Picture a large examinations hall.
One hundred students sat at widely spaced desks waiting to take a test in Excel.
We know what’s going to happen during the exam.
Some candidates will dread turning over the test paper. Some will be nervous but just want to get started on the first question. Some will approach it all with enviable confidence.
For those with confidence in their answers during the exam, the time will fly by. For those who struggle with the answers, it will feel like an eternity.
Can you relate to that?
For professional assistants, every day can feel a little bit like an exam. There’s pressure to deliver for bosses and clients.
And those bosses and clients will expect you to be someone with competency and confidence in using Microsoft applications like Excel.
There’s no escaping it.
If you don’t know how to carry out a task, you’re either going to have to ‘wing it’ or spend time finding out.
If you’ve got your Excel essentials under your belt, you’ll know the way to get things done efficiently and productively.
If you’re more advanced in your understanding of the application and its nuances, you’ll take advantage of the little (often less well known) shortcuts to speed things along even more.
It all boils down to this.
When put to the test, it’s all about knowledge, preparation and execution.
Some assistants will stubbornly stick to their ‘learn it only when I need it’ approach.
Typically, they’re the ones who spend endless hours on YouTube finding something that covers what they want to know, for the version of Excel they’re using. And then repeat the process the next time they’re asked because they forgot what video they watched.
Some assistants teach themselves and learn by trial and error. They work their way through the ‘ribbon’ on an application over time and slowly get to know what works.
Other VAs, PAs and EAs go for the smart, straightforward and simple option – investing in an online Excel training course.
This gives them all the know-how of the practical steps for essential Excel tasks. They can learn what they want, when they want. Because it’s on video, they can pause or rewind at will, and learn the skills in the way that works best for them.
Once you know it, you know it.
We all remember our favourite teachers.
The best ones are able to help even the least confident student make sense of a topic – and enjoy learning about it.
And when it came to the test (or exams), it was about remembering what you had taken in – and applying it to the questions.
The more you do something, the easier it gets. Your brain gets trained to ‘know what to do’.
Here are three ways to put yourself to the test with Excel.
1. Self-audit – Go through the application and the tasks you get asked to do or are most likely to need to know how to do.
Give yourself a mark (say out of five) for how easy each task is for you. Or rate yourself under descriptions like “Don’t know how to do this”, “I struggle with this”, “I’m competent”, “I’m good at this task” and “I’m excellent at this”.
You can now see where you stand with Excel.
2. Practise – It’s like that old joke about Carnegie Hall, if you want to get better at Excel, you have to practise.
Begin to use the application more. See what it can do. Explore its capabilities. Play with the features and functions. Get an understanding of what tasks it can take care of. Follow the steps in a course.
Practise. Practise. Practise.
3. Identify and Use Your Strengths – If you’ve already done a self-audit, you’ll have a strong idea of what your strengths are – and the areas for improvement.
Some people may choose to get training in their weaker areas. That’s one way to go. The other is to focus on what you’re good at and take that skill to more advanced levels.
When you know what Excel can do and what you’re best at, you are in a better position to be proactive with bosses and clients. You can suggest different ways to do things or take on more responsibilities because you’ve got that winning combination of expertise and efficiency.
Go on. Put yourself to the test and reap the rewards.