I cannot stress enough the importance of Investing in yourself. Acquiring the RIGHT skills can be huge. Why?
Because Excel is a ‘Hard Skill’ and hard skills get you jobs so I encourage all professionals to get great at Excel. However, many professionals are put off learning Excel with common objections for learning:
‘There’s too much to learn, its intimidating’
‘Where do I learn? Online? Local Course’
‘When do I find the time to learn it?’
Often, for those with un-treated for ‘Excel-itis’, these objections are then followed by excuses such as, ‘Do I really need it?’.
My response is ‘Do you need Exercise?’, ‘Do you need anti-biotics?’ etc. not necessarily, but the quality of your life will dramatically improve and that’s the case with Excel for professionals, do you need it? Well, you can get by with a low skill level.
Here’s the thing, I don’t know about you but I have no interest in ‘getting by’. Anyone with the gift of life should be looking to more than ‘get by’. My students, all have one thing in common, hunger for success. They all want a better life, for themselves, their families. They want the freedom and flexibility that comes with more money, so they can experience life more than the next person. That takes an investment in themselves. Investment to get skills and manage their careers better.
Now how did a discussion on Excel skills turn in to a rant about better lifestyles?! What can I say? If I rant, its only when I am passionate and I passionately hate mediocrity and cannot understand the concept of ‘getting by’!
Now, being known as an Excel guru was good for me and it really propelled me to bigger things. But the term 'Guru' is relative to where and with whom your colleagues are. Indulge me for a moment, pause from the article and watch my explanation of how good you need to be at Excel
Let me give you the 3 ingredients that you need to rapidly become an Excel Guru, without these you are learning sub-optimally. When you learn sub optimally, you risk taking too long, not learning useful aspects, over learning things you don’t need (especially when it comes to learning VBA/Macros) and ultimately it will not be sustainable for you as you will burn out, you won’t improve your skills meaningfully and worst of all, you won’t be in a stronger position to command greater salary.
So poor learning approach will actually cost you financially and if it costs you financially and you accept that or don’t see it then you are simply ‘getting by’. Get me?
Okay, now that I have scared you, how can we remedy this situation?
1. Find a good online course to learn Excel
It’s no secret that I have my own course that I developed from my own experience of using Excel for over 10+ years. Now, you don’t have to go with my course, it’s your choice but find one that is created by someone who has been a professional for at least a decade otherwise you are getting something generic that will require you to learn everything but the kitchen sink and you’ll be giving up on the course and back to square one in weeks.
The other great way to learn is to find a tutor one on one, someone who can tailor your learning a bit, this can be hard to find. I’ve stopped recommending live group lessons because I find two major issues with them that I have previously discussed but will repeat again. The first being how these courses are far too intense for most people and your level of engagement and understanding will drop sharply at least half way in to the course. The best learning process is along the lines of:
i) Learn a little
ii) Absorb what you learned so you have grasped it conceptually
iii) Reflect on it and think about how to use it
iv) Put in to practice, i.e. make changes to an existing Excel file you have to make it ‘best practice’
v) Make some mistakes, tweak perhaps
vi) Then come back to learning with follow questions based on your experience
Intense 2, 3, 4, 5 day courses etc. will just cram in absurd amounts of learning in to a space that doesn’t respect a human’s ability to absorb and implement. This can leave us feeling burned out, maybe even make us feel a bit stupid but the only stupid thing was the structure of the course for the sake of convenience to the company who are purely in it for the money.
The other reason is everyone’s pace of learning is not going to be the same. My advice is to not put yourself in these cookie cutter situations and enrol on to such courses. Find a tutor one on one or enrol on a good online course and learn at a half sensible, half ambitious pace.
2. Google is your friend
Google. Google and Google some more. I have always maintained that the greatest Excel skill you can learn is to learn how to google effectively.
Now why on earth would I encourage you to go on a course and then told you to google?! Why not just skip the course and google? It comes down to this, googling is completely unstructured and unfocused. It is a very poor way of setting a plan or a curriculum for yourself. Let a highly experienced professional lead the way THEN when you are underway, google is the quickest and best way to answer some of the questions that will inevitably crop up. Essentially, what I am saying is you will get focused direction within a set out curriculum, it will be your roadmap then you will actually get better, quicker and more efficient at googling.
Let me share a secret, I still google many Excel things!!! Gasp, how can I create a course but still google?! Let me tell you why, googling saves me massive amounts of time, especially VBA. I can do anything from scratch. Anything. But some stuff takes longer and I don’t have the time any more, I am somewhat senior with competing demands from work, I am a mentor, a father, a husband and I have a social life. If I can google a bit of VBA or a complicated formula in 5 mins rather than spend 20 mins working it out, you bet I’m going to do that! Here’s the thing, because I am so good, I can quickly understand and tweak other people’s work. If you lack experience it will take you MUCH longer. That is why google is a supplement but the most important supplement to a good course on Excel.
3. The greatest way to learn is through self-validation
The ‘Cone of Learning’ was an admittedly simplistic way to emphasise how much people remember given the way they approach learning. The top of the heap (or bottom in the case of the cone) is to actually do it. Of course you need to learn a little so you can understand how to apply but the process of learning should be back and forth: learn > apply > learn > apply etc. So, find reasons and excuses to put in to practice what you have learned ie. Improve your Excel files.
Take my word for it, getting great at Excel will transform you; it will transform your career and make you indispensable.
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