Choose a career: develop your digital literacy
Find out about digital literacy and why it is important to your career.
What digital literacy means
Digital literacy is the ability to effectively and critically communicate, navigate, evaluate and create information using a range of digital technologies. This ability is essential in the context of your personal, educational and working life. This page is focused on digital literacy in the context of your career, and gives ideas for a set of digital capabilities to develop throughout your time at university.
Why is this important to your career? Employers want graduates who have the skills and competencies that prepare them for work in the digital world. Employers could expect you to be:
- completely conversant with Microsoft Office suite i.e. word processing, presentations, spreadsheets
- a very confident user of internet and email
- a creative user of social media like Facebook, Twitter and blogging - even as part of your academic modules
- familiar with document sharing services like Dropbox and Google Drive
- able to select appropriate apps/software to manage your workload
- competent in troubleshooting common device problems and how to keep devices secure and up to date.
As technology changes so fast, you’ll never learn all the technical skills you need but you should be comfortable with learning them and keeping them up to date. Take advantage of courses available through the Students’ Union Skills Training and your department. Also explore apps and free programmes which are work related rather than just for fun - for example, reference and document management software like Evernote and Zotero.
To make sure you are keeping up to date with new technologies offered by the University, try following the LITEbox blog and series of events and resources. The LITEbox initiative is a physical and virtual space set up to enable staff and students to learn, share and develop using new and existing technologies.
Manage your online reputation
Take care of your digital footprint because every time you do something online, whether a post or comment, it leaves a trace. Why do you need to care? Your online reputation matters because it is a way people form a view of you before they have even met you. Employers tell us they google students before they interview them so, since you will be applying for a placement, summer internship or graduate job at some point, you need to monitor your digital footprint as of now. It’s not only employers who check. It’s likely anyone you are going to meet in a work/academic related context will check you out online.
I had a meeting with a supplier recently and when we met he commented that I had done a lot for someone of my age. Apparently he’d checked me out on LinkedIn before our meeting. LinkedIn is a really powerful way of making a good impression on anyone you might meet.
Tim Mendelssohn IMML 2012 now working in LNG Operations for BP.
Let your online image demonstrate your serious commitments and careers interests rather than any high spirited antics. Your professional life starts at university so avoid blurring your professional and personal online identities. Take a few minutes to check through and, if necessary, change your privacy settings - this way, you are in control of your image rather than others.
Clean up your digital footprint
Check out what potential employers might see about you. Google yourself (putting your name in quotation marks: "name"). If you are happy with the results that appear for you then there is no need to worry. If you see results that do not represent you positively you may need to clean up your footprint. No online presence at all could be as detrimental as having an inappropriate one. Experienced professionals with no LinkedIn profile may not get shortlisted for interview. The following advice about cleaning up your digital footprint comes from a recent report:
"One way of managing one's own identity, of controlling how your online profile is projected is to try and ensure that you emphasise the most positive content. Profile and content management tools such as www.about.me, www.enthuse.me, www.scoop.it and flipboard.com all allow you to exert a greater control over the material that is available about you online. By creating a personal home page these sites allow you to manage your online identity and project the image of yourself that you choose.
An additional strategy is to ‘swamp’ your accounts with posts that reflect you appropriately and positively. This will move negative comments and posts further down the Google timeline and replace them with more positive information. Finally, you could try and delete negative posts although it is not always possible to remove information altogether."
(Longridge, D., Hooley, T. & Staunton, T. (2013) Building online employability A guide for academic departments. Derby: International Centre for Guidance Studies, Career Development Centre: 19)
Using social media to network and job hunt
Networks are important for all sorts of reasons. For example, developing a good network of contacts can help with your academic work such as researching a dissertation or project or finding a PhD supervisor. They can also help you find out more about jobs that interest you and what they involve. Network contacts might also be helpful in locating jobs which aren’t normally advertised.
However, developing your networks can be hard at first. As well as Bath Connection, social media provides plenty of opportunities to grow your own network. LinkedIn is a good starting point and it is a positive way to create a professional presence on the Web.
- Our Finding a graduate job guide (campus only) gives an excellent insight into networking and speculative job-hunting strategies including using social media and making direct contact.
- The University of Leeds has produced a series of YouTube step-by-step guides about using LinkedIn for networking, job research and job-seeking.
- LinkedIn's student site has lots of video tutorials offering all the help you need to maximise the site's potential.
- More tips on using social media for networking and job-hunting are available in this video produced by the University of Oxford.
- We run workshops on using LinkedIn and Bath Connection to develop your career - book through MyFuture.
Become a critical user of digital media
The digital world is full of misinformation. Learn how to critique the digital media sources you are using. You will be aware that you shouldn’t trust all information you come across particularly on websites. Get into the habit of asking these questions before trusting a source:
- What is this information telling me?
- Who is telling me this?
- Why would they tell me this?
- Why is this website/resource here?
- Who is paying for it?
- Should I be asking anyone else for information or advice on this topic?