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One of the skills most frequently expected or required in a job is experience using Microsoft Office.
If you aren’t familiar with it, Microsoft Office is the overall name for a group (also referred to as a “suite”) of programs designed to boost productivity. You may have heard of their four most popular programs. Word is a word-processor for creating and editing documents. Excel can be used to create spreadsheets that track or analyze data and convert it into charts and graphs. PowerPoint is for creating visual presentations and slideshows. Outlook is an e-mail service with extensive calendar and contact management features.
Gaining experience in these programs can be tremendously useful in your professional and personal life, even in navigating your diagnosis.
If you are considering a career shift, for example, having some experience with these programs could expand your opportunities. These skills might be a good way to pivot from a physical role into something primarily computer-based, or even remote positions. Many entry-level positions in reception, data-entry and administration use these programs. If you are looking for part-time or flexible hours, you might consider searching for a local temporary employment agency (also called “temp” agency), many of which frequently hire for roles that use these skills.
You might also be surprised by how many ways you could use each program. Microsoft Word, for example, is excellent for keeping a personal To-Do list, saving detailed notes from medical appointments that otherwise may be hard to remember, especially if you are struggling with chemo-brain, and for regularly updating and customizing your resume for different job applications. You could use Excel’s spreadsheets to track your income, expenses, insurance claims and compile an overview of your budget all in one place. Excel’s “functions” feature, which are various formulas you could set within a spreadsheet, can do a lot of complicated math for you! PowerPoint could be a fun and creative way to compile meaningful photos into a slideshow. The Outlook calendar could be a great way to set up appointment reminders, and you could save important doctor and insurance provider information in your contacts.
So, if you’re ready to get your hands on these programs for the first time or to learn more tips and boost your skills for free, stay tuned below.
But First: A Reminder as You Learn
Even if you are excited to learn something new... I want to take space to acknowledge that learning isn’t always easy. It can be hard to set aside the time, energy and mental focus, especially while you are navigating a diagnosis, treatment and side effects. Technology also evolves at such a rapid pace it can be confusing to reacclimate to these programs after time away from work. So take your learning step by step, at whatever pace works for you, with plenty of breaks to avoid burnout. Remember that everyone was new to these programs at some point and learning something new is rarely a straight-forward, linear process. Sometimes it may feel like two steps forward and one step back. But the thing that feels extremely difficult today may be the thing which you are much more comfortable with in a week or a month – and then you will be off to the next challenge. Lastly, one of the best things you can do to the help yourself sustain any new habit (such as learning new skills) is to find aspects of it you enjoy.
Where Can You Access Microsoft Office?
Like many programs these days, the Microsoft Office desktop software is accessed via a paid subscription that costs about $70 a year. But don’t rush to spend that money! There is also a free version available for use online via a web browser. To access this, click on the following link: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/free-office-online-for-the-web .
Note that to use this free version you will need to sign-in with a Microsoft account. Microsoft accounts are free to create – and if you are using a computer with Windows as the operating system – you likely already have a Microsoft account which you can use here.
Where Can You Learn Microsoft Office Skills for Free?
GCF Global (The Goodwill Community Foundation) offers exceptionally clear, step-by-step lessons in Microsoft Office using text, video and interactive elements.
- Jump to their main page covering Microsoft Office at the following link: https://edu.gcfglobal.org/en/topics/office/. Here, you will find links to everything they have to offer. Or you can jump directly to their program-specific pages here: Word, Excel, PowerPoint. Each lists a numbered, step-by-step set of lessons designed to guide you from getting started with the basics to more detailed nuances of each program.
- If you’d prefer to learn directly from video tutorials, jump directly to their YouTube playlists for each program at the following links: Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
- If you have an older version of Office on your computer, such as Office 2016 or 2013, you can also find tutorials for those programs at this link: https://edu.gcfglobal.org/en/subjects/office/.
- Be sure to search their site for other topics you might be interested in learning, as GCF offers lessons on programs like Zoom, WordPress and Photoshop, as well as sections covering creativity, design, photography, math, technology and more.
Alison (www.alison.com) is a site that offers free online courses on a wide variety of topics.
- Their Introduction to Microsoft Word course covers the basics of getting started to text and paragraph formatting throughout 3 – 4 hours of content.
- Microsoft Excel Essentials explains the basics along with how to create tables, use functions, or export data into graphs and charts.
- PowerPoint for Business Communication discusses fundamentals of using the program and creating engaging presentations.
- A Beginner’s Guide to Microsoft Outlook covers the basics of emails, contact and calendar management.
- Be sure to search their site for other courses you may enjoy!
- Note that while all of Alison’s courses are free to enroll in, study and complete, they also offer options to pay for a certificate upon completion. Be mindful before you spend money anywhere. If you complete one of their courses, it is still a great credit to list on your resume even without an official certificate.
Will CAC ever offer training in Microsoft Office or other computer skills?
We might! If you are interested, let us know. E-mail me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what questions you have and what you would be interested in learning!