Almost every single job out there involves being online in some capacity. That means that, at some point in your career—this year or 30 years from now—you’ll likely have to access the back end of a company site, a blog, or an email marketing service.
Did that sentence scare you?
Don’t worry, it’s not as hard or as complicated as it sounds. Especially once you master a few of the basic building blocks. No, you won’t magically transform into Steve Jobs or Marissa Mayer overnight, but you can gain enough knowledge to talk credibly about website development and design. And that new knowledge might impress your current boss or a future hiring manager.
So, skip the Facebook stalking for a while and spend that time boosting your digital know-how instead. Here are five basics you can get started on right now.
1. Image Editing
Photos aren’t just for selfies and Instagram. They’re also an important tool for marketing, technical documents, and of course, a company’s online presence.
If you can do a little image editing with tools like Photoshop, you can:
- Resize images for blog posts or websites
- Crop images for social media headers or profiles
- Create images for online marketing campaigns, emails, and digital newsletters
For quick and easy image editing, check out Pixlr, a photo editor you can use for free on the web or mobile devices. Or download a free 30-day trial of Photoshop and try the free tutorials on the site.
There’s no getting away from the fact that most people head to Google when they need information nowadays. You can help your company take advantage of that fact by understanding how SEO (search engine optimization) works and how it can improve your company’s business. If your company has any kind of online presence, SEO can only help it.
With a bit of SEO, you can:
- Optimize images so they’re also searchable
- Create links that best describe what’s on your site
- Write content that gets you noticed by search engines
To start unraveling the secrets of SEO, check out Google’s free “Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.”
HTML, or HyperText Markup Language, is what’s used to put content on websites or web-friendly emails. You probably won’t be able to build a whole site after studying HTML for a few hours, but you will be able to do surprisingly important tasks with only a handful of code.
For example, with HTML, you can:
- Finally correct the typos on your company’s site
- Put content in a CMS (content management system) like WordPress
- Write marketing emails with a service like MailChimp or Campaign Monitor
- Create links to track the performance of marketing campaigns
You can learn HTML basics and even create your own web page in the free Skillcrush 10-day Bootcamp. You’ll also learn interesting and useful tech terms along the way that’ll wow your colleagues when you start casually tossing them out.
CSS (a.k.a., Cascading Style Sheets) is like the yin to HTML’s yang: It’s the code that formats and styles HTML content. By changing just a little CSS, you can completely change how a web page or other digital content looks.
If you know CSS, you can:
- Create an email newsletter that matches your company’s brand
- Style blog posts so they’re easier to read
- Customize a Tumblr or Squarespace theme
- Change the appearance of entire web pages
5. Website Inspectors
Once you know more about websites and digital content, you can go behind the scenes with a website inspector. This is a tool that lets you see all the code that web pages are built with and—get ready for this—even edit it if you like. (Don’t worry though. The changes you make will only show up on your computer, so you won’t bring the internet down with your tweaks.)
Using an inspector is a great way to understand more about HTML and CSS—and to see how changes look before you make them on a “real” site.
Two of the most popular inspectors are Mozilla’s Firebug and Google Chrome DevTools, both of which are free. And you can get going with both inspectors with just a couple clicks by installing the Firebug Lite extension for any browser or right-clicking on any web page in Chrome to bring up DevTools.
So, what are you waiting for? Pick the building block that looks the most interesting to you, and set aside time this month to learn the fundamentals. You might even realize that you’ve discovered a new passion and decide to get a foundation in tech to advance your career. Or not. Either way, learning new tech skills can only help your career.