High leverage skill: Learn how to use Excel's Vlookup and Pivot Table functions

I once worked on a project where a government employee was asked to cross reference a list of names in one spreadsheet against another. There were hundreds of names.

You know what he did?

He printed out the lists, and went line by line with a pen, looking for the names that matched.

That was his job for the day.

This task can be done in Excel using the Vlookup function, which basically allows you to lookup a value in one list and return the value in another list if there is a match.


My current business partner and I overlapped at our last company. He was asked to do some boring PowerPoint editing work, but I told him to just learn Excel pivot tables, which allows you to aggregate and analyze data in a spreadsheet.

He did and applied his new skills to a different project. Because he was one of the few people that could do it, he didn't have to do boring PowerPoint stuff.


Excel is one of those tools that everyone thinks they know how to use, but don't actually know beyond just making simple to-do lists or things like that.

BUT, if you become proficient at some intermediate level Excel skills, like Vlookup and pivot tables, you can become a rockstar at work without too much effort.

In my case, learning these skills helped me go 1099. It can help you too.

If you don't plan on going 1099, you should still learn some Excel skills, but maybe be a little selective about who you decide to help with your newfound powers. The people profiled in this WSJ article have been roped into helping colleagues with "easy" Excel problems that end up taking weeks!

The First Rule of Microsoft Excel—Don’t Tell Anyone You’re Good at It

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