Despite today's sluggish economy, there's one field where you can be assured of finding work. If you like the office environment, opportunity abounds in clerical work.
"When we find a solid candidate, we can place them very quickly," promises Cyd Hansen, branch manager of OfficeTeam in Sacramento.
Jay Jurschak, president of Pacific Staffing in Sacramento and Roseville, agrees. "If a person has basic office skills and can do an adequate amount of filing, answering phones, and light computer work, they are in a position to showcase themselves. It's rare to see people with good work habits, good attitude and good attendance who don't get hired. Employers are looking for attitude and adaptability to the work environment."
Jurschak says clerical jobseekers should be able to type at least 30-40 wpm. More skills increase your employability, he adds.
A Decade of Demand
"According to recent US Department of Labor statistics, between 2002 and 2010, a total of 2.2 million new jobs will open in the clerical field," Hansen reports. "Companies will continue to need highly experienced, trained people to keep their operations running smoothly."
These positions include senior executive assistant; office manager; administrative, human resources, marketing and sales assistants; medical secretary; word processor; and customer services rep. The biggest demand is for receptionists and junior administrative assistants.
In the Sacramento area, the average salary for an administrative assistant is between $22,000 and $27,000 annually.
Median pay approaches $35,000 in the Bay Area, while the national average ranges from $23,000 to $28,000.
Hansen advises enterprising employees eager for advancement to learn new software programs and new technology and take on additional responsibilities. Folks who constantly educate themselves, work with the team, and volunteer to get the job done are the ones who will get noticed, she contends.
Clerical workers often start out as administrative assistants. Formerly classified as secretaries, they are the backbone of any office. Duties usually include providing clerical support, word processing, invoicing, answering phones, supervising general office staff, and scheduling.
The real career advancement comes when the administrative assistant gets a chance to become an executive assistant.
"Administrative assistants provide support for a company as a whole, whereas the executive administrative assistant provides personal assistance for higher management such as CFOs and CEOs," explains Teri Timmerman, account executive with Apple One Staffing in Oak-land. "They usually support one person in several capacities - making travel arrangements, booking conferences, doing Power Point presentations, and performing many other office tasks."
Executive assistant hopefuls should have three to five years experience as an administrative assistant, and be able to type 50 to 60 wpm. College training is definitely a plus.
"He or she should also be proficient in Microsoft Office and be familiar with Macs and PCs. The more software programs, such as accounting and graphics, the more marketable a candidate becomes."
Timmerman notes that last year's salary range of $50,000 to $60,000 has slipped to the current average wage of $40,000 plus. "Obviously, the market has taken a dive. But it is picking up again. There are definitely a lot of executive assistant avenues to explore."
"Two of the clerical hot spots in high demand are legal and medical secretaries," Hansen notes. Of course, those fields require specialized education and a proven work ethic.
As for other office careers, Hansen says most employers are looking for versatility - people who can "wear many different hats."
"Over the past few years, we've watched salaries in the data entry field mount steadily," she observes. Companies are paying extra for those skills.
Rhonda Rogowski, branch manager of Diversified Personnel in Hayward, advises job candidates to start in customer service. It's where you can learn all about the company, its projects and its problems. That extra experience will make you more valuable when you decide to move up to the main office.
Even though they are much in demand, Jurschak believes the biggest mistake clerical workers make is "not taking the job seriously. For example, most reception jobs are entry level but are very important with a lot of responsibility. It's the front line. A receptionist talks to customers and investors before anyone else does." A company can hardly retain a receptionist who does not respect that responsibility.
But, for the most part, Jurschak is upbeat. "If a jobseeker has relevant work history, can demonstrate good attendance through references, possesses a good attitude and is willing to adapt, he or she can find a job today."
Rogowski echoes that feeling. "Good talent is still working in this precarious market."
Hansen is even more positive. "One of my first placements started in reception," she recalls. "Now she runs the office and calls me for staffing help."
For more information on office careers:
- ClericalJobsite.com - All-purpose website provides career advice, resume posting, and a large database of jobs.
- iHireLegal.com - Job listings for attorneys, paralegals, legal secretaries/assistants and law office managers. The site also features a resume builder.
- iHireSecretarial.com - Job searches, resume posting, employer profiles, and e-mail alerts when openings match your criteria.
- LegalSecretaryCareers.com - Job searches, resume posting, a job agent that e-mails openings matching your skills, employer profiles, and links to other job-search resources.
- MedicalSecretaryJobs.com - Website features a job search agent, listings, resume postings, and other resources, including salary information and employer profiles.
- ReceptionistJobStore.com - Job Lists, salary surveys, links to other job-search sites and resume posting.
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