10 tips to be the best office assistant
Have you already secured your first OA position and want to know the top skills for kick-starting your professional development? A career in office support has lots of room for growth, but you will need to prove your worth within the organization. So what skill set do you need to cultivate to be a genuinely stand-out office assistant?
1. Do your research
When trying to secure your first entry-level role, you did your research to impress in your interview. When climbing the ladder and looking for more senior roles, take note of the organizations you feel more drawn to. When eyeing up your dream position, analyze what parts of the business’ mission statement you feel most aligned with. Hiring managers are looking for their office assistants to be passionate advocates for their business. Expressing what attracted you to this office assistant job description concisely in your cover letter will help you stand out amongst other applicants. Once they are in the role, great OA’s continue to keep abreast of the latest developments within the company so they can answer any questions from visiting clients!
2. Swot up on your software.
The role of office assistant encompasses a wide range of administrative tasks and a host of supporting software to master. While individual organizations might have specific programs for you to learn, having a general overview of the types of software you might need to use can help you ace any interview. Technology changes and the best administrative assistants work hard to stay on top of the latest trends. But when you are starting out, begin with tackling the most commonly used tools;
- Microsoft Word
- Google Docs
- Google Drive
- Google Sheets
- Google Forms
- Google Calendar
- Google Meet
- Microsoft Teams
3. Hone your communication skills.
Strong written and verbal communication skills are perhaps the most vital ingredient to becoming an accomplished office assistant. Whether you are meeting in person or over phone calls, companies trust you to be the first impression their client has of the business. They need the peace of mind that their OA will have the interpersonal skills to handle every interaction professionally. But office assistants are busy people! You will be wearing lots of hats and juggling an extensive to-do list at any given time. To succeed as an OA, you need to hone this soft skill so you can get your point across succinctly and politely in all contexts.
4. Let your personality shine.
Being a friendly face is an essential part of being a successful office assistant. Not only are you there to greet visitors and make a great first impression, but you are also there to create a supportive office environment for your colleagues. Team members are more likely to discuss their issues with an OA who adopts a kind and open approach. Don’t be afraid to get to know your fellow employees in the break room. You might be able to nip a problem in the bud over a casual coffee! Being an approachable ear for colleagues isn’t the only way the relationships you build as an OA can serve the business. Having a friendly attitude with suppliers can reap preferential rates or a speedier level of service!
5. Prove you are an excellent problem-solver.
If you enjoy a challenge and love having a job where no two days are the same, you are likely thriving as an office assistant! Problem-solving skills are key for OA’s who need to think on their feet to resolve office management issues without being micromanaged. The role of office assistant also requires an element of flexibility. The most successful OA’s are team players with a positive attitude who are content taking on new tasks as they arise. Terrific office assistants not only handle problems in real-time, they also try to negate them wherever possible. Whether it’s keeping coffee supplies well-stocked or flagging potential scheduling issues, employers appreciate an office assistant with a proactive approach.
6. Brush up on organization.
Exceptional organizational skills are a must for any office assistant. In handling your time and responsibilities, you will need to have an organized approach to everything you do. As an OA, you are also responsible for the organization of the physical office and other team members. You will be an administrative assistant for various departments, and each task might require a new process. For example, there might be varying filing systems between teams, or certain executives might have different preferences for their travel arrangements. The best office assistants can rise to these organizational challenges, keep abreast of expectations, and deliver a personalized level of administrative support.
7. Tackle your time management.
As an office assistant, your workload will be a constant juggle between day-to-day and longer time-sensitive tasks. It’s a fine line to walk. If you get too bogged down in a data entry project, you could overlook ordering office supplies. Miss the data entry deadline, and you anger your boss. Miss out on delivery dates for equipment, and you have to handle frustrated colleagues. Developing top time management skills ensures you meet deadlines while not neglecting your other ongoing responsibilities. The best office assistants learn that saying yes to everyone can do more harm than good. It’s better to set realistic deadlines than burn yourself or let people down trying to achieve the impossible. Managing expectations with your co-workers is an important skill and a more sustainable way to cement yourself as a vital team member.
8. Pay attention to the details.
A critical part of having top-notch organizational skills is noticing the details. As an office assistant, you will have access to many sensitive aspects of the business. From being the first person potential clients meet to writing up minutes from top-level meetings. The best office assistants take pride in their work and apply a level of perfectionism to everything they do. Even simple steps like proofreading all emails can help avoid any issues and hit the right tone with clients and colleagues alike. But not only can great attention to detail save the company from costly mistakes, it can also help secure new business. Think back to a time when you visited an office. How did it feel when the assistant had to ask three times if you took milk in your coffee or, even worse, almost instantly forgot who you came to see! Paying attention to these details will help you impress your employers and make you stand out as an exceptional OA.
9. Trust your intuition.
As an office assistant, you will likely sit outside the typical management silos. You may even report directly to a senior executive. When filling an office assistant position, employers are looking for a candidate who is confident working independently. Executives won’t have time to sign off on every decision, so an OA needs to use their initiative to solve as many issues as they can themselves. The role of office assistants also comes with significant responsibility. OA’s will often be given a budget for office equipment and will need to manage this themselves throughout the year. As we have seen, employers want an assistant who takes a proactive approach. If your instinct says you need to flag something to management, you need to allow them plenty of time to respond. No boss will be pleased with an OA who is reactive and needs lots of last-minute support with issues they should have seen coming.
10. Collect solid references.
When fulfilling your duties as an admin assistant, you will be privy to sensitive information. So when starting your job search for a more senior position, it’s crucial to demonstrate that you are a trustworthy employee. Having a couple of solid references from your former employers can show you have been a respected team member in other organizations. Keeping up good relationships with colleagues past and present is a good habit to maintain, as you never know when you might need someone to vouch for your previous work experience. You can even start curating references on social media. Ask current and past co-workers to give you a recommendation on your LinkedIn profile, but be sure to reciprocate the favor!