Staple Technical Skills in Business

Every job is different, but there are staple tech skills that will make a massive difference in your success in the 9-5. Let’s dive in!

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What is the most valuable asset to us humans? Time. No question about it. Learning to optimize your time and working to minimize wasted time is absolutely crucial to success.

No matter the industry you are in, there are blanket technology skills that will undoubtedly buy you more time. What you do with this extra time could rocket you up the corporate ladder and get you out of the workforce as fast as possible. I could write countless other articles with suggestions – like spending that extra time networking – but I digress.

Think through the tools and applications that you use on a daily basis at work. Email for example, probably takes up a significant portion of your time if you are in corporate America. Learning to quickly navigate menus certainly helps, but there are a plethora of shortcuts that can save you hours a week if you spend a little bit of time learning them! You can schedule emails with most platforms, you can learn to tag and categorize emails for organization, and you can master the search feature to completely avoid losing one of the thousands of emails you probably receive each week. Creating a system of folders and filing each email away in an organized fashion eliminates the need to search hard for missing emails. I personally get tens of thousands of emails a year at work. With my organization system I simply find the topic/group of interest, open the folder and run the search I need there and never have any issue finding an old email. On more than one occasion I have seen a peer spend half an hour performing the exact same task.

DO NOT BE ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE WHO KEEPS EVERY EMAIL YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED IN YOUR INBOX!

Sorry to yell, but this is a guaranteed way to end up wasting time. The search tools are not always the most user friendly, leaving every email in one place dramatically lowers your chances of finding what you are looking for.

Here is a solid list of shortcuts for Microsoft Outlook in particular.

Learning shortcuts in all basic Microsoft Office applications may take time, but even 30 minutes a week saved becomes 26 hours a year of time that you were able to free up. I have personally seen the aversion to shortcuts in my own experience, many get stuck in their ways and prefer to do things they are comfortable doing. Spending time learning shortcuts can be likened to investing. Putting time (money) in today pays off in droves down the road.

Simple data management in Microsoft Excel can, if done, “by hand take hours. If you regularly have to do this, say on a weekly basis, that is probably 2-3 hours every single week that you are completely wasting. Taking some time out of your day now to watch a few YouTube videos and read articles online about Pivot Tables, Vlookups, Hlookups, conditional formatting, the data tab etc. could turn that 2-3 hours into 20-30 minutes. In other words, the 40 hour work week becomes a 37.5 hour work week.

Once you’ve had a taste of automation, you’ll begin to look everywhere for it. Anything you can do that might shave another half hour off of the traditional work week buys you more time to pursue a side hustle, network your way up the ladder, or take on an additional task that you know will separate your body of work from your peers and give you a better chance for promotions/raises.

Microsoft Office skills in particular are easy to point out here as the online resources/tutorials are abundant and easy to follow. Do not, however, neglect to seek out tutorials and how-to videos on improving efficiency in any and all applications or tools that you use.

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It is extremely unlikely that any of the systems/tools you use every day are exclusive only to you. Whether there are YouTube tutorials out there or not, you can always ask around to see if your coworkers are familiar with shortcuts and see if they have found ways to increase efficiency.

Having a strong network is great for many reasons, but using your network to help increase efficiency and free up time is a game changer!

One of the last, but arguably most important, points I would like to make is that these skills are the furthest thing from rocket science. Shortcuts may seem intimidating, you might like the way you do things, but you simply cannot argue that freeing up time is not worth it. I’m just a regular (calc) guy and I’ve learned to do all of these things, I promise that you can too. As mentioned above, the (free) resources are all over the place and we have no excuse to go a day without learning something new.

Spreadsheet Tip

In this spreadsheet tip, I would like to run through the basics of Pivot Tables.

If you are looking at a table of data, each column has a header (label at the top explaining what is in the column below), and you want to get a better understanding of what all is going on here, you are a prime candidate for a pivot table. These are particularly useful if you have a substantial amount of information you need to digest. I drew up an example with a random portfolio of stocks. If I wanted to know what stocks pay me $4+ in dividends and are in one particular sector, a pivot table is a great way to answer that question.

Here is my example original table:

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If I highlight my data and (Microsoft Excel) click Insert -> Pivot Table (Google Sheets) click Data -> Pivot Table a pivot table will be created. It is important to note, these will not work if each column does not have a header.

Once the Pivot Table is created, you have the option to drag each section of data into: Rows, Columns, Values, or Filters. Rows and columns are self-explanatory, but value & filters are where these truly flex.

The question I was looking to answer in this example is, “Which Sector 1 stocks pay me $4 or more in dividends?”. By moving the holdings to the rows, the Sectors to both columns and filters, and annual dividends to both values and filters, I was able to quickly and clearly answer that!

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I made a video here that also illustrates how to quickly understand pivot tables, check it out!

Want to improve your small talk skills in the office? Check out this article!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this second article in my, “Level Up in the Workplace” series!

Please do not hesitate to contact me, my contact information is here!

– RCG