here are more than 1.2 billion people in the world using Microsoft’s Office suite in its various guises. The most popular function being the word processor Word, with the Excel spreadsheet coming second.
The job market is by definition competitive. In administrative and management roles, a good knowledge of Microsoft’s Office suite, including use of Excel is on the essential or desirable requirements of most job descriptions.
However, Office is upgraded by Microsoft in 3 yearly cycles with additional features and functions that the company has thought of, or that users have requested/suggested. The average PC or laptop replacement timescale is also around 3 years, but not normally at the same time as an Office upgrade. For example, in most large organisations there is a policy not to install the latest version of software until it has been in the market for a year. When the inevitable ‘bugs’ have been discovered by others, and subsequently fixed by Microsoft.
It is likely then, that the majority of Office users will be using Excel that is at least one version older than the current release, or even two. Thus, having a good knowledge of Excel 2010 or even Excel 2013 may not be enough for the organisation looking to recruit, but currently upgrading to Excel 2016.
Even those using the online Office 365 need to be aware that it will also be at least six months behind the current release, because Microsoft itself doesn’t want to offer ‘buggy’ software to its online customers, aiming to have those sorted out before the application goes live.
Should you take an online Excel course?
If you are looking for a new job, promotion in your existing role, or are aiming to build your skills when returning to the work market, this can be very useful.
Undertaking the course yourself, rather than waiting for company scheduled training to come along, shows initiative and will impress your managers. You might also get a good reputation as the “go-to” person for IT issues.
Being skilled in a later version of the product than your colleagues should also give you an advantage, and you should include the version number on your CV. It may be that which gets you to the interview ahead of other candidates.
One significant benefit of online courses is that they normally come with a library of example spreadsheets, showing little used, but often highly useful functions which you can bring into your organisation.
These spreadsheets will have notes explaining the purpose of the function, how to construct it, and importantly the spreadsheets will be ‘clean’. They will not have broken links or ‘hidden’ fixes. Because they have been developed by Excel experts, they are generally likely to be the tightest and most concise in terms of the formulas and links.
A problem with existing Excel spreadsheets in organisations is that they have been amended by multiple persons, often with little or no documentation to explain what is happening (or is supposed to happen) in each cell, or worksheet, or linked spreadsheets. They may also have been ‘passed’ through multiple upgrades of Excel.
Starting from a ‘clean’ spreadsheet gives a significant level of integrity, and will demonstrate your competency to others.
Lastly learning itself, whether on Excel or in another sphere, can also benefit your employment chances. It can help sharpen your mind as well as your skills.
Online courses – your options
Almost all of the online courses work on a ‘freemium’ model. Normally the first 30 days are free (and you only learn a limited amount of functions), with a one-off or subscription payments from then on.
Note that once providers have got your contact details for the free period, you may receive numerous requests for you to ‘upgrade’, also partake in other courses, and many of the companies boost their income by selling your details to other training providers.
Courses can be accessed on almost any internet connected device. So that commute home can become productive learning time.
There is often online support available, either via email or some form of web chat.
Most sites offer certificates after completion of modules, which may be of interest to some employers, but are probably most useful as a reference to the competencies you have gained.
If you wish to find out more about how to use Microsoft Excel please take a look at our comprehensive online Excel course