The Real World: Excel Challenge Edition


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I’ve been reading Welcome to the Real World: Finding Your Place, Perfecting Your Work, and Turning Your Job into Your Dream Careera combination memoir/self-help book  from the “Intern Queen,” Lauren Berger.

Ever see something in a book that makes you empathize and want to help the author? You feel bad because you’ve been there — and hate to see her suffer, because you’ve found a better way.

I found one in this book for sure — in a passage, of course, about Excel.

It’s kind of a long quote, but here goes.

“A friend of mine just started a job in the hospitality industry. She spent seven hours one day entering data (sounds fun, right?) and after every cell she entered, she included a period. The next day, one of her coworkers told her the company really hates when periods are entered into the cells on Excel sheets. She warned that they would probably make her do it over. She was right. The next day her boss called her in and told her the periods would need to be taken out of each column ASAP. After another seven hours of correcting her mistake, she learned that you should always ask about company formatting policies ahead of time. Ick.”

Turns out this really isn’t too bad of a problem to tackle in Excel — watch me turn seven hours of work into seconds below. But before I do that, I want to mention what this passage taught me about the nature of work and Excel.

Welcome to my world!

While this book documents how Lauren got started as a production assistant, I find it incredible how similar many of the stories and takeaways are to life as an analyst.

Lauren talks about getting swallowed by poor data and inefficient processes. She walks through the mindset needed to cut through these problems and perform better. From this theme and the above story in particular, I conclude that

Excel problems are everywhere…

and they apply to more people than we think.

Anyone who takes loads of messy information and transforms it into something useful is an analyst. This can be numerical data, like sales. Or it can be more qualitative, like a schedule.

I hear consistently how many marketers, assistants, and small businesspeople do this kind of work Excel. They’re analysts without knowing it. The above story of Lauren’s friend is an example.

Often Excel challenges are classified as business intelligence or data analytics problems. But there’s a wider scope to these challenges. It affects more than accountants or business analysts.

The more I read and observe, the more I believe there are many people being held back from their best work through an inability to get a grip on their data.

I’ve been there myself, and I want to help. Excel is mostly the vehicle on my blog. There are many other options, but it’s what I’m most familiar with.

So check out Lauren’s book — it’s a great walk through the life of a struggling assistant and career development guide.

Oh yeah…. about that Excel problem…

The passage mentions spending hours backing out all the periods from a list of items in Excel. This can be done via  a simple keyboard shortcut, Ctrl+H:

Ctrl H

Find all the periods in your list of data and replace them with a blank space.

I wish I could have shown this to Lauren’s friend! She could have instead spent that day making something from her appointments rather than entering in their data.

Is a data or Excel process is holding you back? What did you do to improve things?

Are Excel skills holding you back from that next job or promotion? Check out my course on getting hired with Excel. Start at the link for more. 

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