When it comes to impressing a prospective employer, anything you can bring to the table which may give you the edge over competing interviewees is a plus. We’ve all got our faults (regardless of what we say in the interview room,) and some of them are difficult to resolve – a poor communicator will almost always remain a poor communicator, and if you’re one of the many people who is hopeless at math, nothing short of serious tuition will improve the situation.
Thankfully, one of the more sought-after skills in the modern workplace is also the easiest to pick up. The need for IT proficiency is a sign of the times, and isn’t purely reserved for the office environment – almost every vocation imaginable employs some degree of IT in order to increase efficiency. But this is the tricky thing – at which point does ’using technology’ become ’IT skills’?
Of course, there’s a vast gulf between being able to send an e-mail and knowing how to compile a data management program from scratch using C++ . The majority of us know how to create a Word document or find an address using Google, but there’s a much overlooked and powerful program which is not only easy to learn but a valuable asset on anyone’s resume.
Excel was originally released in ‘85 as part of the Office package. The easy-to-use yet immensely customisable application outstripped the leading competitor, Lotus’ 3-2-1, which had (up until then) been the only mainstream spreadsheet program. In fact, Excel arguably did as much as the Windows operating system in giving Microsoft the lion’s share of the computing market.
The program has changed little over the last 25 years, other than a few cosmetic alterations and functional add-ons. Essentially, if you’ve ever used Excel in the past, it won’t take more than half an hour to get up to speed with the latest version.
Who the Heck Uses Spreadsheets, Anyway?
Excel isn’t just used to knock up data graphs for those tedious company presentations. Let’s look at a few possible applications and you’ll see how versatile it can be:
- Personnel rotas can be created pretty swiftly in Excel and fiddled with until your heart’s content (and staff are finally happy!) Any work setting where a number of people are employed can utilise this, from retail stores, offices, warehouses, etc. And it is not just limited to working out shift patterns – such a spreadsheet can do anything from keep pay dates organised in HR to simply sorting out squabbles over who takes which lunch hour.
- Ironically, Excel is also a useful way to get un-technical: if you’re not comfortable working out sales figures and percentages using a calculator, just plug it straight into Excel and let it do the hard work. Very little maths skills are needed in order to set up a complex algebra framework which will save bundles of time if you’re working with a lot of raw data. You can then, if so inclined, turn it into a pretty graph and display it in a tedious company presentation.
- Live updating is also a useful tool in Excel. If you want your data to update automatically should there be any changes to a website or another Excel document, a few clicks and it’s done. This can be used to unify data between departments (since everyone can track changes as they occur on openly-shared documents) and is very handy if you work in an environment which requires the handling and accuracy of a large volume of information. Once again, with Excel this is very easy to implement.
Why On Earth Do Businesses Care?
At the risk of sounding cliché, time equals money. One of the primary aims of IT is to increase efficiency, and programs such as Excel have been a huge success chiefly because they are designed to save a company time and funds which would otherwise be wasted.
Admittedly this is not a very romantic notion, but that’s the world of business. If an employee can display good spreadsheet skills, they will not only appear keen to constantly update their skill set but also be mindful of how they can go the extra mile for the company.
The converse is also true – if someone does not seem to have even a basic grasp of programs such as Excel (which has been around for some time,) why would an prospective employer choose them over a less-stagnant competitor? In the current economic client, businesses are more likely to hire someone who can both keep themselves organised as well as being able to handle other aspects of the ‘bigger picture’ – in nearly all cases, this will involve some level of IT proficiency.
I See Your Point – So Where Can I Brush Up On My Excel Skills?
As with many things, one of the best resources for learning is the Internet. There are countless pages out there in both video and text format which can help you learn the very basics right up to programming with Excel. One word of advice would be to make sure the tutorial you’re reading is based on the same version of Excel you own – although most of the lessons you’ll learn apply to all versions, program layouts have changed throughout the years.
If you’re currently in employment, an alternative is to ask your manager or IT department for some additional training on Excel. Even if there are no resources for this at your place of work, asking will do no harm and will show you’re taking initiative.
Hopefully this short guide was of some use and you’re well on the road to job success. The guide itself was provided for free by the guys at Sofas and Sectionals, who also know a thing or two about Palliser furniture.