In today’s increasingly competitive business environment (made even more challenging due to COVID-19), securing a job offer has become extremely difficult. The pandemic has caused the loss of many jobs at all levels, further fueling competition. The key in a crowded field of interviewees is to differentiate yourself from others. One great way is to tout your skills, a critical factor for most employers. In many roles, one of the most important skillsets is the Microsoft Office Suite, specifically Microsoft Excel. Proficiency with this software can be critical to navigating the interview process and securing a job offer.
Questions they might ask
Interviewers could ask you about functionality in Excel. This might include experience using specific functions and/or formulas such as: how the $ symbols are used across data sets in Excel? What is VLOOKUP? What does a pivot table do? Be ready with short, accurate answers to help you stand out among most prospective employers.
A simple explanation for each is as follows. The $ symbol is used to lock absolute references in place, which is important for certain types of calculations. VLOOKUP is a function that allows you to search for specific data points across large sets to draw specific insights. A pivot table is an essential tool to summarize, aggregate, reorganize, sort, group, count, average, or compute segments of data sourced from a much larger dataset. All of these topics are covered in MST’s Excel curriculum.
Excel knowledge, specifically around formulas, functions and terms is important to gaining a valuable advantage in the interview process. Whether you are learning about this material for the first time or have a base understanding and would benefit from a refresher, there are many resources at your disposal. You could easily watch videos on YouTube. However, most are taught by techies so they may not be easily understood by all viewers. Many learners fare better with live classes rather than pre-recorded lectures. It allows them to ask questions directly and interact in real time with a teacher. An effective teaching methodology and compelling instructor can make all the difference. Whatever path works for you, choose it sooner than later. It may just help you get the edge for that next job.
(Guest post by Jordan Barry, former MST intern)
Microsoft Office, especially Excel and Word, continue to be ubiquitous in most law firms. Many courts require filings to be made in Word format. Lawyers, and especially paralegals, use Excel for a range of operational and project specific processes. Yet sometimes this program does not get the respect it deserves. Many paralegals use Excel all the time. Here is a partial list of uses:
- Organizing invoices & financial statements
- Generating timeline exhibits as trial evidence
- Managing and merging contact files
- Creating charts and tables for various type of reports
- Tracking amortization payments in real estate cases
- Analyzing large data sets with pivot tables, slicers and pivot charts
As you can see, Excel is not just for adding up numbers in columns. Its uses range from organizing data to analyzing relationships between the datasets. And while Excel is not going to replace more expensive specialty litigation software, it does increase a paralegal’s productivity and efficiency. Here are some other related use cases:
- Calendaring future court dates
- Creating billable time databases
- Analyzing expansive privilege logs
- Organizing a searchable Bates Number database
- Maintaining a database of relevant case documents
At the end of the day, increasing one’s knowledge, strengthening current skills and adding new ones makes any paralegal more valuable to attorneys and the law firm itself. It also breeds confidence, provides a competitive edge and increases marketability which can increase opportunities for raises and promotions.
6. Upskill, Upskill, Upskill!
You have identified one or more skills gaps that need filling to move forward in your career. It’s now a good idea to establish a pattern of proactively upskilling. Make use of the various related resources out there – including online – that could help you to achieve it. Upskilling will help to improve your chances of finding a new job. This will make you more employable and demonstrate to employers your commitment to lifelong learning.
Even for those currently self-isolating or otherwise working from home, there are various ways to upskill, including reading business books, listening to podcasts, attending virtual events, conferences and webinars, and enrolling in relevant online courses. Now could also be a good time to take advantage of any training and development resources your employer offers you. Read the entire article here.
A 2018 article in Medium suggested there could be as many as 800 million active Excel users. There are also over 100 million Google Sheets users worldwide. According to Statista, Microsoft Office (42.6%) is now in a competitive race with Google’s G Suite (56.9%) for new users.
Office 365 is used as the main productivity software by over one million companies worldwide. Close to 600,000 companies in the U.S. use this software suite. It is true that many startups and companies with predominantly younger employees now utilize G Suite. However, it is clear Redmond still has a clear stranglehold on the enterprise space. So while Sheets does deliver good value, Excel remains the gold standard.
“This is the moment…when we should have a Marshall Plan for ourselves“
— David Autor, labor economist, M.I.T.
A recent article in the NY Times stated “Economists, business leaders and labor experts have warned for years that the coming wave of automation and digital technology would upend the workforce, destroying some jobs while altering how and where work is done for nearly everyone…the rapid change is leading to mounting demands for training programs for millions of workers.” Read more here: (NY Times, July 13, 2020).
If a company uses Microsoft Office, that means the HR team likely incorporates an Excel skills assessment test for certain positions. This is done to help ensure potential employees will be successful. So if you’re looking for a promotion or a new job such as one of these, you’d be wise to brush up on your productivity skills.
- Data Entry Specialist
- Business Analyst
- Operations Manager
- Sales Coordinator
- Training Analyst
- Cost Estimator
- Administrative Assistant
- Project Manager
- Customer Service Specialist
- Accounting Clerk
- HR Coordinator
Whether you use them now or use them later, you will use them. The sooner you learn them, the more facile you’ll become. Ultimately, if you’re not being up-skilled or reskilled by your company, the responsibility is on you.
There has been a marked increase in the demand for baseline computer skills. This is especially true for employees with mid-level skills. The pandemic has made things even worse. The more proficient you are with productivity software, the greater the pathway to higher paying jobs. For workers without a college degree this is true more than ever. Microsoft Excel is the defacto standard for spreadsheets. It is used by a majority of companies for just about everything we all know, love and sometimes loathe.
Looking for a new job or entering the job market can be a daunting task whether you’re a 21-year-old recent college graduate or 35-year-old professional in the prime of your career. When you’re over 50 years old and possibly out of the job market for a number of years, finding new employment can be downright overwhelming. Mature job seekers have a lot to offer employers, but they have to be prepared to present their best foot forward.
However, perhaps the biggest hurdle for mature job seekers is technology. Computer skills and knowledge of how to automate and maintain processes that were once done manually is critical. It’s a good idea to update your computer skills and learn more about online tools.
(Sourced from article in the Oakland Press (10/8/20). Graphic from SCEPA)
According to EdCast, the average professional today will hold over 12 different jobs across their career, a 3x increase compared to a mere decade ago. That means upskilling (learning current tasks more deeply) and re-skilling (learning new skills for a new position) are more critical than ever. MST is here to help you.
There are universal skills you should look for in all employees. These skills are usually built over time. They provide workers with the foundation to progress through their career. Universal skills encompass core productivity skills like Excel as well as as well as soft skills like communications and work ethic.
Basic computer skills – It’s unreasonable to expect that every new employee comes in knowing how to code. However, they should be able to navigate a computer system, use email and word processing applications, and be a competent typist.
(Sourced from Valuable Skills You Should Look for in New Employees
By Kiely Kuligowski, business.com writer | Jun 23, 2020)
On June 30th, Microsoft launched an initiative to help 25 million people acquire digital skills. As part of their announcement, they said “the pandemic has shined a harsh light on what was already a widening skills gap around the world – a gap that will need to be closed with even greater urgency to accelerate economic recovery. This longer-term disconnect between supply and demand for skills in the labor market appears to be driven (in part) by the growing need for technological acumen to compete in a changing commercial landscape. Navigating these challenges to close the skills gap will require a renewed partnership between stakeholders across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.”
Thank you Microsoft.