Whether you’re on the hunt for an administrative assistant, looking to become one yourself, or are just curious about what this job entails, this article will help you understand the day-to-day duties and how to successfully land a job in the field.
What is an Administrative Assistant’s job description?
Many job descriptions for administrative assistant jobs will look something like this:
‘Administrative Assistant duties include providing office operations support. This includes supporting management and employees through communication, coordination and organization of the office. Job does work with time-sensitive or confidential materials so discretion and punctuality are a must. A successful candidate must be familiar with a variety of responsibilities, including computer processing, professional correspondence practices, management of office supplies, and high-quality work done in a timely manner.’
As you can see, admin assistant jobs are no cake-walk. They require wearing a lot of different hats at the same time, but if you love multitasking, this may be a great job for you.
What does an Administrative Assistant do?
While many believe that an administrative assistant’s responsibilities just include answering phones and greeting people all day, there is a whole world of work that is accomplished by these amazing employees.
While answering phones and greeting guests are the obvious job duties, and are both very important ones, there are many other tasks that happen quietly behind the desk.
An administrative assistant must keep the office in working order. This often means organizing files, ordering office supplies, restocking the breakroom, and coordinating maintenance orders when something goes wrong. To keep the office flowing smoothly, administrative assistants are also the ones behind much of the scheduling and logistics that go into meetings, events and other office gatherings.
Administrative assistants are normally the first faces a customer or guest will see, so they have to keep a calm and friendly attitude regardless of how they may be feeling that day.
As well, admin assistants are also the gatekeepers to the rest of the office. This means they have to determine why a person is there at the company and whom they would need to speak with. You may want to thank an admin assistant because they have likely handled an issue themselves from time to time rather than bothering your particular department.
These are just a few of an administrative assistant’s job duties. Some other daily responsibilities include:
- Maintaining office calendars
- Taking messages and transferring calls
- Preparing invoices, memos or other staff reports
- Handling office mail and faxes
- Create, edit or distribute company documents
- Perform some bookkeeping tasks
- Prepare meeting presentations
How much does an Administrative Assistant make?
The national average for an Administrative Assistant’s salary is just under $40,000 a year. That works out to about $15.60 an hour. One thing to consider with this pay rate is that many admin assistant jobs require no prior experience or training. This is a great career option for a fresh graduate or even someone who wants to try something new with their career.
There are, of course, perks to having time under your belt in a job or even some extra training. Some administrative assistant’s pay is upwards of $63,000 annually or about $30.00 an hour! So while this job is great for those with little-to-no experience, it is also a great long term career choice too.
What skills does an Administrative Assistant have?
Administrative assistants are often jacks of all trades, since they are required to know a little about a lot. Administrative assistants and secretaries need to know who works in what department, general company offerings, how to juggle phone calls and emails, among other things. Some skills that you will not only need but are great to list on a resume are:
- Great multi-tasker
- Effective at being self-guided
- Solid written and spoken communication skills
- Adept in computer processing
- Solid time management
- Efficient organization skills
- Anticipatory of needs
How do you become an Administrative Assistant?
Administrative assistant jobs are nearly everywhere and always in demand. From small towns to big cities, there are companies in need of a secretary or admin assistant who can help them keep the ship afloat.
As we discussed earlier, you don’t need any prior training as many administrative assistant jobs are entry-level. But if you want a leg-up in the game, it doesn’t hurt to take a few courses that can help you stand out from other job candidates. These can include technology courses, first aid and safety training, industry-specific courses, or even self-improvement courses such as multi-tasking or workplace communication skills.
To prepare for the actual job-hunt, you will need to put together a resume that shows how organized and attentive you are. This means including great skill descriptions and having a well organized and easy-to-read resume.
Next, you will want to hit the job boards. In the age of the internet, one of the best ways to find nearby jobs is to simply Google “Administrative Assistant jobs near me.” This will bring you to those exact openings right in your town. In most cases, you can also apply from the website, which makes it easy to apply for many jobs in one day.
Once you receive a call back for an interview, it is time to pick out your interview outfit. This part is very important since an administrative assistant is the face of the company. They are normally the first person guests will see, so your potential employer wants to make sure you can dress to impress these guests.
There are tons of guides out there to help you figure out what balances impressive with appropriate. As a general rule of thumb, choose something you would wear to a very important event (think church, a funeral or court). With this in mind, you will be dressed to impress but also work appropriate (meaning your outfit is not too revealing or over-the-top).
You will also want to take this time to brush up on your computer skills such as typing, data entry or email etiquette. Many jobs, specifically for administrative assistants or secretarial jobs, require testing to make sure you can keep up with the normal pace of work. Practicing ahead of time ensures you are ready to rock any tests they may throw your way.
Finally, prepare for your interview by practicing some interview questions. There are a number of resources online, but to get you started, we have included a few below.
Practice interview questions for Administrative Assistant jobs:
What makes you the perfect candidate for this job?
Prepare an answer that explains how your skills and drive make you the best fit. Be honest in your answer, but be sure to keep the focus on how you will help the company.
What skills do you possess that are appropriate for this position?
Be ready with your list of skills. You don’t have to name them all but definitely name the most important ones for the job and maybe even elaborate on how you became so good at these particular skills or how you do things differently to get the job done.
Give me an example of a time you…
Be ready to provide the interviewers an example of a variety of things. Common examples they look for are:
- Greatest success at work
- A failure at work and what you learned from it
- A project you implemented
- A problem you solved at work
- A time you went above and beyond and why
Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
Be honest: do you plan on being an administrative assistant for that long, or would you like to try out other jobs? If you plan on trying something else, are you going to do so with that company after they invest in hiring and training you?
How would you describe your work style?
This is a great opportunity to explain how you keep everything afloat at work. This could be your skills at balancing calendars, communicating with co-workers to ensure work gets done, or even your willingness to work outside work hours as long as the work gets done.
Do I need any training to become an Administrative Assistant?
Most administrative assistant jobs don’t require any prior training or certifications, but some extra schooling never hurts. There are, in fact, whole degree programs dedicated to becoming the best admin assistant you can be.
These administrative assistant school programs include courses in:
- Computer Processing (typing, data entry, spreadsheets, etc.)
- Necessary Skills (multi-tasking, attention to detail, problem-solving)
- Communication Skills (effective office communication methods)
- Record Management (proper organization, confidentiality, document destruction procedures, etc.)
At the end of these administrative assistant classes, you are often awarded a certificate showing your completion and competence of the program materials. While every state may or may not recognize these credentials, your potential employer can at least appreciate and know you have the proper training to do the job well.
You can also choose to just take specific classes that you feel would benefit you the most. This can include any of the courses we discussed above, like computer processing or communication skills, but it can also include some more obscure training options.
For instance, if you work as an administrative assistant for a construction company, it may be beneficial to take a class on first aid or safety protocols. If you work in the medical industry, you could take a class on industry terminology so you can better understand patients and co-workers.
These are classes you can pursue yourself (either online or in a classroom setting), or your company may offer them in house.
Where can I work as an Administrative Assistant?
As you can imagine, many administrative assistant jobs will be done in an office, behind a desk. This isn’t always the case though. We now live in an interconnected world where work can be done instantly and remotely.
That being said, there are many examples of administrative assistants and secretaries working outside of traditional office spaces. There are examples of “virtual” or remote administrative assistant jobs out there. These simply require that you work somewhere with a reliable internet connection and a working computer. There are more and more pages popping up across the internet dedicated to virtual, part-time or remote administrative assistant jobs.
The obvious benefit to these types of jobs is the freedom to work from wherever you like, but the caveat is that you usually don’t get to work whenever you would like. You may still need to be available for the normal business hours of 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM, or you could be working for a company in a different time zone, meaning you have to be awake and working when they are.
Another possibility is that you are an “on-call” administrative assistant meaning you only have to be available when absolutely needed. This means one of two things: they may not need you often (equalling a smaller paycheck), or they may need you at strange times (such as a task assignment at midnight).
So while each of these new-age options has its perks, you will have to consider the down-sides as well to know if these newer styles of jobs will work for your lifestyle.