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The complete guide to office management

What does an office assistant do?

Do you enjoy speaking to a variety of people? Would you like to support a range of teams in hitting their goals? Would you like a job where no two days are the same? If the answer to these questions is yes, then the role of office assistant could be a great fit. According to Indeed, the average salary for an office assistant is $15.42 an hour, which equates to approximately $32,000 per annum. 

Depending on the size of the organization, an office assistant role is generally considered an entry-level position. However, in larger companies, the job might come with more responsibility and an hourly wage of up to $30. Plus, as you gain experience, there may be scope to expand your duties and move into an office manager role in some organizations. 

But what is an office assistant, and how does their job differ from other positions like executive or administrative assistant? Read on for more details on the duties and responsibilities of this position, plus the pathways to landing your first job as an office assistant! 

What does an office assistant do? 

The primary function of office assistants is to help businesses to keep their workspace running smoothly. While an office assistant will provide administrative support such as diary management and coordinating travel schedules, their role differs slightly from that of a virtual assistant or executive secretary. 

Their role is predominantly an operational one, supporting the company to provide a functioning office setting for their business. It’s safe to say no two days as an office assistant will be the same! However, some typical responsibilities can include; 

Typical office assistant duties:

  • Maintaining office supplies and liaising with vendors. 
  • Keeping communal spaces in good order throughout the day. 
  • Greeting visitors and answering phone calls when needed. 
  • Proofreading and distributing materials like agendas and minutes. 
  • Note-taking in meetings. 
  • Managing any general business email inboxes, ensuring communications reach the necessary departments. 
  • Assisting with travel arrangements. 
  • Scheduling appointments and managing diaries for executives. 
  • Coordinating office events when needed. 
  • Helping with any bookkeeping, data entry, and general administrative tasks required. 
  • Assisting new starters with getting settled and with any office equipment issues. 

What skills do you need as an office assistant? 

As we have seen, being an office assistant has a wide range of responsibilities. So what competencies and soft skills are needed to be successful in this role? Below you will find a rundown of the most important abilities you will need to possess as an office assistant. 

To check out our comprehensive list of qualities to cultivate if you want to be the best office assistant, please follow the link here. 

To be flexible.

As an office assistant, your role is relatively flexible and encompasses a variety of different duties. A good OA is a team player with a can-do attitude who is willing to take on tasks as and when they crop up to help the business run smoothly. 

As an office assistant, there will be few tasks beyond your remit. So if you prefer to have a more defined list of responsibilities, this might not be the role for you. Time management is another vital skill for office assistants who will need to juggle their varied workload to handle issues in real-time while ensuring they still hit their deadlines for time-sensitive projects. 

To have excellent communication skills. 

Having solid interpersonal skills in both verbal and written contexts is the key to success as an OA. In the office, you are the first face clients or potential hires will encounter. Your interactions will set the tone as they check out whether the company is a good fit for them. The same applies to any communications over email or telephone. 

As an office assistant, you are the first port of call and impression of the business. Plus, using communication skills to develop strong relationships with office equipment suppliers can secure your company a better level of service or even a discount or two. Employers need to trust that every time you greet a visitor or answer phones, you will approach each interaction with the utmost professionalism. 

To be able to work independently.

When hiring an office assistant, executives look for someone who doesn’t require lots of supervision and is happy to manage their schedule and workload. Office assistants need to be proactive, spotting any potential issues and tackling them independently. No boss, or fellow employee, is going to appreciate an OA checking in to see if they can order more coffee when the office is almost down to its last cup! 

Businesses are searching for a candidate with initiative who is confident about problem-solving within time and budget constraints. This is perhaps one of the most important aspects of being a successful office assistant. Ultimately you are there to remove tasks from other team members’ to-do lists, not create more with lots of questions! 

To be detail-oriented.

As an OA, you will need to have exceptional organizational skills. On top of managing your schedule and to-do list, you will also need to possess excellent attention to detail. You will be handling a range of documents, from important internal memos to correspondences with clients. Having a perfectionist mindset and double-checking your work can help avoid embarrassing and potentially costly mistakes. 

To be technologically savvy.

As well as general word processing and computer skills, you will need to demonstrate knowledge of the differing software for the various clerical tasks you will have to undertake. Technology shifts all the time, and you may find organizations are using replacements for many of the programs in the traditional Microsoft Office suite. 

For example, you might find companies prefer to use Canva over Powerpoint or have replaced Excel with Google Sheets. While each company might have individual preferences, understanding the different programs and platforms OA’s generally use is handy. You can find a complete list of various tools you might encounter in an interview here. 

What qualifications are needed to be an office assistant?

The role of office assistant encompasses many responsibilities and requires a range of skills. While some office assistants will have a bachelor’s degree, a college education is not necessarily a prerequisite. As a minimum, businesses will be looking for applicants to have a high school diploma or GED. 

When weighing up candidates for an office assistant position, experience and proven administrative skills are more likely to be a determining factor than a formal qualification. However, it can be considered a bonus to have a clean driving license depending on the company you are applying to. 

How do you secure your first office assistant job? 

If being an office assistant sounds like an appealing next step when starting your job search and crafting your cover letter, it’s worth reflecting on your previous employment. Has any of your former work experience given you experience that could be relevant to a position as an office assistant? 

Maybe you developed customer service skills or have examples of times you had to think on your feet from a previous retail role? Perhaps you have developed strong organizational skills while volunteering at a local nonprofit? Whatever your background, it’s worth mentioning any relevant skills you have acquired to set yourself ahead of other applicants. 

Another way to stand out is to obtain some certifications. LinkedIn and specific computer software providers offer candidates the opportunity to test their proficiency with particular programs such as excel or skills like data entry. If you pass, you can gain certificates that you can add to your application. Plus, investing in short courses like first aid training or fire marshaling can help your application shine. 

When looking through any office assistant job description, try to identify a feature of that business that draws your interest. Showing you are passionate about the company straight off the bat in your cover letter will go a long way to help secure an interview. 

Working as an office assistant can be a gratifying role. You get to support a business and its employees in creating a great work environment. You will have the chance to meet new people and will have variety in your work. OA’s are respected team members and enjoy benefits like healthcare, and there is lots of room for career development. 

After a few years of experience in a smaller organization, you can work your way up to roles with increasing responsibility. Plus, depending on the company, if you need to have more flexibility for childcare, there might also be an opportunity to scale down from a full-time to a part-time position. If you would like to know more about becoming a successful office assistant, check our top tips here