Take your digital skills to the next level

Our Digital Experience Week begins on campus Monday, 24 April 2023! Throughout the week you’ll have the opportunity to meet employers, develop digital skills, and update your LinkedIn profile with a professional photo (taken by our LinkedIn photographer). There’s plenty to take part in during the week’s activities, but you don’t have to stop there! Here are some ideas to help you audit your digital skills and take next steps to build your digital toolkit…

Try the digital capabilities audit tool

This online tool will ask you a series of questions and confidence measures. There are no right or wrong answers, and it’s a great way to review your current skills and plan your next steps. Yufei Song (Student Adviser on Manchester Graduate Talent Programme) recently completed the assessment and said “This tool is easy to use. The reflective survey encourages me to think about my digital skills, and how I use my digital skillsets in life and work. I really appreciated the personalised report on where I’m at with different aspects of digital skills. I think I’ll actually use the tool if I need to think about what IT examples to use when I have a job interview or write a cover letter.”

Why should you try the tool? Well, employers around the globe seek staff with digital capabilities. Understanding your digital skills and articulating these to employers could help you land your dream job!

Sign up for free online courses

Alex Frost (Product Cyber Security Manager at Volta Trucks) recommends “free self-study courses through Future Learn / Open Learn & ISC2-CC”. Google Digital Garage is another great place to sign up for free courses covering topics such as AI, Coding, Big Data and Machine Learning. Code First Girls also offer a range of free courses including JavaScript, Data and SQL, Python and many more.

After graduating in 2022 from a Social Anthropology degree, Isabel Whyte (Digital Talent Intern at The University of Manchester), joined Code First Girls to learn the fundamentals of data analysis. Isabel shares “This gave me the confidence to pursue a free software engineering course with Skills City in September 2022. It was intense, but I learnt the fundamentals of Python and OOP programming”. 

If you’ve got some spare cash, Petros Tsekouras (Cyber Security Adviser at Transport for London (TfL)) suggests Udemy. Petros utilised Udemy to prepare for and take the CISSP exams. He says “I took the CompTIA series of classes for Security+. I also used online courses in Udemy for Python and Networks with focus on secure development and cyber security network architecture”.


Why not get involved in digital / STEM projects such as Manchester CanSat Project (MCP)? Alfi Sumadi (Software Engineer at Airbus Defence and Space) developed skills in C++ prior to starting his role at Airbus, but also needed to know some basic electronics which he learned by “playing around with a cheap electronics kit and a microcontroller I own”. Alfi goes on to suggest personal projects using coding languages, “Python is a good one to start with, since it is used in a lot of different places. Second, learn how to use a version control system such as Git, since that is quite commonly used in software teams. And lastly, develop online research skills as it will come in handy when faced with a problem you have no background in”.

Suzanne Embury (Reader in Software Engineering at The University of Manchester) suggests “working on a personal project, building software for your family or friends, or a local charity…can really help you apply your learning, rather than just read about the theory”.

Talking of projects, it’s worth getting familiar with the many different digital project tools that industry uses, platforms such as Gantt Charts and Resource Planners are a good starting point. One of the big challenges of personal projects is that you may not know everything, Suzanne (ibid) suggests developing research skills and utilising the “open source movement, and tools such as Stack Overflow and Medium, for almost any technical problem you have, someone somewhere is likely to have solved it and to have posted an answer somewhere online. Being able to track down the answer you need is a really useful problem-solving skill.”

Competitions and Hackathons

Suzanne Embury (ibid), suggests that “hackathons and competitions are useful for building experience and a portfolio”. Alfi Sumadi (ibid) shares that during his time at university, he “participated in a variety of hackathons and game jams. These are good for getting experience doing a project (especially in a team). A good place to start looking for events is MLH, who sponsor many hackathons around the world (including at UK universities).” Check out Hackathons UK and events platforms such as Eventbrite and MeetUp.

Get experience 

Both paid and unpaid work can be a great way to demonstrate your digital skills. The University of Manchester Student Software Company offers a range of opportunities from a few hours to several weeks. Summer opportunities can last between eight and 12 weeks. Check out CareerConnect for insight events, internships, placement year and graduate opportunities. Isabel Whyte (ibid) is currently developing her digital skills through a one year MGT role. Isabel says, “If you ever catch yourself thinking ‘Oh, that seems too difficult’ or ‘that’s not for me’, just try it out! You may be pleasantly surprised, and even if you’re not, you learnt something new about yourself. Win-win”. Experience looks great on your CV, so get out there and give it a go!

We know what you’re probably thinking: why make all this effort? Essentially, you want to stand out when competing for opportunities, and digital skills are very much in demand from employers. Even if you just follow up on one of these suggestions, this will support employability, increase scope to work from home / hybrid working, demonstrate adaptability, develop your problem-solving (and research) skills, and it can show that you have taken initiative and a commitment to your own professional development.

So, what are you waiting for? Start building your digital skills today, and be sure to sign up for some of the fantastic free events and workshops we have on during Digital Experience Week!

Written by Penney Gordon-Lanes, Careers Consultant (FSE/BMH)