tell us a little about who you are, your current position, and how long you’ve been at it.
my name is catherine. i am an office manager at realmatch, and i’ve been here about 2 months! i have a passion for organization, crafting, event planning, and disney movies. i currently have 3 cats, all rescues, and hope to foster pets someday as well. here are some great career options for cat lovers.
what drove you to choose your career path?
coincidence! my career path started way back in high school when my mom noticed her accountant scrambling in the middle of tax season. she asked them if they needed help, and i went in for an interview. i became an assistant/bookkeeper there and stayed until halfway through college. i then worked at my dad’s law office and an advertising company as an assistant before finally becoming an office manager here at realmatch.
how did you go about getting your job? what kind of education and experience did you need?
i had a bachelor’s degree in media studies—but a college degree isn’t necessary to be an assistant, even though it’s preferred. to become an office manager, i needed at least 2-3 years of experience as an assistant, and i had about 8! i learned something different in each position i held, and it all came together to make me the perfect candidate for realmatch.
what steps do you need to take to start a career as an office manager?
the best way to become an office manager is to begin as an assistant and work your way up. if you need to get your foot in the door, i recommend networking and asking around. get the word out that you are looking for a position as an assistant, and it’s very likely that someone’s mother’s lawyer needs a helping hand at his or her office. a personal connection is always very helpful for getting an interview. luckily, almost every office needs an assistant of some kind. if you want to learn everything about getting a job as an administrative assistant, check out this useful article – job spotlight: administrative assistant.
from there, you can advance to nearly any position because you will be exposed to all the different departments within the company. for me, the natural evolution from being an assistant was to become an office manager, because i enjoyed all the various tasks i was given.
did you need any licenses or certifications?
a college degree is always encouraged. in new york city everyone takes the train, but i can see a driver’s license and car being a requirement in other cities/states because there can be some running around involved with the job.
becoming a notary public can also be helpful. you will become a valuable asset for your bosses if they can go to you for a notarization instead of finding time in their busy day to go out and find one.
what kinds of things do you do beyond what most people see? what do you actually spend the majority of your time doing?
i spend a lot more time thinking and researching things than most people would think. sometimes a thought on how to improve the office will come about and i’ll ponder it, trying to find out if it could work. other times, someone will make a suggestion on how to improve the office or their job, and i’ll take the idea and run with it. i’ll do some research and get in contact with companies to get pricing before bringing it to the managers for their input. usually most decisions come down to budget, so it’s always helpful to have a ballpark on pricing beforehand.
what misconception do people often have about your job?
within the office, people often have the misconception that it’s your job to do everything they don’t want to do. this can range from cleaning up everyone’s mess around the office to tackling their “to do” list items they don’t enjoy. it’s extremely important to speak with your manager and see what he or she expects from you. it can become very easy to get bogged down with menial tasks that are not necessarily required of you. it’s important to set the rules and explain to people what you’re expected to help with and what you can do only if your other required tasks are done.
another misconception that a lot of people have is that the job is really easy and anyone can do it. in actuality, it’s much more complex than people think. the tasks themselves aren’t necessarily difficult—it’s juggling all the tasks at once while staying within budget and being efficient that’s a challenge.
at my last job, i was doing a walkthrough with a rep from a moving company to get a quote, and about four different people approached me with questions while i was speaking to him. i had to politely advise them that i was handling something at the moment while also needing to listen to the rep and remember who needed what so that after the meeting, i could address it. it’s really easy to lose your concentration, so it very important to stay on task and organized.
what are your average work hours?
my current hours are 9am – 6pm. this is probably a typical workday for most office managers, but there may be certain offices that work later or prefer you come in before everyone else. most days i only work the 9 hours, but if a big project comes up, i may have to stay a few extra hours or check my email inbox diligently.
what personal tips and shortcuts have made your job easier?
i strive for efficiency. when things get hectic, i need to be able to get tasks done quickly and accurately. the first step i take is to organize everything within the office. spending a quiet afternoon organizing is definitely worth it in the long run. if someone asks where the staples are, i know exactly where to lead them. in addition, i love to label everything. this way, if someone suspects an item is in a particular closet, they can open the door, look at the labels, and find the item without me.
i also love to use evernote to track my tasks. the software can do so much! i have tons of different to-do lists, both for work and my personal life. if i’m working on something and suddenly “oh yea, i have to pick up the dry cleaning at some point” comes to mind, i’ll quickly switch to my personal to-do list and jot that down. it’s really helpful to clear your mind so that you can focus on the task at hand instead of wondering how you’re going to remember to do that after work. you can also create different notebooks, which i do for events that are coming up. you can paste links, add website snippets, and so much more!
i also find it’s better to get quicker tasks done immediately upon receiving them so i don’t have them in the back of my mind while working or end up forgetting to do them. if i am at a pause point within a big project, i will stop and get a smaller task out of the way. this not only makes my life easier, but it makes the person who requested it really happy!
what do you do differently from your coworkers or peers in the same profession? what do they do instead?
sometimes when people are not monitoring you, or when you help a lot of different departments, it can be easy to fly under the radar with tasks. oftentimes, people love when they can get paid to do as little as possible. for me, i prefer to be busy than to be relaxing—it makes the time pass more quickly! also, the more you do, the more likely you will be to get a promotion or a raise. if your boss asks the other managers within your company what they think about you when it comes to review time, you want to have as many people as possible giving you glowing reviews. if you plan to ask for a promotion, having everyone backing you up and singing your praises can only help you get the job.
what’s the worst part of the job and how do you deal with it?
somehow, my days usually end up being either super quiet or crazy busy. i can have nothing major to do all day, then at the last minute three things come up that need attention right away. or there will be a week when everyone’s on vacation and i struggle to find things to do, but the next week they get back and i become so busy, i have to force myself to take a break to get lunch.
i deal with it by trying to do things ahead of time. if i know i need to prepare for a new hire that won’t be coming for another 2 weeks but i am free now, i will get as much done as possible so that i’m not overwhelmed if a big project comes in the next week. sometimes i’m so efficient that i surprise myself. i’ve had times where i thought “uh oh, i forgot to do this!” only to realize that i completed it the week before in anticipation of the deadline. at those moments, i always smile to myself and think “good job!” and realize that is what others must like about me as well.
what’s the most enjoyable part of the job?
getting to talk to and meet new people. when i was in school, i would get in trouble for chit-chatting with people when i was supposed to be quiet. i love that now i can go over to people when there’s a lull and get to know them. it’s especially helpful for new hires, because they’re usually quiet and shy. it’s great to talk to them and get to know them before everyone else and see how much they grow and all the new friends they make at the office.
what is an unexpected skill an office manager needs to have?
i think having a friendly relationship with the people you work with is important as an office manager. i love to be approachable, this way people know that if they have any questions or concerns, they can come to me. you can find out a lot of information about everyone, ranging from office gossip to their feelings about the environment of the company.
it’s extremely important to use another critical skill, discretion, to decide what to do with this information. is it suspected that two coworkers have started dating, and there is no policy going against it? keep it to yourself. do people reveal they feel overworked and under-appreciated day after day? suggest to management that since people have been working hard, a treat to say “thank you” may be in order. by using your social skills, you can possibly prevent a small issue (like people feeling unappreciated) from becoming a big one (like half a department quitting).
what kind of money can one expect to make at your job? or, what’s an average starting salary?
an office manager’s salary can be between $27k and $100k. since that’s a huge range, it’s really important to take a few factors into effect to determine what is accurate. where you live will usually be the biggest determinant, followed by your experience, the office size, and the industry you’re working in.
if you are curious, check out the expected salary from spotlight: administrative assistant.
how do you “move up” in your field?
the best way to move up is to work hard, always offer to help, and be someone that people can rely on. i also believe owning up to mistakes is always better than trying to hide them. if you offer a solution to your mistake and can fix it, that’s even better.
find a need within your company, and work to fill it. create a list of the steps you’ll need to take to accomplish the goals, and create a timeline. if you have a list of deadlines for the goals you wish to accomplish, it’s much easier to track. when the date you set for yourself comes up, you can ask questions like “am i on track with what i wished to achieve?” if the answer is no, figure out where your plan derailed and to get back on track. when it’s time to evaluate your professional growth, you can show your manager the goals you had and the steps you took to achieve them. always keep notes of your biggest accomplishments. when it is review time a year later, it can become difficult to remember all the things you’ve done!
what do people under/over value about what you do?
i think they undervalue the level of organization required. it takes effort to create a routine to know exactly when to order which items so that you’re not overflowing from the cabinets or bone dry. i feel that most people don’t understand everything an office manager does until they are not around. when i get back from vacation, everyone tells me how they missed me and how much i am appreciated!
as for overvaluing, i find it a bit comical when someone tells me i’m a lifesaver because i told them where the staples are, but i do appreciate their gratitude.
what advice would you give to those aspiring to join your profession?
before creating your resume and applying to jobs, think about the tasks you enjoy doing most. highlight those in your resume and look for jobs that match your skills. take into account the work environment of a company and your personality and try to find something that suits you.
for instance, i love start-ups because they are always changing and conversation is encouraged. i don’t feel that i would thrive in a super corporate environment where my hours must be billable and i had to stay at my desk. above all, always try to keep a positive outlook, no matter what is happening. if you start to feel frustrated, take a breath, step away for a moment, and come back with fresh eyes and a clear mind.