3 simple steps to AI literacy

7 min read | Jason Barr | Article | Career development | Upskilling

Professional accesses IT

How well do you understand artificial intelligence (AI)? If the tech still leaves you feeling baffled, now is the time to become more familiar.

AI is no longer the stuff of science fiction – it’s part of our everyday lives and society, transforming how we work, learn, and communicate. And as AI grows more widespread, it could become the common language of the future; learning the basics today could give you an edge in the workplaces of tomorrow.


What does it mean to be AI literate?

AI can change the way we work for the better, but unlocking the tech’s potential means becoming AI literate – so what does that involve? AI literacy means having the skills and knowledge to use AI tools effectively. This includes knowing the basics of how different AI tools work, what they can and can’t do, the main risks and ethical issues, and how to effectively engage with AI applications.

You don’t need to be a computer whiz to be AI literate – all you need is a willingness to learn and an open mind. Stay ahead of the curve and build your AI literacy in these three steps:


1. Embrace AI your way

Be curious: AI is always changing, so stay on top of the tech by reading news studies, following industry blogs, or testing new tools. Explore the latest trends, like multimodal AI (systems that incorporate multiple inputs, such as text, images and sound) or the newest AI laws and regulations (such as the EU AI Act).

Be certified: You don’t need any formal qualifications to be AI literate, but taking online courses could quickly elevate your AI skills and bolster your knowledge in related fields, such as machine learning or computer science. Plus, having a certificate in AI will differentiate your CV from other candidates and increase your job prospects.

Be practical: Try using AI tools such as ChatGPT or Copilot in your daily life, whether that’s drafting an email to your local council or looking up a five-ingredient dinner. Once you start using AI tools to solve real problems, the tech will become much more familiar.


2. Cultivate your core skills

You might think that AI literacy is all about technical skills, but core skills – like adaptability or problem solving – are just as important. While some AI experts may require an understanding of a specific coding language or programming tool, the more niche of these technical skills are at risk of being replaced over time.

On the other hand, transferable core skills are likely to stay relevant even as AI increases in maturity. In particular, the human-centricity of these core skills could be more valuable than ever, balancing out the tech’s current weaknesses. For example, being emotionally intelligent could help refine an AI-chatbot’s output to make it more human and user-friendly.


3. Personalise your prompts

Even if you’re not quite AI literate, there’s a good chance you’ve heard about ChatGPT and other generative AI chatbots: simply type in a question or command and watch the answers appear before you. However, there’s more to it than you might imagine, and professional prompt engineers can command a six-figure salary.

Fortunately, though, you don’t need to be a prompt wizard to make AI work for you. Get the answers you’re looking for with these basic guidelines:

  • Know AI’s limits: ChatGPT can generate ideas, content and more in a snap, but it’s far from infallible. Plagiarism, inaccuracies and biased views are some of the caveats you need to be aware of. These are a consequence of the way AI tools typically ‘learn’ and the data they draw from, which may not be always trustworthy or current.
  • Be clear and add context: AI chatbots are getting smarter every day, but they still need human help. To get more precise responses, make sure you add important details and keywords, and tell the chatbot what to do and what not to do. In many ways, this should be a two-way dialogue – just make sure you’re leading the conversation.
  • Try again for success: if your first prompt doesn’t give you what you need, don’t give up. Improve your input with more details or different words to cut out unnecessary information and find the useful content you want.
  • Check the facts: don’t believe everything a chatbot says; double-check any facts, numbers or statements that seem incorrect or in any way biased. You can ask some AI models to give you sources that back up their claims, but do your own research too.


Liberate your career with AI literacy

AI offers both great possibilities and concerning changes, and it’s understandable to experience a degree of apprehension. And while your career may not currently be in danger from AI, ignoring the tech could put you behind in the job market.

Taking the effort to become AI literate today could be a long-term investment for tomorrow – one that opens new avenues not even made known to us yet.

As your lifelong career partner, we’re here to help you navigate the rapidly changing world of work and unlock the latest job opportunities.


About this author

Jason Barr, Director of Permanent Technology Recruitment, Hays Ireland

Jason Barr is Director of Permanent Technology Recruitment for Ireland and UK Software Engineering lead, currently leading a team of technology recruiters from junior to principal level, and working with SMEs to enterprise level clients. Jason has over 12 years’ experience within IT recruitment, and has gained a very thorough understanding of the technologies and niche skills that are typically required in the current marketplace.

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