How to Become an Administrative Assistant

Administrative assistants, secretaries or virtual assistants provide important clerical assistance to offices of different organizations and becoming an administrative assistant can be a rewarding career. These professionals work closely with the management to ensure that day-to-day office tasks run smoothly. To this end, they perform a variety of clerical and administrative tasks, including: handling office paperwork, planning and scheduling meetings, maintaining electronic records/files, arranging and fixing appointments, handling basic bookkeeping and accounting, undertaking preparations for official guests, managing projects, distributing information, and making travel arrangements including accommodations.

Additionally, administrative assistants are also responsible for taking minutes during meetings, keeping records up to date, filing, typing and setting up documents such as letters and reports, reception duties such as greeting and looking after visitors, making sure that there is enough stationery, managing office equipment such as printers, photocopiers and fax machines, maintaining the company website, handling all corporate communications, acting as interface for both vendors and clients, and performing or coordinating clerical and minor technical support services, such as parking, housekeeping, food, record-keeping and dealing with whatever else helps in ensuring the proper functioning of an organization. The specific required skills of an administrative assistant often depend on the place of employment and level of expertise, but generally candidates must have developed an ability to multitask.

Administrative assistants must have a fastidious eye for detail, be well organized, reliable, and able to work unsupervised. They should be proficient in punctuation and grammar, proofreading and writing. Being excellent in oral and writing communication skills as well as possessing an above-average typing speed, developed organizational and people skills, customer skills, and ability to always maintain a professional appearance are many of the other necessary traits for administrative assistants to demonstrate.
Because the work of these professionals is quite vast and diverse, anyone who aspires to be an administrative assistant needs to know how to use various software applications for databases, spreadsheets and desktop publishing, including MS Office, QuickBooks, PageMaker, Illustrator, Photoshop and more in order to perform all those tasks that are essential to the job.

Becoming an Administrative Assistant

How to become an administrative assistant may begin by getting basic office skills and a high school diploma can help you get an entry-level secretarial position, however it is always recommended that anyone considering starting a career as an administrative assistant undertakes a secondary admin assistant training in order to ensure that they are fully prepared to enter this profession. Employers are starting to look more and more for candidates with college degree. Many of these administrative assistants work closely with high-level executives, so an associate or bachelor’s degree related to the business of the company would be appropriate. Even if a degree isn’t a must, it’s often preferred, and will provide you a leg up when applying for a high profile secretarial job.
Most high schools, vocational schools and community colleges offer courses in typing, word processing, office administration, computer courses and other programs – which can provide a strong background in office skills and are therefore a good and solid asset to starting a career in this field. An administrative assistant training program itself can vary in length, depending on the nature of the program and the school which is chosen. Also, some educational institutions offer online training programs that allow individuals to study from home at their own pace. A typical admin assistance program, which is offered by vocational schools, trains students in topics such as: office procedures, computer fundamentals, MS Office applications, business correspondence, administrative technology, administrative assisting, and many other areas to enhance skill sets of individuals who want to establish a career as administrative assistants. Undertaking such an admin assistance training course can greatly increase your chances of landing a high paying job.

As well as training, getting administrative assistant certification can boost one’s career prospects. Certification can show your competence and sets you apart in this competitive field. Certification can be obtained from organizations such as International Association of Administrative Professionals (or IAAP). It’s also worth noting that there has been a clear upward trend in the hiring of virtual administrative assistants. This can be attributed to the fact that many small businesses have realized that they can reduce their operating costs by hiring virtual workforce staff who work right from their own homes. These virtual administrative assistants perform the same duties as those who work in offices, but enjoy the flexibility of working from home. This has actually brought many exciting opportunities for anyone looking to enter into this field since individuals can now work from home, which makes life easier.

Lastly, like in any other field, it’s important for candidates to know how to write a good resume and cover letter and be prepared for an interview in order to increase their chances of being hired  online or off-line. Nothing can hurt your administrative job chances more than a poorly written resume and cover letter and being ill-prepared for an interview. A well-written resume and a strategically targeted cover letter along with proper preparation will show an employer that you’re the most qualified candidate for the job or for advancement. They will tell the employer who you are and why they should hire you, showcase your abilities, show that you’re serious about the opportunity and give you an opportunity to highlight your strengths. This, in turn, will drastically improve your chances of securing a job offer.

For more information on what types of courses are available in administrative assistant programs, visit administrative assistant programs.

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