Office and Admin

10 Ways to be a Great Admin Assistant

Written by Peter Jones

As a personal or administrative assistant, yours is one of the most important (and undervalued) components of a successful operation. Here are 10 ways to be a great admin assistant and get noticed for all the amazing, crucial work you do.

1. Show core competence

This covers the basics. You should be solid on everything from basic office and organization skills, necessary software, all word processing programs, database creation and management, communication skills, phone manner, spelling, grammar, punctuation, scheduling, payroll, budgeting, report generating, basic accounting, supply ordering, etc., etc. Think of this as your absolute minimum as far as skills and expertise go, then build on it, rather than thinking of it as a rudimentary checklist. You want all these boxes ticked, and well, before you can feel comfortable calling yourself good at your job. Then build on them and get even better and more competent.

2. Communicate

This is an absolutely key and crucial skill for assistants. Don’t just be good at it—be great at it. That’s where your bar should be set. Whether you’re speaking to clients or your boss’s boss on the phone, be personable, charming, and precise. Smile, even when you don’t mean it, and even when no one can see. They’ll be able to hear it in your demeanor and it can make all the difference. Be a pleasure to speak with on the phone and in person. Be someone people are relieved to go to when they have a problem that needs fixing.

3. Dot your ‘i’s

Organization and attention to detail are two skills probably already on your resume—and everybody else’s! You must make these the keystones of your entire job outlook. Pay attention. Be meticulous. Find a system that is efficient, common sense based, and works for you. Be the best-oiled machine possible. When you’ve reached optimum efficiency, try and make it even better.

4. Manage your time

Another skill everyone likes to tout on their resumes. But you must absolutely own this one. Half the time you won’t just be managing your time, but your boss’s time. Or the company’s. You’ll have to manage all of this while also managing yourself and your projects and deadlines. Become a master juggler. Know when you can add another log to the fire and when you have to delegate or decline.

5. Know your industry

It’s not enough to know your office inside and out. If you’re not thinking past your immediate workspace and your company, you’re only ever going to be an administrative assistant. A lot of industry-specific stuff you can learn on the job. Just make sure you learn fast. Pay attention. Ask questions. Bone up in your free time. After week two, you should be the one answering the questions. After another few weeks, be good enough to be a resource to your boss—rather than the other way around.

6. Hone your tools

Depending on what your particular toolbox contains, you’ll learn very quickly what you need to know. Whether it’s Quicken or Excel, take a training course, and gain Jedi ninja skills that make you a wizard at that tool. There will come a time when your wealth of extra knowledge saves the day.

7. Be a consummate professional

Don’t just dress nicely for work and be professional. Dress consistently and perfectly for what you’re doing and who you’re working with. Look good—the more professional you look, the more respect you’ll gain without having to do much at all. And be absolutely steadfast in your commitment to being a professional. This reputation for trustworthiness and respectability will only help you as you go.

8. Be trustworthy

Whether you’re dealing with twisty office politics or having to mediate concerns between coworkers or you’re just plain listening to people air their troubles, be a vault. Don’t speak ill of anyone behind their back. Earn people’s trust. Maintain integrity and dignity. And always handle confidential documents, matters, and conversations with the utmost of tact. Be a vault. The trust of your colleagues and superiors is a valuable thing to have.

9. Cultivate good judgment

Use all those skills from your undergraduate philosophy class. Hone your reason and critical thinking skills. Learn how to think through problems, and anticipate complications and needs. Become deft at knowing how to delegate, and whom to ask for help. And learn to do it without a lot of direction from above. Your boss will thank you for putting out so many fires on your own.

10. Be a team player

This sounds cheesy, but it really is a must. Pinch in when you can. Do the job everyone else is batting around like a hot potato. And do it with a smile on your face. You’ll have a bunch of favors you can call in in a pinch. Plus, you’ll impress your boss with your initiative. Try to never utter the words “but that’s not my job.”

About the author

Peter Jones