I never planned to learn Excel. It sort of happened by accident.
At the end of my junior year of college, I was accepted into an internship program that placed me at a major nonprofit organization. Since the program was best known for its banking internships, every participant had to complete an Excel course as part of our training. I set aside one day after finals to walk through the modules, opened up my laptop, and got to work.
Things haven’t been the same since.
In all of the years that I’d been using Excel, I wasn’t actually using it. Filters, tables and sorting only skimmed the surface of what a spreadsheet could do! Knowledge really was power and without it, I really wouldn’t be where I am with my career today. That’s why I was so excited to finally put this list together.
If you’ve been on the fence about it, or if this is the first time the thought has even crossed your mind, here are 10 reasons why you should take the plunge and enroll in that Excel course today.
1. Knowing how spreadsheets work can make your job SO much easier.
I would’ve never known about these awesome excel hacks if I hadn’t taken the time to learn how the software works. When you know how to perform tasks in Excel, it increases your capacity to manipulate more things more quickly. For those of us who rely on spreadsheets for any part of our job – sending emails, summing donations, merging letters – the result is more time saved and less frustration.
2. Knowing how spreadsheets work can make your life easier too.
Once I got a sense of how Excel worked for me at work, I started to identify areas in my personal life where it could do some good. From tracking my job applications to building a budget that allowed me to save up for my first studio apartment, Excel knowledge helped me get different parts of my life together.
3. You DON’T have to be a ‘math person’ to get into it.
I used to think that data crunchers had to show a proclivity to math early in life, something that never happened for me. In fact, Excel is about much more than being comfortable with numbers. In my case, what I love most is using it to organize information!.
4. Keyboard shortcuts can make you a speed demon, if you practice!
Keyboard shortcuts are commonplace in certain industries (like investment banking), for the simple reason that they save TONS of time. While it’s not a requirement nor an expectation in the nonprofit sector, try enrolling in a course that teaches these so that you can reap the productivity benefits. You can even start trying to use some shortcuts, whether you’re on Windows or Mac.
*Tip*: Yes, memorizing them will take time. Just think about the first time you learned to type, and how well you type today. You only get better and faster with practice until one day you’re not even thinking about it anymore.
5. The things you learn aren’t specific to Microsoft Excel.
Even though I finished my course using a Windows laptop with Microsoft Excel 2010, the information I learned is not limited to that platform. Many formulas and functions are universal across different spreadsheet systems (like Excel, Numbers and Google Sheets), not to mention applicable across those different versions.
6. Understanding Excel makes you better at other database systems.
A spreadsheet is a barebones database; the dinosaur to your organization’s donor CRM, accounting platform, or whatever software your team uses to manage data. Understanding the logic behind a spreadsheet is a bit like learning the root language of a bunch of different dialects. Once you get the basics down, you’ll have an easier time learning any new system.
7. Excel skills make you even more valuable to your team.
This is especially true if you’re one of only a few who can make spreadsheet magic happen. When it comes to advancing in your career and developing skills, an Excel class is a great place for anyone to start.
8. Excel skills can expose you to career paths you hadn’t even considered.
Database administration is a large part of my role today, but it’s not something I’d thought about before that internship. Learning database fundamentals allowed me to apply those skills in my role, which fed my curiosity and presented me with opportunities to pursue that type of work.
*Tip*: When you know how to do something, you will be asked to do it. The goal is to develop your reputation as an expert. If you can identify opportunities to play to those strengths and hone your skills, doors can really open up in your career!
9. There are so many options, free and paid, for learning!
Excel classes are so widely available online these days that there really is no good reason to not do it! (While you will definitely want to research your options, feel free to check out these TechSoup Excel webinars for nonprofits as a start!) If in-person learning is more your style, you can also find in-person classes on sites like Coursehorse, at your local university, or even your public library.
10. You won’t learn how to do everything, but you can learn how to figure out anything.
This is the thing that I’m most grateful for when it comes to my Excel training. You won’t learn how to perform every single time-saving formula that’s out there (and if you’re like me, you’ll definitely forget some as time passes). But when you get stuck, it will be much easier to find the answer when you have that base understanding and terminology locked down. I’ve found answers to things that I never learned – through Google searches,Youtube videos, etc – all because I knew what to ask for.
A lot of people use Excel at their organization, but only a few know how to really get the most out of it. Any learning you can do when it comes to manipulating spreadsheets and data is well worth the investment.
If you have specific resources for Excel learning, please share!