How to Use Excel forDummies
We’ve all been there: you’re trying to get a task done quickly–say you’re planning for a party or you are evaluating products in a side-by-side comparison to see what the best option is for price and benefits. Something that you would like to get squared away sooner than later. You open up a spreadsheet to input some data and then something happens–a cell freezes or you can’t get the numbers formatted correctly, and BOOM–you’re frustrated. Before you blame it on the darn software that isn’t working, or curse yourself for not being tech-savvy, here is the truth–you have simply not taken the time to how to use Excel. That’s Step 0–admitting you’re a beginner, and dropping all the stressful feelings and negative self-talk. There–that wasn’t so bad, was it? Now that we have established that, we can start to understand WHY it’s important to learn how to use Excel basics and how it can help you GET and KEEP your job.
Tip 1–Understand why learning Excel basics is important
What do administrative assistants, business analysts,accounting specialists, & department managers have in common? Besides all struggling to make the coffee in the shared kitchen to everyone’s liking, all of these positions use spreadsheets in their day-to-day to get important things done (Techwalla). According to a study reported in Fortune, “jobs that require a high school degree but not necessarily a college education found that 78% of jobs require digital skills like Excel and word processing.” These job candidates with technical capabilities also tended to get paid more, too. Microsoft Excel is an incredibly powerful tool, and can accomplish in seconds what once took hours of data entry, analysis, and complex calculations. No matter what your career goals are, learning Excel basics can open doors to higher-paying job opportunities.
Tip 2–Explore Excel Basics
Although the Microsoft Office suite isn’t free, chances are your future employer pays for it and you will be using it day-to-day. So how can you learn how to use Excel for free before you begin a career-training program or a job that requires word-processing software? Google “Microsoft Office free trial” and you will score yourself access to not only Excel, but Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook for a month. If you don’t have a PC, your nearest library will have computers you can use and will likely have Microsoft Office software installed–just be sure to call their front desk to find out for sure. If you decide you want to get advanced career training to prepare you for your next job, you can use the computer labs at a school like Southern Careers Institute. Even if you take online classes through SCI, the ground campus facilities are open to you. Once you open up the programs and start to play around with it, it is useful to go through several of their tutorials and training roadmaps to start to gain confidence and understand some of the Excel basics before you advance to learn how to use Excel in a more complex has to offer. Microsoft also offers an Excel app so you can view, edit, and open documents on your phone, as well.
Tip 3: Learn some time-saving shortcuts
Once you start to understand how to use Excel for the most basic operations–like setting up rows and columns doing simple mathematical functions, you could try creating a pivot table that helps you visualize the data you enter in different ways–columns vs. rows, for example.
Another shortcut is learning how to use filters, which can let you easily reveal the data you’re looking for and hide all irrelevant information.
Need to add additional rows quickly as you input data on the fly? Instead of highlighting one row and slowly adding one row at a time, simply highlight the number of rows you would would like to add, right-click, and hit “Insert” and voila, you got yourself lots of extra space to work within.
Tip 4–Update your resume and network!
Once you get the Excel basics down, you can and SHOULD add Microsoft Excel and any other software that you become familiar with to your resume. Once you do, you should ensure that you upload the updated resume to LinkedIn, SCI Connect, and any other job-searching platform like Indeed or Monster. It is also a good idea to follow up with any industry career contacts in your network that you know that you may have had employment-related conversations with in the past. It is a good excuse to reconnect with these people. Who knows, maybe someday you will be teaching some of your future colleagues how to use Excel!
Here’s an example of a quick e-mail you can use to write to your contacts:
“Hey [CONTACT NAME],
I wanted to let you know that I’ve been teaching myself some Microsoft Excel basics and I have updated my resume to reflect my new skillsets (see attached). I am interested in pursuing any opportunities that you may have available in [administration] / [accounting] / [insert applicable role here]. I hope this note finds you well and I hope to see you soon!
[YOUR NAME HERE].”
Be honest but confident about your technical abilities and communicate your progression. Employers always like to hear about how you have taken the steps to learn the tools of the trade for your future role.