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Climbing the Office Support Ladder

In all types of office support jobs, it’s important to have great organizational and communication skills. But each rung of the office support ladder requires added comfort with certain skills and abilities, and some cases require professionals to acquire new skills altogether. “The key to becoming successful in any office support position is to always strive to go beyond your black and white list of responsibilities,” says Emily B. Kaplan, Staffing Manager of The Execu|Search Group’s Office Support temporary staffing division. “For example, both Receptionists and Administrative Assistants answer phones, but Receptionists transfer calls and Administrative Assistants take messages on behalf of specific people, so each of these roles requires different skills. A successful Receptionist looking to move up will be aware of that and strive to acquire those skills to advance.”

So which skills should you pick up? It all depends on where you are and where you want to go! Here are some of the most common skills that Jesse Siegal, Managing Director of The Execu|Search Group’s Office Support and Human Resources divisions, suggests you acquire in order to land a job as a Receptionist, advance from Receptionist to Administrative Assistant, and advance from Administrative Assistant to Executive Assistant:

Receptionist

A Receptionist looking to make a strong impression on coworkers and superiors must have basic office support skills in addition to any particular skills a position might require. He or she must be organized and computer proficient to facilitate filing, data entry, and any organizational tasks required. Specifically, experience or familiarity with Microsoft Office tools such as Excel is often required to perform well. The Receptionist will have to be customer service-oriented and professional in demeanor both on the phone and in person as, in most cases, he or she will be doing a good deal of phone work and meet-and-greets. Some in-demand skills for Receptionists include:

  • Experience handling a multi-line switchboard
  • VoIP phone experience
  • Strong Outlook Skills, especially with Calendar and Meeting functions to schedule/coordinate management meetings

Receptionists usually work largely with clients and visitors, rather than executives themselves. However, in order to move up to an Administrative Assistant, you’ll eventually need to become comfortable working on a more personal level with your higher-ups.

Administrative Assistant

When working as an Administrative Assistant, you’ll have to be more familiar with your superiors, intuitive to what they need, and able to anticipate their needs and availability. This is a kind of extra sense that separates Administrative Assistants from Receptionists and takes their duties to the next level. Administrative Assistants coordinate a lot of scheduling, and as a result, require a more advanced proficiency with Outlook than Receptionists do. They also often need more advanced Excel skills and a shrewder eye for detail to minimize the potential for mistakes. If seeking an Administrative Assistant job, you should consider picking up these skills:

  • Thorough understanding of the Microsoft Office suite
  • Understanding Google Enterprise, Gmail, and Google Docs
  • Project management experience and examples of where you have independently and successfully managed a project, as well as the results

Professionals looking to advance from Administrative Assistant to Executive Assistant will need to make the extra effort to expand their skillset, especially in written correspondence. This is  because, while they will still be working in person and on phones, there is usually a greater output of emails and written documents requiring sharp writing skills and a professional tone. In many cases, the Executive Assistant will be responsible for writing a good deal on behalf of his or her superiors, and will have to be confident enough to do so.

Executive Assistant

Confidence should be a key part of an Executive Assistant’s demeanor, as he or she will be supporting high-level executives. The sense of urgency required for an Administrative Assistant is often increased tenfold for Executive Assistants, as executives are extremely busy and need assistance in keeping their schedule in check. This means having the confidence and the time management skills to organize meetings, arrange a schedule, and keep these appointments as often as possible—even if it means interrupting an important meeting to pull your superior to the side.

This of course requires masterful organizational skills and an utmost professional attitude, as well as even further mastery of the computer programs required of Receptionists and Administrative Assistants. An Executive Assistant will often have to be a pro at manipulating Outlook in a quick and efficient manner to organize entire schedules of meetings and appointments in a timely manner, as well as be in possession of:

  • A list of contacts within the industry
  • Ability to schedule/manage complex travel arrangements/itinerary
  • Strong working knowledge of Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and in some cases, Flash and HTML

Though many of the skills and duties required of these three positions are the same, they increase in importance and required skill level as you move up the ladder. In addition, Administrative and Executive Assistants will often have to make themselves more familiar with the industry and their supervisors’ work as they move up. For a list of specific requirements by job, you can check out the Office Support jobs that we currently have available!

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