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Improving your IT skills

Laptop on desk with trackball.IT skills are important for the majority of jobs. Find out how you can improve yours.

Work out what you're missing

It can be difficult to know which skills you might need but don't yet have. A good way to get around this problem is to look at job adverts for roles you might be interested in and see what they ask for.

Some adverts will mention specific tasks you need to be able to do or software you need experience in. Others will be more vague, asking for things like 'general IT skills'. This will normally cover office tasks such as being able to write documents in a word processor, manage emails and perhaps create presentations in a program like Powerpoint.

Practice

There's no substitute for hands-on experience with the software you'll need to use.

Although software can be very expensive, you'll often be able to download a free trial for a limited period. If you don't have access to a computer that can run it, things are more difficult, but there are still ways to get some practice. Public libraries, schools and colleges will normally have computers that you can use for free if you are a member. You won't be able to install new software on these, but they should have basics like Microsoft Office that will be useful in many jobs. You'll also be able to access online services like Wordpress and Google Drive.

To make the most of your practice:

  • Set yourself specific projects to work on, rather than experimenting aimlessly
  • Keep notes about problems you encounter and things you learn
  • If you get stuck, try to find a solution to your problem online: this is a valuable skill in itself

Take a course

There are plenty of courses that can help you improve your skills, from free online courses to college courses leading to a qualification. Two internationally-recognised qualifications you can get for general IT skills are the CLAiT (Computer Literacy and Information Technology) and the European Computer Driving License. Find out about these courses from the National Careers Service.

When choosing a course, ask yourself:

  • Will it cover the particular skills you need to improve?
  • How much does it cost?
  • How long will it take to complete?
  • Will employers recognise it?
  • Do you need any existing skills to get the most out of it, and if so, do you have them?

Find work experience

For practical experience of real workplace IT tasks, getting some work experience can be invaluable. Remember to discuss the skills you're interested in building with your supervisor, and keep a work experience diary to record how you have improved.

Find out more about getting work experience and making the most of it.

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