Excel: The Skill to Pay the Bills
Microsoft Excel isn’t just a program that you use for spreadsheets. Excel is a skill and one that is in high demand. Skills help you perform your craft at an elite level. If your craft is working for a company, being skilled in Excel is something that can help you do your job better.
Excel can be intimidating when you are first learning how to use it. The program can do so much and you can feel overwhelmed on where to start. I’ll try to guide you on the right path today.
In this post, I’ll share with you the best 5 ways to learn Excel. I recommend that you utilize all 5 as you learn and practice.
Importance of Excel
I have yet to see a company that has not used Excel in some area of their business.
Excel is a tool and one can wield a tool skillfully or wield it poorly. In business, those who wield this tool skillfully are rewarded, work efficiently, and work with less hassle.
Getting a job
Excel is a skill most employers like to see, but some industries look for it more than others. I went to school for finance, which is an industry that extensively uses Excel. Every internship and job I applied for listed Excel as a must-have ability.
When you learn Excel and boost your skills, you will open up opportunities for yourself. You can apply for a position confident that you can meet their needs.
Performing and getting promoted
If you currently work for a company, you can showcase your abilities though everyday assignments and projects. You’ll be able to produce high-quality work in a short amount of time, and with fewer errors.
If you consistently do those three things, your team will notice and you’ll inevitably be promoted for the value you bring.
5 Best Ways to Learn Excel
Each of the 5 ways to learn Excel is effective. You don’t have to choose one or the other. Utilize all 5 to your advantage. Each will help you learn in a different way, which will collectively help you learn more and retain what you learn.
These 5 ways of learning in Excel are in order of importance based on my personal experience of learning Excel for the past decade.
1. Online courses
When I first started learning Excel, online courses were not as prevalent as they are today. Now, the online course industry is booming and there are dozens, if not hundreds of courses on Excel.
Learning Excel through online courses is the top method for several reasons:
- Online courses can be relatively inexpensive.
- Visual content is essential to understand Excel. The video lectures help you follow along as you have the program opened.
- You can speed up the lectures, slow them down, and pause them.
- You can rewatch any lesson at any given time, unlike in-person classes in college.
- Courses are structured with the basics at the beginning of the course and progress to more advanced skills.
- Excel courses online come with downloadable files for you to work on.
Overall, these courses offer superior instruction, resources, and flexibility.
With hundreds of options, how do you choose which course to take? I have personally used Udemy and LinkedIn Learning. They have quality courses on Excel, a user-friendly interface, and the courses are inexpensive compared to a college course.
Udemy is an online course provider that has been around over a decade. According to Wikipedia, the platform hosts more than 35 million students and 57,000 instructors. Udemy’s website states that you can choose from over 130,000 courses.
These facts are only to show you that the platform is large, trusted, and can offer anything you would want to know.
To learn Excel, I would recommend following only one course at a time. Below is the course I would recommend by Kyle Pew. This course has over 165,000 students, which speaks to its quality.
LinkedIn Learning is another great online platform to learn Excel. This learning platform focuses on courses that teach real-world skills to working professionals.
On Udemy, you purchase courses individually. LinkedIn Learning is a subscription platform. For $29.99 a month, you get access to their entire library of 16,000+ courses. This is a screaming deal if you are trying to learn Excel or any other skills you want to acquire and improve on.
Additionally, when you complete a course, you can add it to your skills section on your LinkedIn profile. Employers viewing your profile will see that you are someone who looks to improve.
Here is the course I would recommend:
Click this link and search “Excel 2016 Essential Training”
Additionally, LinkeIn Learning has a feature called a “learning path.” Learning paths provide you several courses on a larger topic. These paths contain multiple courses and videos from different instructors curated to help you develop a skill. Luckily, there is one for Excel.
Click this link and search “Master Microsoft Excel”
By following the Excel learning path, you’ll receive a well-rounded education on the topic. The variety of instructors and lessons keeps you engaged.
2. College courses
Next up, college courses are a great way to learn Excel. In college, you’ll have to fill up your schedule with electives or gen ed classes. I know the first thing you’ll want to do is try to make your schedule as easy as possible. You’ll try to find the easiest courses you can get an A in with minimal work.
While I’m definitely guilty of doing this a few semesters, I also made sure to take classes that would benefit me and set up my career. A few of those included course on Excel. In the finance program, I took two elective classes offered that taught me Excel:
- Advanced Excel for Finance
- Financial Modeling
These classes were tough, but I’m so grateful that I took them. I wouldn’t have been able to get hired for internships or full-time positions without them and I would not have been able to perform either.
Here are the reasons college courses are a great way to learn Excel:
- College-level instructors.
- Strict schedule and course load keeps you challenged and on track.
- You can collaborate with your classmates which helps with learning.
- You have invested tuition, which incentivizes you to learn. With online courses, if you aren’t self-motivated and self-disciplined, it’s easy to slack off and quit.
When it comes time to choose your classes, see if your university offers classes on Excel. If you are going to take a class, it might as well teach you a skill that you can transfer into the workplace.
You can also list these courses on your resume, which can help boost your resume when you are lacking professional experience.
3. YouTube videos
One of the main reasons I prefer online courses is because of the video lectures. YouTube is a great source to find video lectures and tutorials on Excel.
A downside of learning Excel through YouTube is that you don’t have the structure that an online course offers. For example, it is hard to find a YouTube channel that will publish videos in an order that gradually progresses in difficulty. Most channels will simply publish random videos on specific topics in Excel.
I wouldn’t use YouTube as your primary way of learning Excel, but I would utilize YouTube as a search engine to learn specific things in Excel.
If you are struggling with creating a waterfall chart, search “How to create a waterfall chart.” If you can’t remember how to use the VLOOKUP function, search “How to use VLOOKUP.” You’ll find tons of tutorials that can teach you these specific things.
Like online course lectures, you have the benefit of being able to watch the video at your own pace and pause, rewind, and replay if you need to. Best of all, YouTube is a free way to learn Excel.
4. Blog posts
Another free and accessible way to learn Excel is through blog posts.
Just as you would search “How to use VLOOKUP” on YouTube, you can search the same thing on Google and find posts and articles.
Blog posts are great because you get the benefit of visuals such as pictures, gifs, diagrams, and even videos. But you also get text instructing you.
Sometimes, it’s hard to follow along with what someone is saying in a video or an in-person lecture.
When a blog post explains something in writing, it can be easier to follow along.
This may be ranked last on the list of the top 5 list, but that does not mean it is a bad way to learn. Books are great for learning in general and it’s no different for Excel.
Like blog posts, books on Excel will teach through visuals and text. This makes it easy to follow along and understand what is being communicated.
A book that I have used personally and recommend is the Excel 2019 Bible.
Use the Excel Bible like you would use a dictionary. When you are trying to remember what something meant or how to use something in Excel, refer back to your book and look for the answer.
Tips While You Learn and Practice Excel
Learn through practice and implementation
Excel is something you can’t learn by solely online watching videos and reading blog posts. This is a passive form a learning and it won’t cut it. You’ll watch a video and shortly forget how to implement what you watched.
You must physically use Excel during the process to learn it. Someone who wants to become good at basketball doesn’t do so by only watching games. They become good through practice.
It works the same for Excel. As you learn, open up a spreadsheet and follow along. Recreate what you see in online courses, college courses, YouTube videos, blog posts, and books.
Use Excel as much as you can so the skill sticks with you.
Learn the shortcut keys
I believe that in many areas of life, time invested upfront can pay dividends to you for the rest of time. This is the case when it comes to shortcut keys in Excel.
Excel is functional with typical shortcut keys you are used to using on your (PC) computer. Examples include:
- Ctrl-C: Copy
- Ctrl-V: Paste
- Ctrl-Z: Undo
Additionally, Excel has unique shortcut keys to the program.
- Alt+H+E+A: Clear all
- Alt+H+B+B: Add double underline to cell
- Alt+W+V+G: Hide gridlines
By pressing the Alt key, you can essentially navigate through Excel without needing your mouse. Investing the time to learn the main shortcut keys will save you a massive amount of time. You will be able to navigate through workbooks, spreadsheets, and cells efficiently.
See this link from another blog that lists over 200 keyboard shortcuts.
Excel is a skill anyone should develop if they plan on working for a company. Time invested upfront will pay dividends for the rest of your career.
You’ll build skills that can get you a job, get you promoted, and help you perform more efficiently and effectively.
While it can be intimidating to start the journey of learning Excel, once you pick it up your life will become much easier. Tasks that would take the average person one hour will take you 10 minutes.
I shared the 5 best ways to learn Excel and recommend you take advantage of all 5.