How to develop administrative assistant skills

How to develop administrative assistant skills

If you’re applying for administrative assistant jobs, you’ve got a fair bit of competition. According to inc.com, every corporate job opening attracts 250 resumes. Out of those 250, only four or five are called to an interview.

When you’re competing with hundreds of people for a job opening, it makes sense to be the best candidate possible. By adding the skills hiring managers look for to your resume, you should stand out as a highly qualified candidate for administrative assistant positions.

I haven’t just given a generic description of these skills, though. In order to get you maximum results, I’ve listed each skill with why it matters, how you can develop it with specific actions and links to helpful sites. As a bonus, I have included how to copy and paste keywords to describe those skills on your resume.

Organizational skills

Why it matters:

Strong organizational skills make for an indispensable administrative assistant. Bosses depend on their assistants to keep their offices running smoothly and a well organized assistant will likely become irreplaceable. As an administrative assistant, you will need to keep your supervisor’s hectic life in working order, remembering things like where airline tickets are and when critical deadlines are approaching.

How to develop it:

Start by becoming an organized person in your day to day life. Go through your car, your home, and your work space, creating systems for how to keep things on track. Get comfortable with various note taking, calendaring, and task management systems you can use to organize your schedule. If you become an organized person by habit in your every day life, it should make you an organized person at the office.

How to describe it on your resume:

Office management, record keeping, filing, documentation, project management, problem solving, strategic thinking, managing schedules, managing appointments, schedule creation and tracking.

Multitasking

Why it matters:

Administrative assistants often find themselves working on multiple projects at once. An administrative assistant might have to stop in the middle of reorganizing the file room to work on a research project for their boss, and then field several phone calls before returning to the file room project. Being able to clearly focus on several things at once makes for a very valuable employee.

How to develop it:

Whenever you have to stop in the middle of a task, write a note of where you are and what you’ll be doing next. This way, when you come back to your abandoned task, you’ll have a clear reminder of what you had accomplished and what was left to do.

Try and group related tasks together by task batching, so type up a few memos at the same time or return a few phone calls at the same time. It’s much easier to work on several similar types of projects at once than it is to try and focus on completely different things simultaneously.

A great way to get better at multitasking is to practice doing things like having a conversation and writing down something unrelated to the conversation. The more experience your brain has keeping multiple things running at once, the better you’ll be under stress.

Finally, one of the most important multitasking tips is to familiarize yourself with your boss’s priorities. If you know what projects your boss would prefer getting done first, you can appropriately figure out which things need to be juggled and which can wait an hour or two.

How to describe it on your resume:

Balancing multiple responsibilities simultaneously, multitasking, setting project priorities, critical thinking.

Staying calm under stress

Why it matters:

Offices can be extremely stressful places. Hazards can include irritable clients, pushy sales people, bad coworkers, angry bosses, and upcoming deadlines. Being able to stay calm when things get stressful will make you a much better administrative assistant.

How to develop it:

Meditating daily will help make you a calmer person in general. Taking up meditation will also train you to push stress out and focus on your breathing, which is one of the best ways to calm yourself down from being really stressed.

Another way to stay calm is to remember that you can only do so much at once. You’re human and as long as you’re working hard, your boss will see that and appreciate that you cannot do the work of seven people.

Finally, you should take a few minutes out of each hour to stand up, stretch, get some water, and breathe. No matter how busy you are, walking away from the monitor a few times a day will likely have a calming effect on you and make you a more efficient administrative assistant.

How to describe it on your resume:

Works well under pressure, levelheaded, tenacious.

Phone skills

Why it matters:

One of an administrative assistant’s main responsibilities is answering the company phone. Being comfortable talking on the phone and taking detailed messages is something that companies look for in a strong administrative assistant.

How to develop it:

Make yourself a few sheets of paper with templates describing all the information your boss wants on a message so all you have to do is fill in the blanks when someone calls. That template can look something like this:

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Who they were calling for
  • Message
  • Are they asking to set up an appointment?
  • Are they asking for a return call?

Another great and easy tip to improve your phone skills is to smile before you pick up. Even if you aren’t in a good mood, smiling before a phone call will make you sound friendlier to whoever is calling.

Finally, it doesn’t hurt to create a list of people that your boss wants sent through and another list that your boss doesn’t ever want to talk to. If you can use your phone skills to screen out people your boss doesn’t want taking up their time, then that’s only going to make you look better in their eyes.

How to describe it on your resume:

Communication skills, phone skills, interpersonal skills, inquiry resolution.

Computer skills

Why it matters:

Administrative assistants can be responsible for all kinds of things including, but not limited to managing schedules, planning travel itineraries, managing a company’s social media presence, basic invoicing and bookkeeping, updating a company blog, and more. Being computer literate will give you a competitive edge as the administrative assistant rock star your boss is looking for.

How to develop it:

Here are some links to basic tutorials on different skills you might need as an administrative assistant.

  1. WordPress
  2. Excel
  3. Microsoft Word
  4. Facebook
  5. HTML
  6. Power Point
  7. QuickBooks
  8. Google applications
  9. General office management tools and apps

How to describe it on your resume:

Proficient in QuickBooks, social media skills, accounting software skills, knowledge of Google suite, HTML skills, etc.

Typing skills

Why it matters:

Administrative assistants tend to have a lot of responsibilities to accomplish in a short amount of time. The faster and more accurately that you can type, the more projects you can get done and the better administrative assistant you will be.

How to develop it:

We did a tutorial with a lot of great resources on this very subject! Click here for our comprehensive guide on how to increase your typing speed.

How to describe it on your resume:

Typing speed 85 WPM, skilled typist.

Attention to detail

Why it matters:

What sets a good administrative assistant apart from a great one is their attention to detail. Someone who doesn’t need to be told twice not to schedule meetings during their boss’s lunch time, who knows which sales people can be let through and which ones should be blown off, and who can produce flawless invoices and file systems are worth their weight in gold.

How to develop it:

Get used to making lists. The more detailed and comprehensive checklists you have to reference the less likely you will be to forget a crucial instruction for any given task. Additionally, be sure to read those instructions twice before acting on them in case you missed something the first time.

A key part of developing your attention to detail is limiting distractions at work. This includes things like social media, internet comedy sites, texting, and others. It’s almost impossible for a lot of people to never check their phones during the day so I would recommend limiting phone use to your five or ten minute stretch break every hour.

How to describe it on your resume:

Follows precise procedures, proofreading skills, managing inventory checklists, time management skills, active listening skills. If you’re emphasizing attention to detail on your resume, go over it several times to be absolutely sure there are no grammatical errors.


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