An office job can open many doors.
Susan Silva adamantly believes an administrative assistant career is an ideal way to create your own destiny.
“It can take you wherever you want to go,” Silva insists. She should know. After a sixteen year career as an administrative assistant in the biotech field, she created a website for her peers – and landed a job as editor of DeskDemon.com, the American version of a UK site dedicated to helping admin staff further their skills and careers.
She has friends who have become CFOs (chief financial officers). Others go into marketing, or pursue public relations or graphic design. That’s the beauty of administrative assistant work – you learn a lot of things in a lot of areas that allow you to climb the ladder in your company or career field.
It’s just a matter of taking the initiative. Or course, Silva concedes, it helps to be working for a good manager in a good company.
For those who lack such ambition, there is room to settle into a support rule in the background, and that’s OK too, Silva notes.
Finding work in the field is particularly competitive in California, Silva explains, particularly in the biotech industry where cutbacks are the order of the day. Instead, she recommends exploring the medical field, real estate, and the financial industry as a whole.
Anyone preparing for such work would be wise to visit DeskDemon.com, where you will find ample discussion about conducting a job search – from crafting cover letters, to assembling resumes, and preparing for interviews. At the UK version of DeskDemon, you can find a skills audit to better measure your preparedness for the job.
Here is a breakdown of the current job market for administrative assistants, as seen by Silva:
Job Outlook at the moment: Plenty of openings on the market. Take Craigslist, for example. In Northern California alone they get several hundred job openings a week for new positions for administrative assistants, but there are ten times or more applicants for each job.
Some of the top end positions, such as an opening with a company which is on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For,” draw a much larger resume pool. A few tips to stand out include specializing in a field. Become an expert in real estate, the medical field, biotech, legal, or education etc. Knowing the terminology and keeping up on the industry for a particular sector can be very beneficial as well. Then there are certifications, such as CAP (Certified Administrative Professional) and CPS (Certified Professional Secretary) from the International Association of Administrative Professionals. These aren’t always as well known to employers but are very helpful to have. They validate that an admin knows what they are doing.
What does it take to get into an entry-level clerical position?
Experience – Even though it is entry level, experience is needed. How do you get experience when you have none? Take a training course at a vocational school, take online courses with certifications, take a job as a receptionist and take on typing and clerical projects, or volunteer.
Software Savvy – You must have a working knowledge of Microsoft Word and Excel. There are several ways to get the skill set you need. Vocational schools and community college offer training classes. Many employment agencies have tutorials, not to mention the online option again.
Communications Skills – Grammar, spelling and writing skills. You also must be able to listen, comprehend and follow through on instructions as well as relate information to others.
Organizational Skills – Be able to set up a filing system and maintain it. Be able to retrieve information by whatever media the file is on – Internet, file system, person to person.
What skills does it take to get a mid-level admin position? An admin needs the above qualifications as well as:
Time Management skills are also critical – know how to prioritize your day.
Software skills – Must be more advanced, must know the software packages relevant to the position, Access, PowerPoint, Photoshop, Visio, MS Project to name a few possible packages. Must be proactive and find solutions to the problems in the office.
Logistics – Must be able to juggle calendar systems and make travel arrangements; Must be willing to work as a team with the company.
Ongoing education is important via classes, conferences, seminars and online education. Networking with peers is also vital.
Certifications: Though not needed, professional certifications can help as well.
What skills does it take to get into an executive post? An admin needs the above qualifications as well as:
Must be able to partner with their boss, not just work for them. Align your job goals with that of your boss’s and the company’s. Must be able to deal with multiple bosses or upper management with tact, diplomacy, ethics and integrity
Top-notch technical skills critical – know what gadgets and products are available and how to use them.
Must be outcome driven, not activity driven. Must know how to network on a professional basis. Must represent the views of the boss, be the hand, eyes, ears and voice of the boss when out of the office.
Of course, expectations and skill sets can change. Going to DeskDemon.com can help you keep abreast of the latest in the field.
Indispensable by Any Name
Their name may have changed, but the reality remains the same – today’s secretaries are still indispensable.
“These are the people who keep the offices running in this country,” notes Susan Silva, editor of DeskDemon.com, a website devoted to helping administrative assistants, aka secretaries. They tend to have a partnership with their manager. “They are the eyes, ears and hands of the manager, who can mirror their comments and take phone calls that the boss doesn’t even realize,” Silva points out. It’s the administrative assistants who handle all the details and makes sure the job gets done.
DeskDemon conducted a survey recently, and the vast majority of respondents said their managers “don’t know what I do all day.”
In other words, if they have the right administrative assistant working for them, they don’t have to worry what’s being done. The day they do is the day they may realize they have to look for a new secretary.
For more information on administrative assistant careers, visit these websites:
DeskDemon.com – Everything you need to know about finding work and furthering your career in the administrative assistant field. At the very least, this site will make your job easier.
Iaap-hq.org — International Association of Administrative Professionals. Find conferences, training classes, certifications, and other helpful information.
Naesaa.com — Association of Executive Secretaries and Administrative Assistants. For $39 a year you get a helpful raft of services, including a regular newsletter as well as a salary survey.
AsaPorg.com — The American Society of Administrative Professionals. For $69 a year, you can post your resume and search to find a mentor.