionalities that are very useful and can help you better organize your life and communication.
These include “schedule send,” which lets you draft an email now and schedule a future date and time on and at which to send it. It includes knowing how to create inbox categories for better inbox management, including promotions, social, and updates. Smart compose is another feature that requires some understanding of Gmail settings navigation to use, but it essentially allows you to leverage machine learning to quickly respond to emails based on previous email examples. Depending on how many emails you send a day, this can add up to significant time savings and allow you to better manage your inbox while on the move.
Navigating a digital world requires digital skills. And, now that so many people are working remotely many if not most of these skills are also required in the workplace.
While the above list features some of the fundamentals, learning and constantly improving upon digital skills is something that makes life easier and creates opportunities for anyone.
About the Author
Lindsey Thompson is a U.S.-based freelance writer covering digital marketing, work and tech for a wide range of international publications. She is interested in how technology continues to transform the economy and society.
When she is not reading and writing, she is probably out hiking with her dogs.