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Administrative assistants generally work in an office setting. These people are usually employed to be aides to one or more senior administrators or company officials. Administrative assistant work can be found in an array of industries, from real estate to website development. Their duties often include a combination of clerical tasks, specialized tasks, and personal tasks.
The skills needed by an administrative assistant can greatly vary. This is because each employer’s needs may be very different. This is true even within a single industry. Administrative assistant work at one printing company may not involve all of the tasks or skills as the work at another company. For this reason, disclosure and assessment of responsibilities are often a determining factor during the interview process, even when it is clear that a person has experience in the field.
Almost all administrative assistant work will include some type of clerical duties. It is rare, if not impossible, to find such a position where computer skills are not necessary. The required extent of those computer skills may be limited to basic spreadsheet, word processing, and Internet capabilities. In some cases, a person may be required to be highly advanced in these areas and she may need to have experience with less common programs, such as accounting software.
The range of specialized knowledge that may be required are both industry and company specific. At a website development company, for example, administrative assistant work may require some knowledge of programming and web design. A real estate company, however, may require a person to have competency in areas such as real estate law and geography.
Since many professionals are often busy, the lines between an administrative assistant and a personal assistant can become blurred. Administrative assistant work commonly includes performing personal tasks for others, such as scheduling activities or rejecting invitations that are not directly associated with work. Such jobs can involve menial tasks such as ordering and obtaining lunch or sending and receiving private deliveries.
Within some companies, there are differing levels of administrative assistants. Some may be better qualified, better paid, and have more significant titles than the others. This often happens when the required workload is more than one person can handle. It is also found within companies that are advocates of the separation of certain duties, such as accounts receivable and accounts payable. In these cases, administrative assistant work may be expressly defined or a senior administrator may delegate duties as she sees fit.
I think when you're looking at administrative assistant employment and what kind of position might be a good fit for you, you should think about two main things: what fields interest you, and what kind of environment you want to work in.
If you love kids, you might like to be a school secretary. But would you be comfortable working in a busy, bustling environment with a lot of people and parents coming through? If not, a small private school might be a better fit than a big public one (though public schools will always have better benefits).
Times are tight, but try to find a job that suits you on at least one level. Maybe you love a big, bustling office, but think the idea of accounting sounds terribly boring - a job at a tiny accounting firm would probably make you unhappy, but if it's a big office like you like, you might be able to make it work for you.