Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dear Ann: Are Microsoft Office Certifications worth it?

The following question was sent to me by one of my YouTube subscribers.

DEAR ANN: Hello. I hope this message finds you well. I really enjoy your videos and look forward to when new ones are posted. I wanted to ask your opinion on something. I was watching your video where you mentioned what you do at your job and have wanted to do that myself. I researched and found that my local community college (I already have Bachelor's degree and am in a dead-end job and do enjoy learning MS Office products). They have certification course for $1,895 and was curious if I should do that, or use Lynda.com and earn my experience that way. I am not wanting this to be the end all be all to my career aspirations, but it will make me more marketable and it will be something I truly enjoy learning.

Thank you for your time in reading this message. I look forward to more videos. Take care.

– A subscriber

DEAR VIEWER: As you might already know, I have spent the last 15 years of my career working for various Investment Banking firms, creating presentations and various marketing materials. I started off with only Word, PowerPoint and Excel under my belt. Today, I have also learned HTML, Adobe Photoshop, Indesign, Illustrator, Dreamweaver and a few other speciality programs. In keeping with the Microsoft package, I have never been asked to supply my Microsoft Certifications to an employer or agency and neither have any of my colleagues. While I'm sure it looks good on my resume, it has never been a pre-requisite for my job.

Microsoft offers a wide array of certifications. Many certifications have different expertise levels, such as professional, expert, master, trainer, etc. I am Microsoft Certified as an expert in Word and Excel. PowerPoint is so straight forward, you are either certified or not, there are no levels. Since my employer flipped the bill for the exams, I took them. Would I recommend anyone paying for Microsoft Office Specialist certifications on their own? Honestly speaking, my answer would be 'No'. If you desire to become a Master Microsoft Trainer, I can see the certifications perhaps holding more weight on your resume but job related experience and great recommendations always trumps over MS certifications from what I have seen.

Most employers will have you create and/or format a document in an allocated amount of time in order to test your knowledge and accuracy. The skills needed for an Investment bank will differ than a law firm. PowerPoint is the easiest to learn of the three programs, Word and Excel are more difficult. Don't be discouraged, it is impossible to know every function in these programs. I've been doing this for years and I still learn a new tricks from time to time. If you are interested in this field, consider starting off as a desktop publisher. You mentioned Lynda.com, which is a wonderful site. Many of my colleagues have learned additional software applications there.

Instead of getting MS Office Certified, I would work on getting a portfolio together. Below are a few basic skills that I highly recommend you become familiar with as they apply to most fields. This is not an all inclusive list, because every job has specific needs.

I hope I was able to answer your question and best of luck.

– CandidAnn

Microsoft Word
• Styles
• Table of contents
• Table of authorities
• Track changes
• Having both landscape & portrait pages within one document
• Table formatting
• Page breaks vs Section Breaks
• Mail merge
• Pagination
• Inserting graphs from Excel
• Headers and Footers
• Bullets and Numbering
• Linking vs Embedding
• Non printing characters

Microsoft Excel
• Creating graphs / Chart wizard
• Setting up a database
• Freeze pane
• Formulas
• Auto filter and pivot tables
• Importing / Exporting data
• Tables
• Formatting / merging cells
• Headers and Footers

Microsoft PowerPoint
• Master slides
• Slide transitions
• Animation
• Importing from Word / Excel
• Drawing toolbar
• Inserting pictures
• Tables
• Align and distribute objects
• Bullets and Numbering


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