Knowing Excel Is Crucial to Making Money

A theme made its way around the web a couple of years ago, which I mentioned, on the value of learning practical computer skills, like Excel and Word.  This is worthy of a read.  The link to that labor market analysis is particularly good.  For any e-commerce position, Excel is critical.  Learn it.  Get certification with it.  Post it on your resume.  By the way, if you’re not familiar with Excel and you want to start, a decent beginning tutorial is posted at the end of this post.

Excel New-to-Office-365-in-August-1

from The Huffington Post

Forget learning how to code. The tech skills required to get out of the low-wage workforce are actually a lot simpler. Knowing how to use basic software like Microsoft Excel and Word, it seems, are critical to earning a living wage these days, according to a new analysis of the labor market.

Understanding spreadsheet and word-processing software is a baseline requirement in nearly 80 percent of all middle-skill job openings, according to the report, first discovered by Lauren Weber at the Wall Street Journal.

The research, from labor analysts at Burning Glass Technologies with funding from Capital One Foundation, defines middle-skill occupations as those that don’t necessarily require a college degree but pay more than the median national living wage of $15 an hour. These include store manager, retail supervisor, and office/administrative assistant. The researchers looked at job listings posted in 2014.

“Technological illiteracy, much less technophobia, is no longer a sustainable option for the modern worker,” the researchers say in their report. “Effectively, entire segments of the U.S. economy are off-limits to people who don’t have basic digital skills.”

Of course, we all sort of knew that already. But what’s surprising here is just how basic the required tech skills can be. Excel was launched by Microsoft 30 years ago — it’s hardly a cutting-edge application. Yet its relevance in our lives somehow refuses to die. In fact, spreadsheet errors have actually powered major trading losses and even undercut an important economic paper.

Proficiency with productivity software like Excel and Word even boosts your pay in a job that heavily emphasizes people skills — like in retail.

Middle-skill jobs that just require Word and Excel skills and no other digital skill pay a median of $22.66 an hour compared to $20.14 for middle-skill jobs that don’t require digital know-how, according to the report.

The report notes that jobs that require digital skills are growing at a much faster clip than jobs that don’t — work in construction or repair, for example. Digitally intensive middle-skill jobs grew 2.5 times more rapidly between 2000 and 2013 than middle-skill jobs that do not require spreadsheets, word processing or other digital skills, according to the report.

To take your pay even higher, the report notes that proficiency with customer relationship management software and higher-end computer networking skills are often required. And, to be sure, certain jobs have their own technological requirements. In the health sector, proficiency with programs for medical billing can help boost your pay. In manufacturing, it’s knowing how to run computerized drill presses, for example.

Along with this study, the Capital One Foundation has also just announced it would spend $150 million to help train workers for the digital economy.


What kind of business pain do you solve?

from Liz Ryan

Skills are amorphous, and even if you possess a certain skill, do you know when and how to use it? That is the question. That’s why stories are so much more powerful in a resume or a LinkedIn LNKD +0% profile than lists of Skills could ever be.

If I’m interviewing you I want to know what problem you solve. When you can tell me what kind of Business Pain you relieve in your work, then I know that you understand how your talents fit into the larger organization.

When you can tell me what kind of Business Pain you alleviate, then I know that you see the impact of your work on the ground. You’re not so tuned into the work on your desk that you’ve lost track of its connection to the organization you work for.

Be sure to include on your resume the kinds of business pain you can solve.  State your skills with numbers, percentages, decimal points, numbers.  Facts don’t speak for themselves.  You have to speak on their behalf.  Provide proof. 

Ryan says that instead of writing a cover letter to write a Pain Letter, one that shows how you’ve alleviated pain inside an organization.  For an example of this pain alleviation approach, read her article in the Denver Post.

“Clients want to hire those who are successful, not those who are hungry”

The following six secrets are dated (2002 or earlier) but valuable, in part, because they come from one of the top copywriting pens.  I haven’t read every copywriter out there, but Bob Bly’s work I absolutely love for their ability to retain clients in long-term business relationships.  His writing is clear and his examples precise, detailed, and relevant.  

As a job seeker, your task is no different than a businessman seeking clients.  In fact, that is how you should think of any job prospect–as seeking clients–for that will change your marketing approach to finding jus the right gig with a company that you love and respect.  The following list of 6 “secrets” was posted at AWAI’s “Getting Clients: Guaranteed” but follow from Bob Bly’s book Write More, Sell More, 1998.

Meanwhile, here are just a few of Bob’s secrets on how to use self-promotion to sell your copywriting services:

1. Never tell anyone that you are not busy and that you are looking for work. (Clients want to hire those who are successful, not those who are hungry.)

2. Always put your name, address, and phone number on every piece you produce. This makes it easy for potential new business to reach you.

3. Use direct mail to generate new business leads. A successful mailing of only 100 letters can often yield five to 10 highly qualified new prospects.

4. Advertise your services in magazines aimed at advertising professionals. Try a variety of journals and different ads until you find which ones give the best results. Also, try both classified and display formats.

5. Network. Don’t be a recluse–be social. Attend meetings, seminars, and luncheons. Volunteer to work on committees. Become visible in [your career niche].

6. When you’re just starting out as a freelancer–or in slow periods later on–you need to spend 80 to 100 percent of your time on things that will generate income or on marketing. One query sent out or one follow-up call per day, at least, is a good goal – and a minimum if you have no assignments.

“RTW [Right to Work] laws have a positive impact on economic growth, employment, investment, and innovation, both directly and indirectly”

This is an excellent chart. [Unfortunately, it only enlarges by going to the link below it and enlarging there.] The categories listed in the left-hand column are useful in explaining why people are moving from one state to another.  They want to work without having to be taxed by the government or by the unions.


The above chart comes from Mark J. Perry’s article, “America’s Top 10 Inbound vs. Top 10 Outbound States: How Do They Compare on a Variety of Tax Burden, Business Climate, Fiscal Health, and Economic Measures?”  The top 5 outbound states you can see from the chart are Illinois, Connecticut, New Jersey, California, and Michigan.  The inbound states are Arizona, Idaho, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

In early January of this year, North American Moving Services’ 2017 US Migration Report concluded that the top five inbound states were Arizona, Idaho, South Carolina, and Tennessee and the top five outbound states were Illinois, Connecticut, New Jersey, California, and Michigan. 

The reason people move is for economic reasons.  Of the Top 10 Inbound states, Nevada had the best growth at 3/3%.  California, one of the Top 5 Outbound states, had a 2.10% growth, but the jobs picture in California does not look great.  

Let’s review those 10 measures, one-by-one:

1. Right-to-Work. Eight of the top 10 inbound states are Right-to-Work (RTW) states (all except Washington and Oregon), and eight of the top 10 outbound states are forced unionism states (all except North Dakota and Mississippi). According to many studies like this one by my AEI colleague Jeff Eisenach (emphasis mine):

There is a large body of rigorous economic research on the effects of RTW laws on economic performance. Overall, that research suggests that RTW laws have a positive impact on economic growth, employment, investment, and innovation, both directly and indirectly.

Therefore, it would make sense that Americans are leaving states that are more likely to be forced unionism states for greater job opportunities in states that are more likely to be RTW states.

2. State Tax BurdenUSAToday recently published a nice summary of The Tax Foundation‘s report “Facts & Figures 2017: How Does Your State Compare?” that analyzes the total tax burden in each state, measured as the percentage of a state’s income that goes to taxes for state and local governments (income taxes, property taxes and sales taxes). The average state total tax burden for the top ten inbound states is 9.1% compared to 10.5% average for the top ten outbound states. The five states with the highest state tax burden (New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, California, and Illinois) all rank among the highest six outbound states. The average rank of 38.5 for the top ten outbound states places those states in the bottom half of US states for the highest total tax burden on average, while the average rank 20.1 for the top ten inbound states places those states in the top half of US states for the lowest total tax burden.

3. Taxes. The average top individual income tax rate in the top ten inbound states is 4.4% compared to 6.6% in the top outbound states. Likewise, the average top corporate tax rate in the top five inbound states is 4.5% compared to 8.1% in the top ten outbound states. It’s an ironclad law of economics that if you tax something you get less of it, and it’s, therefore, no surprise that Americans and businesses are leaving relatively high tax states for relatively low tax states.

4. Forbes Best States for Business. Based on its most recent annual state ranking that measures six business categories: costs, labor supply, regulatory environment, current economic climate, growth prospects and quality of life, Forbes rated North Carolina ranked as the best US state for business last year. Two of the other states in the top ten inbound states (Utah and Florida) ranked in the top ten best US states for business, and all states in that group ranked in the top half of US states for business climate except Alabama. The average ranking for the top ten states was 16 (top half of US states for best business climate). The average ranking for business climate for the top ten outbound states was 33, placing that group in the bottom half of US states for the worst business climate.

5. Business Tax Climate Rankings. Every year The Tax Foundation creates its State Business Tax Climate Index based on each US state’s corporate income taxes, individual income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes and unemployment insurance taxes. For the most recent Tax Foundation rankings, five of the top ten outbound states (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland and California) were among the ten US states with the worst business tax climate and New York, New Jersey and California ranked as the three worst US states. For the top ten inbound states, five of those states (Florida, Oregon, Utah, Washington and North Carolina) ranked among the top 11 US states for business climate. The average ranking for the top ten inbound states is 17 (top half) compared to an average ranking of 34 (bottom half) for the top ten outbound states.

6. State Fiscal Rankings. In an annual study, The Mercatus Center ranks each US state’s financial health based on short- and long-term debt and other key fiscal obligations, such as unfunded pensions and healthcare benefits. According to its most recent report, “The fiscal health of America’s states affects all its citizens. Indicators of fiscal health come in a variety of forms—from a state’s ability to attract businesses and how much it taxes to what services it provides and how well it keeps its promises to public-sector employees.” In its 2017 report, Mercatus ranked Florida (one of the top ten inbound states) as the No. 1 US state for fiscal health, and California, New York, and New Jersey (all top ten outbound states) as the three worst US states for fiscal health.  The average fiscal health ranking for the top ten inbound states was 14 (top one-third) compared to an average ranking of 37 for the top ten outbound states (bottom one-third).

7. Economic Performance. The next three categories above show economic performance measures for each of the 20 states for: a) state GDP growth rate in the first half of 2017, b) the state jobless rate in December 2017 and c) employment growth over the most recent one-year period through December 2017. For the top ten inbound states, the average GDP growth rate is 2.2%, the average December jobless rate is 3.9%, and the average job growth rate is 2.2%. In contrast, the figures for the ten outbound states are 1.1%, 4.5%, and 0.9%. In other words, compared to the outbound states, output growth was twice as high in the inbound states on average during the first half of last year (2.2% vs. 1.1%), the average December jobless rate is more than one-half percentage point lower (3.9% vs. 4.5%) and employment growth is more than twice as high (2.2% vs. 0.9%).

Those three important economic indicators suggest that the inbound states on average are stronger economically than the outbound states with faster economic growth, and more robust labor markets with lower jobless rates and greater job creation.

Bottom Line: Based on state-to-state migration data from the Census Bureau for 2016, the migration patterns of US households followed predictable patterns, like my previous analysis, reflecting differences among states in economic growth, tax burdens, business climate, labor market robustness and fiscal health. To answer the questions posed above, there are significant differences between the top ten inbound and top ten outbound states when they are compared on a variety of measures of economic performance, business climate, tax burdens for businesses and individuals, fiscal health, and labor market dynamism. There is empirical evidence that Americans do “vote with their feet” when they relocate from one state to another, and the evidence suggests that Americans are moving from states that are relatively more economically stagnant, fiscally unhealthy states with higher tax burdens and unfriendly business climates with fewer economic and job opportunities, to fiscally sound states that are relatively more economically vibrant, dynamic and business-friendly, with lower tax and regulatory burdens and more economic and job opportunities. 

Reprinted here with expressed written permission from Mark J. Perry. 

Via Mark J. Perry, Ph. D. and Scholar at The American Enterprise Institute
Professor of Finance and Business Economics
School of Management, University of Michigan-Flint
2111 Riverfront Center, Flint, MI 48502-1950
Michigan Office Phone: 810-424-5413
Washington, D.C. Phone: 202-419-5207
Carpe Diem Blog:


“Think of your website or your blog [or book] as a career insurance policy”

Tom Woods emails:

You have no interest in leaving your career. Maybe you want some extra income here and there, which is why you’re on my list, but you want to stick with your career. If so, this advice is for you.

And I mean you, specifically. The person reading this right now.  

Gary North is a multimillionaire and an expert when it comes to business and positioning. And he says: get career insurance.

What is it?

North writes: “It involves building a reputation as an expert. This takes time, but it need not take a lot of money. It does not take a high IQ. It just takes perseverance.”  

“The important fact that everyone should deal with in his career is this: you can get fired at any time. This being the case, it is crucial that you create a public persona that says this: this person is an expert. Experts can get fired. Companies can get in trouble.

“The fact that somebody has been fired does not necessarily testify against his position in the industry as being an expert. But if he is not perceived as being above average, which means he is not perceived at all, then getting fired does produce a crisis. The person has no reputation to bring to the bargaining table.” 

You may think: I’ll just offer a new firm a low bid, so they’ll be willing to hire me. But you’re more likely to be hired on the basis of your reputation than for your low bid, since many other people will be offering low bids. 

Again North: “This is why you have to begin working on this now, before you get the pink slip. If your site indicates that you have been working on it for three years, and you get fired, your site testifies to the fact that you have been industrious, setting yourself above the pack, for at least three years. You don’t want to have to start a website three weeks, or three days, after you get fired. It’s better to have one than none, but it is better to have one that has been online for three or four years, before you get the pink slip.

“Think of your website or your blog as a career insurance policy. Start paying the daily premiums. You don’t have to write much. Just link to articles. Offer summaries. Show that you are on top of events in your field. This will build your reputation.”  

I even have some resources to help you, at the link below.

Don’t wait until it happens, and then lament the “tough economy.”

Grab this bull by the horns, and control your own destiny: 

Tom Woods

What Sets You Apart? Skills and Likability


It gets phrased in different ways.  

“What sets you apart from the rest of the candidates for this job?”
“Why should [we] hire you?”
“What makes you so different from all the other people interviewing for this position?” 

What this question is asking is this, “What can you do for me specifically that would cause me to hire you and not let you get away to some other enterprise?”  It’s an important question to get right.  The best way to answer this question is to make sure that your answer matches those problems that the job description and the manager advertises.  Once you’ve identified yourself as THE person for THIS job, you’ll want to give proof of how you’re THE guy.  The Vault explains how you want to give a few detailed examples of how you’ve used the skills that set you apart for maximum achievement.   

Okay, now that you’ve answered that question for yourself and identified those important strengths and/or skills, then begin to compile a few detailed examples of how you’ve used (and maybe still use) these strengths/skills in your current job and/or past jobs. The word “detailed” can’t be stressed enough. You want to paint a very clear picture of how you’ve used these strengths/skills in the past to great success. Maybe you want to point to hard numbers if it makes sense to (revenue numbers, page views, percent increases, etc.). Maybe you want to mention promotions, awards, specific projects, etc.

The other is likability BE SKILLED BUT BE LIKED.

Learn to be likable.  It’s a skill.  Some rules.

One, don’t take yourself too seriously.  This is true, particularly at first.  But don’t have contempt for the project either.  Be upbeat, positive, and options seeker.
Two, ask people what they think instead of saying what you think

1. Don’t confuse honesty with rudeness. Graceful directness is always preferable to bluntness. (i.e. Be a rapier rather than a baseball bat by pointing out the specific issue rather than a generalization that can be misinterpreted as a personal slam.)
2. Be the eye of the storm in as many situations as possible. You could come out of an argument looking more mature or even saving a life by being calm during an emergency.
3. Disagree playfully and respectfully. Constant agreement is like removing the contrast from a work of art which conversation happens to be. In addition, chose your battles. Pointing out a double negative during informal conversations makes you be a part of the daily storm people are trying to stray from.
4. Listen. Reference yourself only if it truly adds to the conversation. (i.e. if conversation is like, or is, a story. Keep the teller the main character while you stay an interesting side character helping them out)
5. This is the ultimate one: Be a source of pleasure. By making others feel important by actually listening and coloring their life with honest, memorable conversation, others will be more inclined to partake and add you to their day-to-day lives.

The consideration is posed by Chris Voss, author of Never Split the Difference.  He says consider whether or not the hiring manager will enjoy seeing your mug and demeanor at the water cooler.  They might admire your skills, be impressed by your achievements, but if that hiring manager doesn’t like you, it’s going to be hard for them to hire you.  Unless hiring you affords them the opportunity to stick it to one of the employees who is their current nemesis for the week.  Having said that, make sure that your thoughtful energies are dispersed judiciously.  You don’t want to be a nice guy with everyone.  They’ll lose respect for you.

I recall one sales job I had where the manager who hired me was truly desperate.  The company had no sales training program.  I was sitting in a desk facing hers when she desperately reached for the phone to call about a training program, any training program, for new staff.  The company didn’t have one.  At a complete loss for how to proceed, she simply started showing me how the merchandise worked.  Her instruction was not open for question and answer.  There was no quiz at the end.  She simply went through the different functions the way she would if she were working through a sales demo.  I certainly wasn’t her favorite.  The irony was that my age, late 50s, was as big a selling point as anything she saw on my resume.  In fact, I remember that she hardly even read my resume.  But she was desperate to find an established gentleman.  I hadn’t sold anything big in the first month; a few things, but nothing high-end where the real profits were for the company.  And there I was at their first Kick-Off of the quarter, and my manager lamented to the other staff from the state how she’d hoped that I would sell something soon.  In review, she hired me based on her own desperation.  And because she had no training program when I was in the office, I spent more time organizing my lists, detailing the different conversations I had with customers, updating phones, last contacts, etc.  And she got upset at me because the high-end merchandise wasn’t selling.  How could it?  They were trying to sell $2500 machines to older folks on retirement income.  My sales plan involved long-term customer service, real service.  She would have none of it because that was not their model.  I went out on a presentation by their top salesman who pitched to an elderly, long-standing customer a high-end product when they told him, and me, that they were not going to spend too much.  And the salesman went immediately to the high-end product instead of getting agreement on the lower-end first, then in the discussion on terms feature the benefits of the higher-end product.  I didn’t think it was professional at all or effective.  But he must have known better; he was after all the top salesman in an office of 5 salesmen.  

It wasn’t a case of that manager even liking me.  She was desperate for sales, saw that I had a sales background, thought my age would speak well for the product, and hired me based on these signals.  In fact, she herself should have been the more self-conscious one in this relationship.  Not saying anything untoward about her; it’s just a fact.  So she stood to gain more from me in the line at the water cooler.  On that note, take a look at this.

And then based on your experience, what do you think the biggest mistake is that a lot of people make when they’re negotiating a job offer? What do you think they run into trouble with?

Chris Voss: Well, they’re afraid to clarify the different components. Big picture is exactly like what you said. What a lot of people don’t realize is there’s really three things that are really important. You know, the people that are interviewing you are assessing you on two levels. Are they gonna be able to stand to look at you every morning at the water cooler? When you guys are standing in the line getting coffee, are they gonna enjoy talking with you? So are they gonna enjoy working with you?

But they’re also assessing for how are you gonna represent them on the outside when you’re representing their interest? Will you stand up for them in a way that it doesn’t compromise their future? So as their ambassador, can you politely stand up for what’s best for the company? So they wanna know that you can stand up for yourself in a very polite way.

“Life is poker, not chess” says Annie Duke, former professional poker player

h/t Steve Bartin

“Life is poker, not chess,” says Annie Duke, a former professional poker player and the author of a new book, “Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts.” Chess is a game of skill with “very little luck involved,” while in poker good decisions and good outcomes often don’t go together.  At the 7:45 mark, she is asked about two types of thinking: exploratory thinking versus confirmatory thinking; it’s the latter that crowds rely on.  Then she mentions Philip E. Tetlock who studies forecasting.  His books are here.  And part of that segment comes the discussion on the Wisdom of Crowds.  Oh, boy.  She says that it depends on the group.  Does the group have a confirmatory thinking style or an exploratory thinking style.  She argues that the latter is better. 

She makes some interesting points here. 

We like to think that our belief system is true.  we liked to think that good things that happen to us are to our credit and bad things that happen aren’t our fault.  And that we’re intelligent and smart and well-informed individuals.  And if you tell me something that completely disagrees with me, that . . . our natural instinct is to feel threatened by that and to feel challenged by it so we tend to try to swat it away. From Thinking Fast and Slow, “We want the narrative of our lives to be positive.” As we think back on it, we want this positive narrative.  So being right really fits in to that, “Oh, I did a really good job” or “That thing wasn’t my fault.”  That all helps that [positive] narrative along.  Question is how do you keep that positive narrative together while keeping it in line with this more exploratory style?  It’s through the group.  Oh, boy. 

She had a conversation with Eric Seidel, the greatest poker player ever, and she was going on about her “bad beats” stories.  Seidel said, “I don’t care,” adding that he’d had enough of his own bad plays and woes in the world of poker.  He told her “Now if you have a question about strategy, about the hand, and how you could have done better, then I’ll listen and we can talk.  What she said was that you can change the definition of what it means to win.”  That sounded a bit hokey to me, for it sounds like the loser’s philosophy.  But she may have something.   And what was weird, in my view, was that Nick Gillespi changed the focus of the discussion from the psychological benefits of exploratory thinking versus confirmatory thinking to politics!!!  So Annie Duke went on to say that “For me, it’s the politics of constructive dissent.”  She adds that

If we’re simply relying on confirmatory thought styles, if we’ve locked ourselves into an echo chamber, what happens is that our truth atrophies.  Even if yours is the actual, objective truth, your ability to be able to defend it against someone with a rational, reasonable opinion for why they hold an opposing [or conflicting] viewpoint, you need to be able to debate that effectively.  If you can’t defend your position, that may in fact be 100% true, then the fact is somewhat meaningless.  When we descend into these political echo chambers, we are descending into that problem of meaninglessness.  Argument helps to moderate one’s opinion as well as help understand why someone holds that opinion in the first place.