Administrative Assistant

Politician John G. Pollard once said, “Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting somebody else to do the work.” Today, those who “do the work” in offices are usually called administrative assistants. These positions are some of the most commonly available in the business world, and they are excellent springboards for lucrative corporate careers.

What exactly does an administrative assistant do? Essentially, he supports a company’s teams, individuals, or departments by performing a variety of office-related tasks. An administrative assistant may have any or all of the following responsibilities:

  • Reception—greeting visitors, answering phones, and taking messages;
  • Data entry—transferring information from paper to a computer program;
  • Inventory—ensuring adequate office supplies are ordered and maintained;
  • Scheduling—coordinating meetings and other events;
  • Correspondence—preparing e-mails, letters, memos, faxes, and packages;
  • Filing—organizing important papers so staff members have easy access to them;
  • Coordination—resolving day-to-day issues between departments; and
  • Errands—running errands between departments or off-site for staff members.

At smaller companies, an administrative assistant may perform all of those tasks for the entire company. Larger firms usually have more specialized employees, with one administrative assistant in charge of reception while another handles inventory or correspondence. Sometimes, each department or team has its own administrative assistant.

High-ranking executives, famous celebrities, and public figures such as politicians usually have a personal administrative assistant. These individuals perform most of the duties listed above and then some so the boss is free to concentrate on “big picture” tasks. These assistants often handle very sensitive corporate and personal data and usually must sign a contract promising not to share this information with others.

Being an administrative assistant can be highly satisfying, especially if you enjoy providing a supportive role to others. You will need to be familiar with commonly used computer programs. Most employers also prefer administrative assistants to have at least a two-year degree in English or business, especially if the position involves preparing correspondence. Even if you start out doing basic tasks like reception and data entry, taking a few business and English courses on your own may convince your employer to assign you more responsibilities.

Additional duties may make your job more interesting (and even increase your salary), but they can bring more stress and frustration, too. It can be easy for team members to forget that one administrative assistant serves many people and you can quickly become overwhelmed. Especially if a staff member views you as a “corporate lackey” who ought to perform most of his menial, unpleasant office tasks like faxing and mailing. It can be challenging to achieve a healthy balance if you serve multiple employees as an administrative assistant.

The average annual salary for an entry-level administrative assistant position is $25,000. Of course, seasoned assistants in some parts of the country can earn up to $60,000 or more per year. Your salary is closely connected to your experience and responsibilities; a veteran assistant for an information technology team will make more than a new receptionist who just answers phones, for example.

Administrative assistants who earn the highest salaries are those who work for executive leaders and celebrities. In these positions, you may get the added perks of traveling to other countries, attending exclusive social functions, and receiving hefty bonuses, but you may also have to deal with a cranky, stressed boss who takes his frustration out on the most convenient target—you. Your satisfaction and enjoyment in these positions will depend greatly on the temperament and generosity of the person you serve.

In the past, most companies doled out administrative work to secretaries, who served one person and did the same job year after year. Today, however, firms consider an administrative assistant a more sound investment of resources. These versatile employees bring a much broader palate of skills to the job, enabling them to serve everyone successfully.

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