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 Excel was released in 1985. Since then it has become one of the world’s most important workplace programs. All industries can benefit from employees with strong Excel knowledge. This software has become entrenched in business like few others. It is used for a range of processes from analyzing inventory and budgeting to organizing client lists. Here are a few areas it has become an indispensable asset:
Finance & Accounting
If you work in financial services or accounting, you know these areas use Excel every day. In the 1980s, financial analysts would spend weeks running advanced formulas. They would be calculated manually or by using IBM’s Lotus 1-2-3 or other programs. Today you can perform complex modeling in minutes with Excel.
Marketing & Product
While marketing and product professionals look to their finance teams for heavy lifting, spreadsheets are most often used for customer and sales targets. You can manage sales teams while planning marketing strategies. Pivot tables support quick customer and sales summary data.
Human Resources & Planning
Database systems like Oracle and SAP are used to manage payroll and employee information. Even then, that data is frequently exported into Excel. This supports trend identification and cost/benefit analysis. It also helps users better understand workforce design based on function and compensation.
Google has made material inroads into Microsoft Office’s workplace domination. However, Excel is not going anywhere. Businesses continue to use it as a primary tool for diverse functions and applications from IT projects to sales projections.
The job market is extremely challenging. There are far more job seekers than positions. A functional knowledge of Excel is vital for most every corporate professional today. Practical Excel skills can open the door to promotion and leadership opportunities. It’s a powerful tool in the hands of a savvy worker. He/she can then take advantage of everything this software has to offer. That’s a win-win strategy for everyone.
(This post is synopsized from the article posted on Investopedia on June 25, 2019. Read the entire article here.)
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.
TalentLMS surveyed 282 training and hiring managers, C-level executives, and decision-makers. The goal was to understand their re-skill and upskill strategies. They then surveyed 400 full-time employees in the US to learn about their employers’ training initiatives. During the lockdown, 43% of employers figured it was the perfect time to expand their teams’ skill sets with more courses and training material. 42% employees pursued training on their own. Read the entire report here. If your company is not providing the training you need, it’s your responsibility to get it. MST can be your partner.
“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.