Essential Skills and Qualities You Gain in an Entry-level Administrative Position
When you have big dreams for your career—and a solid plan to help you reach them—working in an administrative or secretarial position can make you feel like you’re tethered to work that doesn’t fully reflect your potential or drive. We’ve come a long way since the days when a “secretary” would just answer the phone, make copies, put away files, and run errands. These are no longer one-dimensional roles, so it’s time to flip the perception. Administrative assistants are the most valuable players in the office: true MVPs that should be celebrated with the best of them!
As an administrative assistant, you provide indispensable organization, support, and follow-through on a wide (and often indefinite) range of tasks and projects that make the office go. Your broad exposure to each facet of an organization is an asset, but at first glance, it can be difficult to harness this valuable experience in a way that will stand out to potential employers. Before you pursue your next career move, here are some skills and qualities that you can strategically position within your cover letters, resumes, and interview talking points so you can you stand out like the MVP that you are.
Essential Skills and Qualities of Administrative Professionals
You may think of project management as a top job on a construction site or critical role in the tech world, but project management touches the operations of every organization. While you may not be fully aware of the project management lifecycle, frameworks, and methodology, it’s something that you do every day.
For example, did you know that if you’re an administrative assistant who works at a nonprofit organization that holds an annual fundraiser, you’re an undercover project manager? Here’s how:
Let’s say you’re in charge of organizing all of the information that will go into the programs that are distributed to each guest at the fundraiser. You’ll need to finalize the event agenda, coordinate biographies or write-ups featured within the program, get quotes from local vendors for the cost of printing, and submit it in a timely manner so it can be delivered on time for you to set up at the event. That’s an entire project! And, if you’ve worked at the organization for multiple years, you’ve surely experienced some important lessons-learned that helped you approach the project more efficiently (and perhaps even more affordably) than the year before.
To position this experience more strategically in your job search, seek out free online training or local workshops in your community that can provide you with some of the project management methodology to pair with your already earned experience. Then, take another look at your resume and incorporate some of your fresh project management lingo into your next version.
Planning & Coordinating
As the administrative assistant on the team, you aren’t directly involved with inception of new initiatives or developing the overall vision, but you have an enormous influence on how these goals are approached and more importantly, how they progress. You need to be aware of all of the resources that are available, assist with making timelines, help monitor expenditures, and coordinate tasks among the key stakeholders. Your supervisor will count on you to have your finger on the pulse on these areas and understand the status, so they can map out next steps for the team. A good administrative assistant will be able to provide this information in a quick, organized way. A great administrative assistant will start to make connections on how each task and objective relate to each other, and how they contribute to the overall goal.
To make this aspect of your work more meaningful, reflect on the ways that your feedback made an impact. Did one of your status updates ever cause your supervisor to allocate more attention and resources to one area versus another? When monitoring expenditures, did you ever make a recommendation for how to keep costs down? These nuances and details make an incredible difference to potential employers.
Let’s explore how: which is more compelling?
- Assisted with the planning and coordinating of [xyz project]
- Monitored resource allocation with [xyz project] and advised management on gaps that required more support in order to preserve and accelerate the project timeline
- Monitored expenditures for [xyz project]
- Analyzed expenses for [xyz project] and made recommendations to cut costs by 10%
By reformulating how you describe these “entry-level” tasks, you can spotlight that you’re not “just the admin,” but an emerging leader with potential.
Managing Deadlines and Action Items
Being asked to “take the minutes” when you’re eager to earn your seat at the table and contribute can feel like a downer. Like most of your regular tasks, it’s a huge opportunity. By being at the helm of preserving important conversations, you become the air traffic controller of your team. You know the deadlines. You know the players. You have the playbook. Just like with planning and coordinating, when you can connect these items together and think about them critically, you can gain a deeper perspective and contribute in your role at a higher level.
Take pride in this role. Be proactive with communicating out to stakeholders with reminders and follow-up items. When you see the opportunity to synthesize information into a more organized way for our supervisor or other managers, take it! It won’t take long to get noticed as an important part of team.
These are just a few examples of why administrative assistants have MVP status. These roles aren’t “dead end jobs,” but rather powerful launch pads for your career goals.
What are some other ways that you’ve made the most of out your administrative assistant experience?