Administration is arguably the most common and ‘easiest’ career field that you find many people in. It’s either borne out of choice, an actual lack of choice or out of a misguided conception that it is one of the easiest jobs to do.
Little wonder you hear people say “I can do admin”, ever so often, as if it was like drinking water! A lot of people who claim administration as their forté hardly have the competence and skill required to perform effectively. It is often seen as the easiest job role to ‘slide into’ when one is at crossroads with getting a job within their field. Fortunately, or unfortunately for some, the administrative role has moved quickly from being merely supporting the office operations with minimal tasks to being a role that is strategic to the overall business objective. Organizations are no longer looking for people who are “into admin”, as they say, but for strong administrative professionals who act as strategic partners to the business.
What does the modern Administrative Professional (AP) look like? This role evolved from the role of the secretary. The word “Secretary’ is a generic term, in the business world, for anyone that offers administrative support, organizes information, plans and organizes the office, keeps records, makes appointments, handles correspondence or carries out similar tasks. The picture of secretary that most people have is that of an old-fashioned elderly woman with horn-rimmed spectacles.
That impression/definition has fast-evolved over the years.
According to Forbes Magazine (2012):
“These limiting stereotypes are the very reasons why the word “secretary” lost its currency in the first place. That’s probably why the National Secretaries Association founded in 1942, changed its name to International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) in 2001. Although many workers around the world still hold the ‘secretary’ job title, many alternative titles have become popular such as administrative assistant, executive assistant, office coordinator, administrative specialist, personal assistant, and office manager.”
To put it simply and succinctly, an administrator (as the title may be) is one who just gets things done. He\she is responsible for organizing, coordinating, controlling, fixing… Can be humorously referred to as ‘The Fixer’! The job profile of the administrative professional varies from organization to organization, depending on the type of business, the different parts of the world and their work culture, as well as the unique and peculiar organizational culture within which the job is performed.
The major functions of the AP can be summarized as:
- Managing Schedules: This may include setting up travel, meetings, speaking engagements and other appointments and ensuring that there are no scheduling conflicts.
- Office Management: This involves putting in place all that is needed to ensure smooth functioning of the office, ranging from running and maintaining office supplies, managing vendors, inventory maintenance, smooth operations of the Front Office etc.
- Communication Liaison: The AP manages the flow of information to members of executive teams or leadership. This includes summarizing reports, distributing memos, sorting correspondence etc.
- Information Preparation: This involves preparing and distributing information internally and externally and may include compiling reports, creating presentations, editing, proof-reading etc.
- Records Management: This may involve both setting up and managing filing systems, digitally and otherwise and ensuring that company records are in order.
- Discretion & Confidentiality: This is a crucial responsibility of APs as they often have access to information that is confidential, company trade secrets, employee information etc.
However, organizations are looking beyond the ability to perform these tasks to other crucial competencies and skills that are necessary for building and maintaining their competitive advantage.
The key competencies/skills of ‘The Modern Administrative Professional’ include but are not limited to:
- Being a strategic partner
- Mastery of spelling and grammar skills
- Solid working knowledge of MS Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint and Database Management
- Excellent Communicator
- Organization Skills and Detail-Oriented
- Time Management Guru
- Professional Attitude and Appearance
- Confidentiality and Discretion
- Ability to coordinate video and audio conference calls
- Calendar Management
- Event Planning
- Report Writing Skills
- Proficiency in organizing meetings
- Diplomatic and excellent interpersonal skills
- Multitasking and Meeting Deadlines
- Problem Solving
These competencies set apart one administrative professional from the other.
The future competencies required (and I dare say the future is now!) are:
- Industry/Business Savvy
- Strategic Thinking
- Presentation Skills
- Personal professional branding
- Cross-training and mentoring
- Performance Management
- Leadership Skills
In the next edition, we will explore further the art of being a strategic partner to the business as an Administrative Partner, which is one of the top qualities employers look for. Understanding your job role is key to confidence on the job. Confidence on the job is necessary for high performance standards. The job role is not to be trivialized regardless of the title. And as the competition in the business world gets tougher and stiffer, most job roles will keep expanding and only ‘upgraded’ talents will be able to fit into these roles.
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