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5 Ways to Get Ahead in the Digital Age

Learning how computers work is no longer an optional skill for people hoping to find jobs in the next few years. I don't mean being able to turn a computer on, or transfer a word document into a PDF format: new job seekers need to know how to present themselves, and their future companies online.5 Ways to Get Ahead in the Digital Age

I entered college hoping to study books, and will leave knowing how to code. In all honesty, I'm a novice computer programmer by any measure, and that's okay. Unless you want to build websites or fix technical problems, understanding the ins and outs of programming really isn't that important.

What's necessary for young job seekers is an understanding of the basics. Knowing what your company's site can and cannot do, how your web audience responds, and how to use social media effectively are skills that can make you more valuable to a company and help you do your job more effectively.

Understanding the internet on a personal level can be a great next step to helping a company work online. I manage an online media company in Austin, TX and have never had any formal classroom training.

Here are five things you can do that can help you get ahead of your peers and on your internet game:

1. Brand yourself

Companies spend years figuring out how to brand themselves in order to be the most appealing to their demographic, but how much time have you spent thinking about how you yourself are branded? If you know what you want to do, or even if you have a vague idea, branding yourself around your end goal can help you appear more qualified to prospective employers. For example, if you want to own a food truck that sells ice cream, you would try and make your presence online demonstrate both a love for ice cream, and a love for being entrepreneurial.

2. Understand Social Media

Social Media has much more potential than liking your Aunt Debbie's cat photos on Facebook. Social media can be a great way to brand yourself, and make connections to other people in your industry. I use Twitter to connect with other media industry professionals and to help reporters scoop stories more than I update my friends on the new Katy Perry song.

3. Keep up with Analytics

Nothing you can do in branding or social media is important unless you know if it's working or not. Playing around with an analytics site that tracks who comes to your website can help you get a grasp on what you are doing that works, and what doesn't. Sites like google.com/analytics even have entrancing graphs.

4. Learn basic computer programming

You don't have to be able to code in Ruby to make a big impression on your future boss, but it certainly wouldn't hurt. Learning the basics of coding languages like HTML and CSS can help you understand the way sites work and help you communicate your ideas more clearly and effectively with your company's tech team. I learned to code on codeacademy.com, which is a free website built to teach inexperienced people the basics of computer programming.

5. Showcase your skills

Building your own website is a great way to show off the skills that you've honed in the other steps to potential employers.  Sites like wordpress.com and tumblr.com can be great places to round out your online presence and display all of your abilities in one place. It will also increase the possibility that you show up in online search engines.

The internet can be what you make of it. You can use the internet to look at 27 photos of cats licking teacups, but it can also be a great resource to building your online identity and helping you find your next job.

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