The Top 6 Skills for Entry-Level Administrative Assistants

By Robert Half on July 6, 2015 at 2:37pm

Perhaps you’re fresh out of school and beginning your search for your first professional job as an entry-level assistant. Or maybe you’re changing careers and starting to apply for administrative positions. Whatever the case, you’re excited — but not sure what to expect in this line of work.

Don’t worry, we’re here to help.

What’s an admin job all about?

The responsibilities and day-to-day tasks in different administrative jobs can vary wildly and depend on the location, industry and company. But typical duties for four of the most common — and in-demand — entry-level administrative positions include:

  • Receptionist Often the first point of contact for anybody outside of the company, a receptionist primarily greets visitors and handles incoming calls. This role also takes on administrative responsibilities, such as word processing, data entry and internet research, and is expected to help busy colleagues with similar tasks.
  • Administrative assistant — At the entry level, administrative assistant duties involve handling telephone calls; filing; data entry; and using office software for word processing, spreadsheets, and creating or updating presentations. Administrative assistants are often called upon to assist other admins, which may involve acting as the receptionist or covering a wide range of other office duties.
  • Customer service representative — Professionals in this position are responsible for maintaining strong relationships with customers by placing and receiving calls. The best customer service assistants answer questions and resolve issues quickly and with confidence, so excellent communication skills are required. Other duties typically involve data entry and research to troubleshoot queries.
  • Human resources assistant — This professional helps with a variety of functions, including hiring staff, organizing health and welfare benefit programs, resolving employee disputes, and handling employee departures. Not surprisingly, companies search for HR assistants with strong interpersonal skills. They should also be able to conduct internet research, screen telephone calls, maintain databases and keep sensitive material confidential.

Master the fundamentals

Developing and polishing a few essential skills will help you succeed as an administrative professional, whether you’re breaking into the field or you’ve landed an entry-level assistant job and want to become a superstar.

  • Communication — Employers search for admin candidates with the ability to clearly articulate ideas to colleagues, superiors, clients and vendors in writing, over the phone and face to face.
  • Technology skills — Candidates must be confident working with Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint; savvy with social media; and, in many cases, have a strong understanding of databases.
  • Bilingualism — Proficiency in one or more foreign languages is a big advantage in today’s global economy and can increase an admin’s salary by 12 to 15 percent.
  • FlexibilityEntry-level administrative jobs revolve around helping others. The best admins see a need and offer to help before even being asked. Many times, this involves tasks that aren’t in the job description.
  • Collaboration — Admins must be able to work seamlessly with coworkers from all over the company, which means understanding everyone’s role and figuring out how to be most useful to the group. The best ones also build bridges to administrative assistants in other departments — as well as people in areas like the mailroom and IT — to make interdepartmental collaboration simple and smooth.
  • A desire to keep learning — Companies look for administrative professionals willing to take the time to enroll in continuing education classes, pursue a certification and take advantage of any training opportunities offered by the company. Such passion and enthusiasm is sometimes even rewarded with a salary bump: A professional administrative certification, for example, can boost pay by as much as 6 percent, and a Microsoft Office Specialist certification can lead to a raise of up to 10 percent.

Whatever type of administrative work you decide to do, know that companies truly appreciate their support staff: In an OfficeTeam survey, more than nine in 10 respondents (94 percent) rated administrative support as important to the company’s overall success. That’s because these professionals provide key support to their colleagues and managers. And the more you willingly and proactively offer to help others as an entry-level administrative professional, the more valuable you become to your team.

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