How Administrative Assistant Jobs and Skills Have Changed

By David Cheung May 23, 2017 at 10:43am

Now more than ever, administrative assistants play an integral role in the success of an organization. The main requirements for administrative assistant jobs used to be typing and word processing skills and knowledge of business telephone systems. Today, the responsibilities of administrative assistants have increased enormously, with tasks becoming more varied and complicated. Administrative professionals are highly visible, collaborative team members with a wide range of skills.

Changes in the economy and rapid advancements in technology have altered the nature of administrative assistant jobs over the past 10 years. When companies are forced to make cutbacks, administrative assistants often take on the responsibilities of middle management in addition to their regular tasks. Consequently, the day-to-day duties of administrative professionals have expanded to include things like making purchasing and budgeting decisions, planning company events, and training employees to use software. Administrative assistants also frequently have input into the hiring of new administrative personnel by reviewing resumes and interviewing candidates.

As administrative assistants' responsibilities increase, the skills and attributes that define a top-notch administrative professional expand as well. Here's a look at some of the enhanced skills employers look for today when seeking top talent for administrative assistant jobs.

Stronger communication skills

Now more than ever, employers seek administrative assistants who possess strong verbal and written communication skills. Administrative professionals interact constantly with a broad range of people, including vendors, clients and employees, so it's imperative that they're articulate. The demand for English and French bilingual administrative professionals in Canada has also increased.

Broad technology skills

The workplace has experienced a boom in technology usage over the last decade, and administrative professionals have had to expand their skills to keep up. The roles of administrative assistants have evolved from conquering spreadsheets and memos to include areas such as accounting, payroll and HR applications. Word processing skills are still necessary for administrative assistant jobs, but they're just one piece of a larger skill set. The technology and software skills top-notch administrative professionals should now possess include:

  • Knowledge of design and layout software such as Microsoft Publisher and Adobe Photoshop and InDesign
  • Expertise with web-based tools like Concur for making travel arrangements and keeping track of travel expenses
  • Advanced proficiency with Microsoft Office, including Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint
  • A working knowledge of social media, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, to help companies build their online reputations
  • Familiarity with database management software, such as Microsoft Access and FileMaker Pro
  • Excellent Internet research capabilities

Previous industry experience

Organizations in niche sectors, like healthcare, real estate, manufacturing, or construction, often prefer candidates with an industry background. When you hire within the industry, administrative professionals are often already adept at that industry’s specific software, so they require little or no training. They can also keep up with and contribute to office conversations because they're familiar with industry terminology.

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