Role of the Administrative Assistant
Oftentimes in my staffing firm candidates will ask “What exactly does an administrative assistant do?”
I am sure I cannot do justice to those who work in the field, but let me share some thoughts.
First, the term administrative assistant took its root in Latin: administratio, “to give service.” The profession of administrative assistant (and in some firms called executive assistant) has come to be relied on heavily by top executives. An administrative assistant helps and keeps their offices as well the executive they are assisting organized. Oftentimes the administrative assistant is the liaison between internal staff, outsiders, and the executive they work with.
The role of an administrative assistant takes on many forms. This often has to do with the size of the organization and the level of the executive they work for. These are some typical functions of an administrative assistant:
- Answer, screen, and take phone messages
- Compose and type correspondences
- Handle itineraries and travel arrangements
- Track expense reports
- Calendar management
- Organize meetings between staff and executives
In many cases, administrative assistants also create PowerPoint presentations and use advanced functions of Excel for tracking and analyzing data.
Many companies today look for administrative assistants to be either a college graduate or have some college credits. Many firms will give their potential assistants assessments before they will even interview them. These can include software testing (i.e., MS Word, Excel, and PowerPoint), grammar, and spelling.
In addition to having strong people skills, administrative assistants must be able to multi-task, have strong detail and time-management skills, and have excellent writing and oral skills. Other necessary strong traits include:
- Ability to work well under pressure
- Even keeled
- Strong organizational skills
- Social media literate
- Knowledge of PDA devices
Many times I interview candidates who have never worked as an administrative assistant but feel based on prior accomplishments an administrative assistant job will be easy and something they can do.
This is not true. Just because I’ve dissected a frog doesn’t make me a surgeon. There are reasons top administrative assistants are in high demand. It is not easy to day in and day out do what an administrative assistant does. Because companies have downsized over the last few years, today’s assistants are handling more and more responsibilities. Some get involved with office management, others with human resources functions. Just because one sees a high salary doesn’t qualify the candidate to be a successful administrative assistant.
I applaud all administrative assistants who work in the field. I’m happy that every April there is one day that becomes Administrative Assistants Day (also known as Secretaries Day). Let’s remember to thank the assistants who are in the trenches every day making their executive’s days better because they are on the top of their game.