Administrative professionals wear many hats. They can have a multitude of duties that range from scheduling meetings to documenting bank deposits, handling mail, or making social media posts. While the position is technically a support job, administrative professionals are a vital part of any business.
Administrative workers are multitaskers with the ability to split their focus between several tasks at a time. This type of work might seem hectic, but if you find the prospect of doing something different every day appealing, administration might be the right fit for you.
With the rise of cloud-based collaboration software and video conferencing applications, it’s become increasingly easy for administrative professionals to operate from anywhere.
13 skills every administrative assistant needs
There’s a wide array of abilities that fall under the umbrella of administrative assistant skills. Assistants need great soft skills, like communication, to interact with clients as well as hard skills to handle any technical aspects of the job.
If you can master several or all of these skills, you have the potential to increase your chances of landing a quality administrative assistant or executive assistant position in your job search. In the following sections, we’ll go over some of the most important things you should know as an administrative professional and why they’re essential.
Teamwork requires communication. As an administrative worker, you’ll spend a huge portion of your time communicating with your clients and others. You’ll relay messages to clients, order items from vendors, answer phone calls, and help clients find answers to their questions.
Along with verbal communication, you’ll also need written communication skills. Depending on your clients, you could be tasked with copywriting marketing emails, typing up thank-you notes for contributors, or writing letters requesting payment. Here are some resources that can help you improve your interpersonal skills:
- Communication Strategies for a Virtual Age (Course)
- Write Better Emails: Tactics for Smarter Team Communication (Course)
- Toastmasters (International speech and leadership club)
Remember that a large part of being a good communicator is being a good listener. Sometimes, communicating effectively means talking less and paying more attention to the needs of those around you. After all, how can you help your clients, team members, and supervisors if you don’t know what they need?
Strong emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to understand others. For administrative work, strong emotional intelligence is essential to make team member cohesion easier. You’ll likely work with a few people as an administrative assistant, so having the ability to work well with others and manage the emotions of others will ensure everyone stays on the same page.
For instance, say you’re offering administrative support for a marketing agency, and a point of contact from a key account sends an email that they are upset. Responding promptly with a polite email and then alerting a team member on your end will help ensure the situation doesn’t escalate to a point where the client becomes even more upset.
Workers in administrative roles should have top-notch organizational skills. You might have to manage a work calendar for a busy supervisor, schedule job interviews for hiring managers, write job descriptions, arrange notes during meetings, or store and order company files for later access. If you don’t have adequate filing systems, it’s easy to get stressed out.
For example, say your public relations (PR) manager asks for a list of the three biggest sponsors for the past year, along with the amount they contributed, to be featured in their business’s quarterly journal. You’ll have to search through your records to find this information.
If your files are in disarray, simple tasks like this can turn into arduous chores. Use clear, easy-to-find file names like “Sponsorlist_2020” and follow the same pattern for related ones (Sponsorlist_2018, Sponsorlist_2019). If you have physical records, keep them in sequence and clearly label them in storage.
Time management skills
Administrative workers are the ultimate multitaskers, but that doesn’t mean you can do everything. One of the biggest organizational challenges you’ll have is organizing your own schedule. You may have a lot to do for several clients at once. To succeed, you’ll need expert time management skills.
Keep your schedule up to date using software like Microsoft Office Outlook so that you can see all your deadlines and appointments. You can even color-code different commitments based on their importance. This will help you see what can be moved around if something comes up that requires your immediate attention.
Remember that just because something has an earlier due date doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more important. If you have assignments that aren’t as vital as others, ask if you can have an extension.
For example, say you work for an e-commerce store. Your manager might want you to generate a sales report for a next-day meeting. However, you have several client orders to fulfill that are due at the end of the week. You and your manager agree to discuss the sales report at the next weekly meeting.
A good administrative assistant should be levelheaded, flexible, and have the resourcefulness to solve unexpected problems. From scheduling conflicts and technology failures to issues involving customers, you need to be able to find effective solutions quickly.
You may even run into problems that you don’t have the skills to solve. In that case, you need to either know where to find the information you need or know who can help you. Google and YouTube are full of tutorials if you need to know how to do something like importing an Excel spreadsheet into your database software.
But if something totally outside your skill set happens, like your network goes down, you’ll need to get in touch with the right information technology (IT) person or programmer quickly.
A capacity for learning new skills quickly
Administrative technology is always improving. It’s up to you to keep up with the trends. The ability to adapt to and implement new tools rapidly is essential for an administrative assistant.
Let’s say your manager has just finished putting on a large business conference. You’re tasked with collecting feedback from all the attendees to see what they liked and didn’t like about the event.
Last year, you sent emails to all your registrants and tried to organize their responses into a spreadsheet. The process took forever, and your manager has asked you to speed things up this year. The results will be shown at the quarterly meeting. They need to be ready in one week.
After doing a quick search online for “survey software,” you quickly learn to use a tool like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms. These types of programs can collect survey information for you and automatically organize it into helpful spreadsheets and graphs.
An eye for detail
When administrative staff and virtual assistants enter data, write emails, or send letters to clients, they need to make sure their work is free of errors. Nothing says unprofessional quite like a business document full of blunders.
As an administrative assistant, even seemingly simple tasks like data entry require your full attention. Thankfully, there are tools that can help you keep track of things like grammatical errors when you’re copywriting, drafting emails, or writing letters:
- After the Deadline
Experience with Microsoft Office
Microsoft Office is a set of applications that can help you do several types of business administration tasks. Many businesses use it to keep everyone on the same page. Microsoft Office has several tools that make it easy to get things done.
- Microsoft Word
Many businesses expect administrative workers to already know how to use Microsoft Office. If you don’t have knowledge of it, you can try searching YouTube videos to learn. You might also want to take a course or tutorial.
Administrative assistants should be able to use different types of software, browsers, and applications. For example, you might have to manage a client’s customer relationship management (CRM) software. CRM software helps businesses find leads and keep track of customer information and history.
If you’re responsible for a business’s CRM, you’ll have to do things like organizing information on potential leads into spreadsheets for salespeople. Some popular CRM software examples include:
- Freshworks CRM
It’s also beneficial to familiarize yourself with platforms that help remote teams. With more than 40% of American workers fully remote, you’ll have a leg up if you know how to work outside the traditional office. Some platforms you’ll want to familiarize yourself with when it comes to remote work include:
- Google Workspace
Depending on your client’s needs, they might rely on administrative assistants to do their bookkeeping. Knowing how to use accounting software like QuickBooks and FreshBooks to document transactions, create and manage invoices, and verify statements can increase your value to clients.
You don’t need to go overboard with this. When it comes to accounting, administrative workers usually complete tasks that aren’t too complicated. If a business needs something like a complex tax filing, they’ll hire a certified public accountant (CPA) or enlist the help of an accounting firm.
Social media management skills
If you work for a smaller company that doesn’t have a marketing team, you might have to help manage some of your client’s social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. This can involve posting advertisements or announcements and engaging with customers.
Keeping track of social media for a business can be pretty time-consuming. Fortunately, there are a few social media management tools that can make the process a little easier.
- Social Jukebox
These tools will save you from having to jump from site to site to check your pages. They’ll let you do things like schedule several posts at once and see all your social media engagement in one place.
The ability to work independently
A good administrative worker needs to be able to operate autonomously, as there’s always something to do. Let’s say you’re an administrative assistant for a membership-based nonprofit. One of your many duties is to manage the membership database. Every day, you have to check to see if any membership forms have come in by mail or submitted electronically.
Because this is a daily task, successful administrative professionals learn how to be proactive about this work from the start. When you’re first starting, ask for a set of responsibilities. Depending on the length of your contract, designate which ones will need to be completed on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. From there, you can prioritize what needs to be done when without having to go back with questions.
Another great skill to have is the ability to see the larger picture. Although you might be focusing on smaller tasks during your day to day, these tasks give you a strong pulse on your client and how their organization operates. You can provide valuable feedback should problems arise because you’ll be familiar with how the team works together.
Let Upwork help you find administrative work today
These workers are more than just administrative support staff. They perform a variety of jobs that make it possible for businesses to function. Good administrative professionals are highly organized multitaskers with skill sets that include at least some proficiency in several areas, like communication, creating solutions, and technology. Because the position involves so many duties, it can be fast-paced.
If you want to be an administrative professional, you’ll need to be level-headed enough to handle the stress of demanding customers, a large workload, and an array of diverse responsibilities. Administrative workers are the glue that holds a company together.
If you’re looking to find jobs as an independent administrative professional, Upwork lets you share your abilities with clients all over the globe. We narrow down business searches and match the best companies with the administrative assistants they need.
Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this section. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.
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