Becoming AI literate: a three-step guide for professionals

7 min read | James Hallahan | Article | Workplace

AI literacy guide

Have you got to grips with artificial intelligence (AI) yet? Or does the tech have your mind in a spin?

AI is no longer a distant vison from the future – it’s already plugged into our daily lives and wider society, changing the way we develop medicine, access education, and even communicate with each other.

As AI becomes increasingly pervasive, the tech could become the ‘lingua franca’ of the future – and understanding the language of AI today could better prepare you for the workplaces of tomorrow.


What is AI literacy?

With AI’s potential to transform both our professional and personal lives, the World Economic Forum claims that universal AI literacy is “imperative” – but what exactly does it take to become AI literate?

AI literacy can be seen as having the skills and competencies required to use AI tools effectively. This includes a basic understanding of how different AI tools work, being aware of the tech’s potential and limitations – including key risks and ethical issues – and knowing how to communicate with AI applications.

Keep on top of the tech and develop your AI literacy in these three steps:


1. Embrace a learning mindset

Being AI literate doesn’t mean being a computer scientist. In the same way the average person can use a laptop or smart phone, it’s possible to grasp the basics of AI without knowing all the inner workings. All you need is an open mind and a desire to learn:

  • Stay curious: AI is constantly evolving, so keep up by reading research papers, following industry blogs, or trialling new tools. Investigate emerging trends like multimodal AI (generative AI systems that can synthesise more diverse data sets to increase their sophistication) or the latest AI regulations. Remember, AI literacy isn’t a one-time achievement – it’s an ongoing journey.
  • Get certified: While there’s no formal qualifications you need to be AI literate, completing online courses from a trusted provider will elevate your AI fluency. Moreover, gaining certification in AI skills can quickly add weight to your CV and improve your job market relevancy.
  • Practice regularly: Try embedding AI tools like ChatGPT into your daily routine, whether that be drafting emails or conjuring a midweek dinner recipe. Once you start solving real life problems using the tech, it will suddenly become far less abstract.


2. Develop your core skills

You’d be forgiven for think that AI literacy is all about technical know-how. However, core skills – like communication or problem solving – are equally important. While certain jobs rooted in AI may require a knowledge of coding or data, certain niche technical skills may eventually fall out of use. Conversely, transferable core skills are unlikely to become redundant as AI continues to increase in maturity.

Moreover, these human-centric skills could be more important than ever as AI grows in usage, acting as a foil to the tech’s shortcomings. For example, possessing a strong emotional intelligence could help refine and humanise an AI-chatbot’s output to create a more customer-friendly piece of content.


3. Improve your prompt game

"Asking AI tools the right questions is a skill in itself. It’s even a profession – one which could net you a six-figure salary."


There’s a good chance you’re already familiar with AI chatbots such as ChatGPT – simply type in a question and watch the magic happen – but did you know that asking AI tools the right questions is a skill in itself? It’s even a profession – one which could net you a six-figure salary

You don’t need to be a professional prompt engineer to make AI work for you though. Tease out the answers you’re looking for with these tips:

  • Understand AI’s limitations: ChatGPT may impress with its ability to write up a legal thesis in seconds, but it might include instances of plagiarism, inaccuracies – or worse, biased views – that undermine its value. This is linked to the way AI tools ‘learn’ and the data sets they draw from, which may not always be completely reliable or up to date.
  • Be specific and add context: AI chatbots are increasing in sophistication by the minute, but they still require human input. To get more accurate responses, make sure you include essential details and keywords, and don’t be afraid to tell the chabot what it should and should not do. In short, be the boss.
  • Iterate for success: if your first prompt doesn’t yield the desired results, don’t worry – that’s just part of the prompt game. Fine-tuning your input with added details or alternative wording will whittle down superfluous information and reveal the valuable content you’re looking for.
  • Fact-check: don’t take everything a chatbot says at face value; be sure to cross-reference any facts, figures or statements that seem out of place, or potentially biased. You can ask certain AI models to provide you with sources that support any of its claims, but support these with your own research.


The time to become AI literate is today

AI brings both great opportunity and significant change, augmenting existing abilities with one hand while automating – and removing the need – for certain technical skills with the other. While your career may not be directly at risk from AI, a reluctance to engage with the tech could place you at a distinct disadvantage in the hiring market.

Those who gain AI fluency today could unlock a wealth of skills and opportunities that keep them ahead of the curve and in demand. What will your AI learning journey look like?


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

James Hallahan, Chief Strategy Officer, UK&I

James Hallahan, Chief Strategy Officer, UK&I, has over 25 years’ experience in recruitment and the professional services industry. James is responsible for delivering strategic growth across both the private and public sectors, through scaling existing products and services and innovating with new solutions to both existing and new markets within which we operate.

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