Administrative Assistant's and Secretary's Handbook
Authors: James Stroman, Kevin Wilson, Jennifer Wauson
Pub Date: July 2014
Print Edition: $34.95
Print ISBN: 9780814433522
Page Count: 560
Edition: Fifth Edition
e-Book ISBN: 9780814433539
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Overview for the New Administrative Assistant
Why Are You Needed?
As an administrative assistant, you are hired to relieve your busy employer of a great deal of work, especially the details of office procedure and other matters that do not require your employer's personal involvement. You'll act as a liaison between your boss and the rest of the company. Sometimes you'll act as a buffer. Depending on the size of the company, you may also be called on to perform tasks normally outside the secretarial role in sales, banking, billing, payroll, accounting, advertising, public relations, purchasing, and more. Everything you do for your employer must duplicate as closely as possible what he or she would do if not absorbed in work that couldn't be delegated.
Every businessperson dreams of having the perfect administrative assis-tant, and every administrative assistant dreams of having the perfect boss. We hope you and your boss will become so well adjusted to each other that you'll work as a team, each trusting the other to carry part of the load in har-mony.
What Do Employers Want?
It's helpful to know what an employer expects of a "perfect administrative as-sistant" so that you can present yourself at your best during both the job in-terview and those critical first weeks on the job. Here are a few of the most important qualities:
Punctuality. An employer wants an administrative assistant who is consistent-ly punctual and always on hand during office hours. An administrative as-sistant who continually arrives even a few minutes late or who frequently misses work can cause havoc in a busy office. The employer knows from experience that such an administrative assistant may not be truly interested in the work. This person will be passed over or terminated in favor of someone with greater respect for the job--an administrative assistant who is always punctual and always there when needed.
Dependability. An employer considers the applicant's disposition and per-sonality, trying to judge whether he or she is dependable. For example, would the candidate rush home at precisely five o'clock despite an office crisis, or would he or she take enough responsibility to volunteer to re-main after hours if an emergency arises?
Ability to learn. An employer wants to know the extent of the applicant's edu-cation--not only formal programs and degrees but also self-instruction and single courses. This information indicates the applicant's willingness and capacity for learning. For example, an employer may hope that you know the specific computer software the company already uses but not be too concerned if you aren't familiar with it if you show the potential to learn quickly.
Willingness to follow instructions. An employer wants a candidate who follows instructions carefully and willingly. Of course, a good administrative assistant will soon take initiative and perform certain tasks differently to save time or improve results. But the administrative assistant who always demands complete control may ultimately become unwilling to follow in-structions, debating or questioning every one of the boss's directives. Though intelligent input from an administrative assistant is prized, an employer usually prefers not to argue points that he or she has already decided. The employer is concerned with more important matters than explaining all the reasons for pursuing a partic-
ular policy. Therefore, the employer looks for an administrative assistant who will execute a decision no matter how many alternatives may seem obvious, or no matter what a former boss did in the same situation. In other words, the employer wants someone whose personality will be an asset rather than a handicap.
Loyalty and confidentiality. Although these qualities are impossible to discover during an interview alone, every boss wants his or her administrative as-sistant to possess them. In an office, there is nothing more unwelcome than the "human sieve" who constantly chatters about every conversation heard, spreads idle rumors like wildfire, and must constantly be screened from confidential projects and information. No matter how efficient, how educated, and how experienced that administrative assistant is, his or her employment will be short-lived.
And something else. A keen employer wants more in a prospective administra-tive assistant than these general qualifications. During an extended inter-view, the employer will be looking for quick-wittedness, flexibility, com-mitment to work, a certain quality and level of conversation, and a sense of courtesy. This last attribute is essential in establishing cordial relations with clients and fellow employees.
During your interview, it is wise to be as relaxed as possible despite a natural tendency to be nervous. Arrive on time, of course, and be well groomed and neatly dressed; otherwise, the appointment may be canceled at the recep-tionist's desk.
If you try too hard to sell yourself, you'll make a poor impression. Allow the employer to form his or her own first impression. After all, he or she knows what kind of administrative assistant is needed and, in addition, may prefer to work with a certain type of person. If you're not what the employer wants, it's better for both of you that another applicant be chosen.
During an interview, the employer may try to see where your attention is focused, asking such questions as how many sick days you used on your previous jobs and how many outside activities you engage in. Previous sick days can and will be checked, so don't lie. If you have many outside inter-ests, mention only those that in some way contribute to your job, such as night courses or professional associations. You don't want to give the im-pression that you're "too busy" to work.
If you receive a job offer, the salary may be less than what you think you're worth. There's often a discrepancy between what we'd like to make and what we can make. Job applicants fresh from school, in particular, may feel this way until they become more familiar with what the market is actually paying. Before refusing a position on the basis of salary alone, first be sure you know what the salaries are for comparable secretarial and administrative assistant positions in your area and for someone with your education and ex-perience. Then find out whether you'll be eligible for a raise after a short period of probation. Finally, consider whether the position has opportunities for increased responsibility and advancement. While it may not seem true to you right now as a job applicant, a big salary is rarely more important than professional satisfaction.
Even if you are already well experienced, once you have a new position, you must be prepared to serve an apprenticeship with your new employer. Your past experience may be useful only in that it has taught you to learn quickly and to evaluate new situations. At your new office, there may be a different method for almost every daily procedure, even for distributing and opening the mail. No doubt, there will be a filing system you haven't used elsewhere. You may be asked to use letter formats, paragraphing, punctuation, and ab-breviations that were vetoed by a previous employer.
You may also discover that your new boss has an extensive vocabulary with many words you'll need to learn, or just the reverse--a poor vocabulary that needs your assistance. Will your new boss wish you to type a letter ex-actly as dictated, or do you have permission to "add to and take from"? Or will the boss furnish only the essentials of what he or she wishes to convey and request that you put the letter together in proper form yourself?
Your need to be flexible extends to the computer system in the new of-fice. You may find many differences between the hardware and software you used in school or at a past job and what you must use now. Even an updated version of the same software package may have a different user interface and functions. You need to familiarize yourself with the new computer and software, even if it means staying after work to read the manual and to experiment.
Stimulated by your brand-new environment and your past experience, you may find yourself coming up with dozens of ideas and suggestions within your first few weeks on the job. When you have a suggestion to offer, remember that it may very well have been made before and rejected for excellent reasons. When one of your ideas is refused, don't take it personally. Soon, after you're more familiar with the company and its operations, you'll be able to make a better suggestion. At the same time, don't be reluctant to give input freely when the boss asks for it.
A new employee's overeagerness to offer advice, recommend changes, and carry over methods from old jobs may just disguise a need to be recog-nized for his or her capability. In this situation, the best way to prove yourself is to do your best, learn quickly, follow instructions accurately and intelligently, and cooperate with fellow employees. Show consideration for others beyond the call of duty. A little extra giving will cost you absolutely nothing and will bring huge dividends in trust and friendship among your coworkers and with your employer.
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