How to Do Your Job Properly as an Administrative Assistant



Does everyone aim to do his or her job properly? Not really. Put it this way, whether a person does or does not matters little to a large percentage of the population, just as long as that paycheck arrives at the end of the week or fortnight.

So, why should anyone be concerned with doing the job properly? Apart from the fact that the feeling of satisfaction is uplifting, a job well done is always noticed, commented on, and more likely to lead to progression and promotions.


What makes for an average administrative assistant?

The qualities that make for an average administrative assistant are usually the same ones that make for an average anything: teacher, lawyer, or even physician.

There are people who actually endorse mediocrity, who actively discourage people from standing out at all from the crowd. They not only reckon you do not need to show passion and/or excitement for your job but feel it is better if you do not.

Do not be like them. The reason you should be excited about your job, or the possibility of getting one you are applying for, is because you do not want to live your life just getting by!

So, how do we define an average administrative assistant? It is someone who exhibits the following characteristics:

  • makes little or no extra effort;
  • does the bare minimum to get by and not get fired;
  • grumbles and groans about every extra task assigned;
  • thinks the business/management world should adapt to her or him, not the other way around;
  • indicates the only reason he or she keeps the job is to earn enough money to pay the rent and buy food.
Always remember, you are elevating yourself by caring about your job or career. After all, it is your life. Do you really want to live a life, both in a professional and personal sense, that is forever ruled by the norm, passionless and steeped in mediocrity?

If it is your goal to be average, then do not make that extra effort, just continue along doing the minimum possible to get by. Do not bother to educate yourself further and just go with the flow! However, do not complain when you are passed by!

What makes for a good administrative assistant?

A quality you will always find in a good administrative assistant is the willingness to learn and go those few extra steps to get the job done to a superior standard. It is someone who cares about the organization and her or his boss and accordingly is willing to put the effort in to see that things run smoothly.

It is very important, whatever type of employer you work for, to learn as much about the business or organization as you possibly can. This learning process should never stop. This is one of the most important things, if not the most important, that a good administrative assistant will take to heart.

Even if the duties you currently have are very strictly outlined and routine, it does not matter if you care about your future and the organization. If you do not care, you should not remain there, for everyone's sake. You still should do your very best to discover how the business is managed and run, how clients or customers are fostered, and how any products or services are produced or provided.

So what makes for a good administrative assistant? It is someone who does the following:

  • makes that little bit of extra effort;
  • does more than the bare minimum to get by;
  • always is prepared to extend a hand to help his or her co-workers;
  • does not gossip about colleagues or grumble about every extra task assigned;
  • thinks it is his or her responsibility to adapt to the organization, rather than expecting the organization to adapt;
  • works in a particular organization in order to contribute to the welfare of the organization along with benefiting herself or himself.

You may not see any immediate necessity to do any of this, but as we do not know what the future holds, we should always strive to do the best we can. Imagine the impact if you were to be called on in an emergency to assist and performed better than expected?

Also, if worst came to worst, and your efforts were not appreciated at one place of employment, you would then be fully prepared for your next career step.

A good administrative assistant is one who goes that extra mile, who thinks ahead and prepares accordingly, and is competent at a number of tasks. A good administrative assistant also does not leave work on the dot at the end of the day when needed, particularly in an emergency.

What makes for an excellent administrative assistant?

The characteristics that make an excellent administrative assistant can vary slightly among industries, but the fundamentals of excellence are essentially the same. Excellent administrative assistants are people who are continually assessing and upgrading their skills, whether or not they need those skills at the current time.

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Administrative Assistant course?
Excellent administrative assistants make sure they maintain their skills, even menial ones, at an excellence level in office-related areas such as keyboarding, maintaining filing systems, mail handling, scheduling appointments, maintaining efficient communication systems throughout the organization, and using and maintaining office equipment.
Administrative assistants that aspire to levels of excellence are not content to be simply computer literate; they persevere until they are computer savvy!
Excellent administrative assistants are people who truly are first-rate at the following:
  • - time management;
  • - never losing sight of any particular task and scheduling accordingly;
  • - handling disorganized bosses;
  • - juggling multiple bosses;
  • - being prepared for emergencies;
  • - looking at ways to improve processes and systems and boosting productivity, and not just their own;
  • - tactfully saying no to the boss when it is necessary and warranted.

Of course, there are many more we could add to this list, but you, as another excellent administrative assistant, will be able to compile your own unique list.

Excellent administrative assistants never ever stop learning , even when they feel confident they are very good at most things they do. They are always continually trying to get better and better at increasing their value in the workplace.

Sometimes familiarity can turn into contempt in the workplace.
In many westernized countries around the world, it is not unheard of for city-based office workers to report to work wearing shorts or jeans. Supposedly this was originally allowed or even encouraged on certain days of the week to foster a more relaxed and efficient atmosphere in the workplace. The relaxing of dress codes in many offices has been a good thing, with many people feeling somewhat more comfortable or confident in more informal clothes while still performing professionally and more efficiently than ever.

However, many of us have come to increasingly feel tired of informality and inappropriate familiarity in behavior. Studies done by Oxford University have recently shown that the chatty language often used by call-center staff is increasingly irritating to prospective customers, in particular a total stranger using another person's first name. Of course, this comes down to the way the staff have been trained, in what we could term that "Have a nice day," American style of chat, a style that does not play well at all with the more formal European and even the fairly informal Australian.

The tip is for all staff to be aware of the culture of the people they deal with. The use of the word "culture" here is not meant to signify so much the country or continent that people may have originally come from but more the customs and society of their business background and surroundings.
The decline of formality in the office is undeniable. In a lot of cases, this is a good thing, such as in the case of overly strict dress codes; but informal behavior can and does cause problems. The new generation of employees is much less formal in every way, inside and outside of the workplace. Many expect employers to move with the times and accept them as they are rather than the employee doing the adapting.
The trick is to be able to maintain a friendly work atmosphere without becoming overly familiar. A sense of camaraderie in the workplace is to be desired, whereas over-familiarity will usually result in poor working relationships and a lessening of efficiency and professionalism in the office.
Be on Top of Daily Routines

Naturally enough, an administrative assistant's office conditions and setup will vary depending to a degree on where and how the employer is set up; for example, how large the organization is, where it operates from, and what general activity the business carries out.

Your employer may even work from home as an entrepreneur or in some other small office setup. He or she may be a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer. Your employing organization may be in sales, operating in one state or several. It may even be an international operation.

Your actual office may be either very close to the core of the business or far removed. You can appreciate the variations you might be looking at. Adding more variations to the mix, and any or all of these factors may change over time as the company does.

Wherever your actual working space or office is located, you absolutely must be on top of your daily routines. It is a necessity if you are to retain your position, let alone make a success of it and progress onwards and upwards.

Your Office or Workstation
"Workstation" is a rather ghastly expression, but it is universally understood in a minimalist sense, so we will use it here.

The location of workstations or offices impinges to some degree on how effectively tasks are performed. The first aspect to consider is how is it located physically within the entire office setup? Is there any reason it is there? Does the office traffic wind around it or through it? Is the atmosphere around you noisy or distracting in some way?

You should analyze not only the traffic patterns around your workspace but the atmosphere generally. Does the placement of your workstation unnecessarily encourage droppers-by? How far away from required equipment is it situated? For example, it should be near the copier, the fax machine, and very importantly, of course, the filing cabinets and your boss's actual office.

The big question: Is there a more efficient way to organize not only your work area but the whole office work area? Okay, you may not have any real input into or influence over the physical organization of the office as a whole, or even the physical placement of your own workstation. But you certainly would have influence and say over the actual organization of your own immediate work environment. This refers to such things as your desk, chairs, files, bookshelves, possibly a credenza, and any other portable items immediately around you. You would be absolutely amazed at what a simple "de-clutter" effort will do.

You can and should arrange these items to suit your own work habits and the traffic patterns of yourself, your colleagues, boss, and any clients.
The Boss's Office

Many administrative assistants will work for bosses who want their assistants to come into their offices to straighten up, organize, or even dust, while others would literally have a fit if you dared to invade their sacred space. In other words, they regard their privacy and that of the office as sacrosanct!

People may say to you that you will learn your new boss's preferences soon enough; do not concern yourself unduly about things like that. It is best, however, not to wait until you simply find out; take the trouble to find out for yourself. Maybe even come right out and ask!

Some employers demand that you open even mail marked "Personal and Confidential' and become angry if you do not. Some bosses may never open a filing drawer in their entire career and others may have a phobia about dusting.

One very important thing to find out quickly from your boss is his or her thoughts on removing paper or documents from the personal desk. Remember, discretion is necessary at all times. Also, what may look like a mess to you, requiring urgent tidying up, may be entirely understandable to the boss. You may encounter an employer who not only has stacks of documents on the desk but in piles, on the floor, all around, which looks absolutely horrific. Sometimes these people, if asked for any document at any time, can put their hand right on it. It is the boss's office. If that system works for the boss, it does not matter that you are horrified by it.

Sometimes, as an administrative assistant, it is not yours to wonder why but just to appreciate the nuances of the situation and work with them.

Time Management

"Just as a well-run business follows a budget in spending money, an effective businessperson should also follow a budget (or schedule) in spending time."(

The fact of the matter is that you cannot really manage time. There is only so much: 24 hours per day, seven days per week. The thing you manage is yourself!

In theory, everyone has equal time available. It is just that some people seem to have a lot more time available to them.

An absolutely essential skill for any good administrative assistant is an ability to not only manage your time but organize yourself in such a way that you, and your boss get the most out of your time, in both a qualitative and quantitative sense.

For ease of explanation, we will use the term "time management," but do keep in mind, in the truest sense, that we are really talking about managing you via managing your time.

Time management is a subject that could easily take up this entire course. It could take up a series of courses, as a matter of fact, and a large number of books as well. However, that does not mean you should throw your arms up in horror and give up because the whole idea of time management sounds overwhelming because it is not.

Anyone who wants to can implement the skill and develop it over time. You simply need to keep in mind that the key aspect of time management revolves around a change in focus. You begin by ceasing to concentrate on time and learning to concentrate on the desired end result.

We have all known people who are busy throughout their day but when they get to the end of it, they have achieved little if anything at all. You most likely have heard mention of the "80/20 Rule," otherwise known as the Pareto Principle, which simply states that about 80 percent of unfocused effort generates only about 20 percent of the end results, and that is if you are lucky.

Time management principles help you optimize the two most important items to you and your business career: your time and energy.

Some of the time management factors that you, as an administrative assistant, may need to implement would include:

  • controlling procrastination;
  • maintaining an activity list;
  • creating action plans;
  • establishing and keeping to a to-do list;
  • scheduling, and this is where your time management plans become a reality.

VIP TIP: One of the best books of all time about relating to managing and improving yourself would have to be The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, by Stephen R. Covey. Many of you have read it; if so, re-read it! If you have not read it yet, buy a copy as soon as you can and do so.

Special Business and/or Financial Information You Need to Master

It may seem rather bizarre to you but certain definitions would rate organizations with up to 1,500 employees as small businesses. Even in what may be considered fairly large businesses, you may end up performing tasks you would not have thought you would be asked to perform.

For example, the company may be of such a size it has no payroll department, let alone an accounts department. The company may not have a purchasing department, either. In other words, the company may have few human resources. So who often performs these tasks? You get one guess: the administrative assistant. Naturally, that means you!

Do not let this situation frighten you. As with anything else that may appear overwhelming, you take a breath and start one step at a time. The first step may be searching the Internet.

The variety of answers you can find to a wide range of questions on the Internet is amazing. Let us take a quick look at a few answers to a few of the questions that a boss may come up with.

1. How do you go about registering or re-registering the company's name? Renewing is easier if you can lay your hands on previous documents, but if you cannot or it is a new registration, simply contact the county clerk where the business is located.
2. How can you obtain business tax information?
For state tax, write to the Comptroller of Public Accounts. For federal information, contact the Internal Revenue Service.That Web address is