Administrative Support: How to Get Ahead in Your Career

Are you pursuing a career in administrative support? In order to get ahead, you need a firm understanding of the industry, starting with knowledge about the meaning and definition of the role. Administrative work relates to the organization and task management needed for a business to operate effectively and efficiently. These positions involve a high level of detail, including bookkeeping, scheduling, and process documentation. Keep reading to learn more about the job description of an administrative support specialist, including support skills needed, resume best practices, a typical administrative assistant salary, and how being an office administrator differs from other administrative work.

Administrative Support Job Description

Although administrative support job descriptions vary from position to position, there are some general responsibilities that are common amongst administrative professionals. Below you’ll find administrative support examples related to the typical job description.

A typical business administration job description involves support for managers and other employees, but changes depending on the industry. Consider an administrative assistant job description sample from a law office. In the field of law, the administrative support job description might include that the employee has impeccable organizational abilities, experience in law or as a paralegal, and strong communications skills. The employee would probably also want the employee to assist with key operations within the law firm, including handling processes related to the acquisition of new clients.

In general, administrative professionals are responsible for managing phone calls, answering emails, scheduling appointments, making travel arrangements, and more. Administrative support jobs typically involve helping the executive team and business as a whole stay organized, all the while ensuring documentation is being handled correctly.

If you’re wondering if if “administrative support specialist” is just a better title for executive assistant, the technical answer is no. Administrative support professionals usually manage office operations while executive assistants usually report to one or more executive. However, employers sometimes use the titles interchangeably. Either way, business admin roles are in high demand in the United States. Whether you’re looking at an EA role or an operations administrative job description, the responsibilities continue to expand.

Administrative Support Responsibilities

Given that many businesses across most industries need administrative support, job descriptions can vary greatly. Most employers will post an administrative assistant duties and responsibilities list to give candidates a better feel for the role. Below you’ll find a number of administrative tasks examples, which will give you a more concrete administrative work definition.

General Administrative Roles and Responsibilities

Here is a list of administrative duties that you might find aligned to an administrative position:

  • Manage and document office processes
  • File and generate financial reports
  • Develop presentations
  • Schedule executive meetings
  • Order office supplies
  • Manage incoming and outbound office mail
  • Print, fax, and file key documents
  • Manage travel arrangements
  • Answer and screen phone calls
  • Conduct research for the business and/or industry
  • Manage executive email

Administrative functions and responsibilities vary from industry to industry and from position to position, so it’s best to conduct research regarding the specific industry you’re interested in to get a better sense of the admin work responsibility.

Administrative Support Skills

If interested in administrative work, then there are many administrative assistant qualifications you should consider obtaining in order to raise your chances of landing a job. Specialized administrative assistant skills are in high demand, so the more administrative skills you have, the better off you will be in the field. Here is a list of the typical admin support skills needed to excel in the support profession.

  • Technologically-advanced
  • Exceptional verbal and written communication
  • Proper phone and email etiquette
  • Able to handle high-stress situations
  • Impeccable organizational skills
  • Able to multi-task
  • Time management skills
  • Detail-oriented
  • Able to problem-solve
  • Resourcefulness
  • Able to anticipate needs

These general administrative skills are needed for just about any support position. You must be the backbone for the business and have confidence in handling many different tasks simultaneously.

How to Improve Administrative Skills

If you’re trying to obtain or improve on the skills needed to excel as an administrative officer, there are many resources out there that can help (Base included). Try to speak with current or formal administrative professionals, or take classes and participate in workshops related to this type of work.

Resume Best Practices

Looking for administrative assistant resume tips? Want to learn from the best administrative assistant resume examples? If you want to excel in the administrative field, crafting a professional resume that highlights your best attributes is very important. Here are a few administrative support resume best practices.

  • Keep it simple and straightforward
  • Focus on the experiences most similar to the role you’re applying for
  • Reference the job description and include relevant qualifications
  • Include links to relevant online profiles like LinkedIn or your professional portfolio.
  • State key skills you have that relate to the position
  • Include relevant educational achievements and qualifications
  • Mention previous positions and include bullet points for job responsibilities

While you want to depict a compelling view of your career and background, keep your resume short and sweet. Your administrative assistant job description resume should highlight important aspects of your background, but should not be more than two pages. Focus on the aspects of your career that you think the hiring manager will find compelling enough to push you through to the next round.

Salary Negotiation

If you’re new to the administrative profession, you’re likely wondering what you can expect in terms of an administrative assistant salary. Below, Base has gathered some helpful information related to the administrative coordinator salary. You’ll find tips for negotiating as well as an explanation of how the salaries varies depending on a number of important factors.

Expectations

According to Glassdoor, the typical administrative support salary is $43,261 per year. However, the salary varies greatly depending on experience, education, and industry.

Negotiation Tips

Consider the following tips to negotiate a higher administrative support specialist salary:

  • Do your research on the typical administrative salary for the region and industry you’re applying to a position in.
  • Know your worth and have an idea of the salary you require before going into the interview.
  • Show documentation of your past contributions in previous positions.
  • Understand that there will likely be pushback. Ask for a slightly higher salary than where you truly want to land.
  • Remain polite and professional at all times.

Negotiating higher pay can be very difficult and uncomfortable, but it’s important to ensure that you get the salary you deserve.

Consider the Variables

The truth of the matter is that there are many factors that impact what your administrative support salary per hour could be. These factors include:

  • Your past experience
  • Title of the position
  • Region of the position
  • Responsibilities of the position
  • Industry of the position
  • Success and size of the business

With how much these positions vary in terms of responsibilities and required experience, the pay can fluctuate dramatically. Be sure to consider the variables before entering into a salary negotiation.

Office Administration

When considering a career opportunity in the area of office administration, it’s important to understand how an office assistant job description varies from an administrative support specialist. While the job responsibilities may overlap, the key difference is that an office administration position is more focused on duties related to office tasks and processes. Office admin roles often put emphasis on:

  • Answering company phone calls
  • Manage incoming and outbound office mail
  • Responding to general inquiries (usually associated with an “info” email address)
  • Coordinating conference rooms and large, in-person meetings
  • Documenting office processes and procedures
  • Ordering and maintaining office supplies and equipment

Although these positions can be very similar, an office administration role is typically more focused on office duties rather than the whole realm of business operations.

Now you’ve had an in-depth introduction to the administrative support profession, you should have the confidence to enter this job market with ease. Although administrative positions can be competitive, doing your research can give you the upper hand. If you want to stay up-to-date on administrative best practices and continue advancing your career, be sure to join Base’s community! We are modernizing the administrative support industry.

How to Become an Administrative Assistant with No Experience

Administrative assistants are essential parts of day-to-day operations in many companies — they work schedules like puzzles, act as a conduit between the boss(es) and everyone trying to gain access to the boss(es), plan events, communicate initiatives to the broader office, take care of the nitty gritty of documentation, and keep the logistical ship in order so that everything runs smoothly.

Often an entry level position, the administrative assistant position can lead to a career in operations or project management. It’s also a good way to get a taste of an industry that interests you. If you’re a champion multi-tasker, so organized your life is practically color-coded, and a good communicator, you’ve got all the skills you need to own this job. No experience? No problem. Here’s how to land yourself in the role.

First, understand what characterstics employers look for in an administrative assistant:

1. Attention to detail and organization

Most of the coordination work of an office, be it purchasing supplies, searching for event vendors, or handling a schedule, falls to administrative assistants, so what employers are really looking for is a master organizer who never makes mistakes.

Prove you’ve got this by turning in a typo-free resume and cover letter that highlights any experience you have turning chaos into order.
2. Reliability and self-sufficiency

Being an excellent administrative assistant means gaining trust — and that starts with showing up reliably, always being available to help when you’re needed, and not having to be managed closely, since your main responsibility is taming the chaos of the office, not adding to it.

Start to demonstrate your reliability by showing up on time to interviews, and by responding quickly to communication from your potential employer.
3. Team-player and multi-tasker

Alongside a slate of responsibilities that necessitates working with people across an office, administrative assistants are often the gatekeepers for the people they serve — in some cases, anyone who wants to interact with the boss must first get through the assistant.

If you’re a proven multi-tasker thanks to another job or internship you’ve completed, call it out on your resume and in your cover letter. If you’re good at managing or working with difficult personalities, highlight that skill.
4. A sense of urgency

You’re going to face a lot of situations that need to be dealt with immediately. The best administrative assistants are so on top of what they’re doing that they anticipate hiccups — and that’s because they have a driving sense of urgency. If anything in your work experience demonstrates your ability to perform under pressure, be sure to highlight it.
5. Good communications skills

Assistants are often responsible for a lot of office-wide communication, and may be responsible for answering incoming calls or responding to some customer emails. How well you communicate in these situations reflects directly on your boss.

You’ll need to be able to write articulately and speak firmly and confidently. Your cover letter is a great place to showcase the former; the latter should come out in an interview.
Then, learn the basics:

1. Take a basic typing course

If you didn’t take typing in school, you’ll need to brush up your skills so that you can quickly respond to emails, edit documents, and take notes. There are a number of free typing courses available online.
2. Consider an accounting or bookkeeping course

Put these classes on your resume, and you’ll signal that you’re serious about the daily tasks that are part and parcel with many administrative assistant positions. Land the job, and the courses will help you do your job well.
3. Get your GED — or better yet, a college degree.

Although not required in all administrative assistant roles, having a GED or high school diploma and some college work under your belt will move your resume higher in the pile. Completing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree goes a bit further than ticking a box — it shows you stuck through something to completion, and signals you have at least a basic ability to manage projects, work in teams, and communicate.

Now, land the job:

1. Network

Pick an industry you like, and start expanding your network in it: tap your friends for contacts, work your school’s alumni connections, and reach out on sites like LinkedIn. Be clear about what type of position you’re looking for, and ask for advice in achieving that goal.
2. Search for entry-level administrative assistant positions

Many administrative assistant positions are entry-level.
3. Take an internship

If you’re still in college or just out, landing an internship is a good stepping stone to an administrative assistant position. It gives you a chance to prove you’re organized, good at communicating, and good at working under pressure, which sets you up to slip into a full-time role when the internship ends, or when a position becomes available.
4. Temp

Temping is a great way to gain experience in the duties of an administrative assistant, while also getting your foot in the door at several companies. And good temps often get full-time offers — so be sure to make a good impression.
5. Start in a receptionist role

If you’re not having luck landing entry-level administrative assistant roles, look for receptionist jobs — good receptionists often have many of the same skills as administrative assistants, but the barrier to entry tends to be a little lower (as is the pay). Hone your communications and organization skills and work toward a promotion, or parlay that experience into your desired role at a new company.

Defining What Your Administrative Support Really Means

I’ve supported numerous supervisors, managers, vice presidents, and CEOs throughout my career (herein referred to as “executives”).  I feel very fortunate that the majority of those executives treated me as a respected member of their teams but not all did. At the time, I didn’t think consciously about what I was doing that created the environment for partnerships to grow.  But now that the tables have turned and I have a team of administrative professionals supporting me, I’ve become acutely aware of exactly what is involved in defining and building a partnership with your support team and how vitally important it is to develop a strong partnership with the executive(s) and team(s) you support.  Let me share from a very personal perspective of someone who has provided executive support and someone who is now being supported by a fantastic team of administrative professionals how to begin the process of forging a strong partnership with your executive.

Let’s begin by defining the word SUPPORT.  Here are a few definitions of SUPPORT from Webster’s Dictionary:

  • to endure bravely or quietly: bear
  • to promote the interests or cause of
  • to uphold or defend as valid or right: advocate
  • assist, help
  • to act with (a star actor)
  • to keep from fainting, yielding, or losing courage: comfort
  • to keep (something) going

When you break it down into specific bullet points, supporting your executive is a BIG job.  But you’ll notice these elements of support aren’t all clerical, they’re much more significant than that.  When you begin to realize the full impact your non-clerical support has on your executive, your role takes on a whole new importance and a stronger partnership begins to develop with your executive.

Clerical support isn’t enough

Typing, filing, order supplies, answering phones, and proofing documents are all important things we do to support our executive(s).  Your role as an administrative professional goes much deeper, though.  How do you keep your executive going?  How do you encourage your executive when he or she gets discouraged?  How do you celebrate when your executive has achieved a goal?  Do you even know what your executive’s professional goals are?  We tend to expect our executives to pay attention to our professional growth and development, but are we leading by example and showing a true interest in theirs as well?  How do you protect or promote their interests? These are all things worth spending some time thinking about.  I like the visual analogy of my executive being the star actor and me being one of his all star supporting cast members.  Do I measure up in the supporting star role?

Professional, yet meaningful, ways to show your support

Not every personality type is comfortable sharing information or emotions (excitement, joy, sorrow, disappointment, fear, etc.) in the same way.  I strongly encourage you to find a way that you are comfortable with and show your support regularly in a professional, yet meaningful, way.  I’m not a highly emotional, touchy, feely type, but here are some things I have done to show support for my executives:

  • Leave a simple hand written card in their inbox or mail it directly to their home (people love real mail)
  • Send a quick e-mail with the subject line of “Just a quick note…” and share gratitude or excitement about something that just happened (capture the emotion you’re experiencing while it’s fresh)
  • Buy a bag of their favorite candy or sweet treats to stock their office with (hiding it in their office drawer as an unexpected surprise is fun, too)
  • During garden season, bring in fresh tomatoes for my tomato-loving executive
  • At Thanksgiving time, bake an extra pecan pie for my pecan-loving executive
  • Buy a book on a topic I know they’re interested in or a topic that I want them to know more about
  • Bring in a bunch of fresh flowers for my desk and their desk (It’s a proven fact that fresh flowers in the workplace boost productivity and stimulate more innovative thinking – it’s a WIN – WIN!)

I even had one executive who loved bread and butter pickles.  One year when I made pickles, I saved a jar especially for him.  He LOVED it!  So you get the idea. It doesn’t have to be uncomfortable or highly emotional to demonstrate your non-clerical support.  It just needs to be sincere and thoughtful.

Taking advantage of day to day events to show your support

After your boss finishes presenting at a big meeting or conference, do you check in with them to see how it went?  Do you say “congratulations” to your boss?  Do you ask how could we have improved it?  What changes do we need to make for next time? Use these opportunities to capture valuable information you will need when you help him get ready for the next big meeting.  This shows your interest, involvement, and proactive thinking.

On my way back from a conference I was speaking at recently, I received a call in the airport from one of my awesome admins who was calling to check in to see how things had turned out.  The thing about this that really made me feel fabulous was she was on vacation herself but she made time to call me anyway.  Her show of support meant the world to me.

Encourage your executive

Every executive needs encouragement: title doesn’t matter. It’s our responsibility as administrative professionals to pay attention and provide that positive encouragement when it’s needed. It may be as simple as a handwritten note on a post-it (or in an e-mail) attached to the final draft of a presentation you just finished editing that your boss is about to review: “Just one more review and you’ll be ready to knock their socks off!”  This is a little thing that can have big impact on someone’s entire outlook.

Some days just having someone nearby who smiles, remains upbeat, and acknowledges that it’s been a tough day is all that’s necessary.  There were many days that I only exchanged an acknowledging smile with my executives as they were flying by my desk in and out of meetings, but the smile was all that was needed.

Your loyalty matters

In corporate America, there are a lot of people in competition with one another for job titles, for customer accounts, for promotions and more. In the current economic climate, your executive is probably being pulled and stretched in ways she never has been before.  Knowing that her admin is standing right there with her helping her meet those new challenges, opportunities, and pressures is very reassuring.

In a personal letter from General George Washington to Joseph Reed, his secretary and personal assistant during the Revolutionary War, Washington wrote:

“It is absolutely necessary…to have persons that can think for me as well as execute orders.”

That’s a tall order, but administrative professionals who provide complete support for their executives become an extension of their executive.  We’re all human.  No matter where we’re at on our career path, we all need the support of others to help us stay on course.  When you demonstrate that you’re actively engaged and tuned in to what’s going on around you above and beyond the clerical tasks that your job involves, the partnership with your executive will strengthen.

Administrative Assistant

A person responsible for providing various kinds of administrative assistance is called the Administrative Assistant (Admin Assistant) or also sometimes an Administrative Support Specialist

Job duties
Admin assistants perform clerical duties in nearly every industry. Some administrative assistants, like those in the legal industry, may be more specialized than others. Most administrative assistant duties revolve around managing and distributing information within an office. This generally includes answering phones, taking memos and maintaining files. Administrative assistants may also be in charge of sending and receiving correspondence, as well as greeting clients and customers.[4]

Bookkeeping

Admin assistants in some offices may be charged with monitoring and recording expenditures. Duties may range from creating spreadsheets to reporting expenses to an office manager. As such, some administrative assistants may be required to be knowledgeable in office bookkeeping software, such as Microsoft Excel.

Planning and scheduling

Planning events like board meetings and luncheons may also be the responsibility of admin assistants. This may require researching vendor prices or inquiring about participants’ availability. Other duties may include scheduling appointments and preparing presentation materials.

Documentation

Admin assistants may also help office members with documentation. Aside from storing, organizing and managing files, assistants may need to type, edit and proofread documents. Some assistants may need to take dictation or record the minutes of meetings.

Specialized job duties
Administrative assistants in some fields may be required to have extensive professional knowledge. Accordingly, duties for these assistants may be more specialized. For example, legal administrative assistants may need to have a thorough understanding of legal terminology and procedures, while medical assistants may need to be well versed in dealing with insurance companies and reading medical reports.

In this perspective they are also referred as the Administrative Support Specialists.

Employment outlook and salary information
Average employment growth of 12% was expected for secretaries and administrative assistants, from 2012-2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). General secretaries and administrative assistants, not serving as legal, medical or executive secretaries, earned an annual median wage in 2018 of $52,840, according to the BLS.

Providing customer service
Managing inventory of assets and supplies, sourcing for suppliers (vendors) and submitting invoices
Scheduling and coordinating meetings and presentations, interviews, events and other similar activities*Sending out and receiving mail and packages
Sending faxes and emails
Managing documents and files
Sending and receiving documents for the company
Answering the phone
Assisting in various daily operations
Operating a range of office machines such as photocopiers and computers
Greeting guests and visitors

Employer expectations
Employers look for workers with knowledge, combination of skills, personal traits, and attitudes. They include:

Well-organized
Courteous
Reliable
Strong work ethic
Productivity
Professionalism
Problem-solving and critical thinking skills
Good technical, interpersonal and communication skills
Customer focus
Discretion
Multitasking ability
Teamwork and collaboration skills[5]
Time Management

 

Administrative Jobs: Options, Job Titles, and Descriptions

Because administration is such a broad category, there are many different administrative job titles. Some of these titles, like “administrative assistant” and “program administrator,” refer to jobs with very similar duties. However, some job titles describe very different types of jobs.

Administrative work can encompass a wide variety of duties. Administrative workers are those who provide support to a company. This support might include general office management, answering phones, speaking with clients, assisting an employer, clerical work (including maintaining records and entering data), or a variety of other tasks.

Read below for an extensive list of administrative job titles, and what each title means. Use this list when searching for a job in administrative work.

You might also use this list to encourage your employer to change the title of your position to better fit your responsibilities.

Common Administrative Job Titles
Below is a list of common administrative job titles organized by job type. Read below for a description of each job type. For more information about each job type, check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Administrative Assistants and Secretaries: Secretaries and administrative assistants perform a variety of administrative and clerical duties. They might answer phones and support customers, organize files, prepare documents, and schedule appointments. Some companies use the terms “secretaries” and “administrative assistants” interchangeably. However, administrative assistants often have a higher degree of responsibility. Along with doing the work of a secretary, they might also be involved in organizing meetings and conferences, performing bookkeeping tasks, and even managing the office budget.

Administrative Assistant
Administrative Coordinator
Administrative Director
Administrative Manager
Administrative Services Manager
Administrative Services Officer
Administrative Specialist
Administrative Support Manager
Administrative Support Supervisor
Administrator
Assistant Director
Executive Assistant
Executive Services Administrator
Human Resources Administrator
Legal Secretary
Medical Secretary
Program Administrator
Program Manager
Secretary
Senior Administrative Coordinator
Senior Administrative Services Officer

Senior Executive Assistant
Senior Special Events Coordinator
Senior Support Assistant
Senior Support Specialist
Special Events Coordinator
Special Programs Coordinator

Bill and Account Collectors: Bill and account collectors help manage and maintain the finances of a company. They receive payments, record financial information, and arrange for payment of overdue bills. They often help debtors find solutions for paying their overdue bills. They might also perform other related clerical duties.

Account Collector
Bill Collector
Billing Coordinator
Financial Clerks: This job type includes bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks. These clerks produce and maintain financial records for companies. There are also financial clerks who perform less specified duties, such as carrying out financial transactions and helping customers. These clerks typically require a high school diploma, while bookkeepers, accountants, and auditing clerks require some postsecondary education. They often need at least some coursework or experience in accounting.

Accounting Clerk
Auditing Clerk
Bookkeeper
Credit Clerk
Financial Clerk
Office Manager
Office Support Manager
Office Support Supervisor
Senior Administrative Analyst
General Office Clerks: General office clerks perform a variety of administrative tasks. They might answer telephones, file records, type and maintain documents, and assist clients. They might also do some basic bookkeeping and financial transactions.

Billing Clerk
Contract Administrator
File Clerk
General Office Clerk
Office Clerk
Staff Assistant
Typist
Word Processor
Information Clerks: Information clerks perform a variety of clerical duties. They often gather information to help the company. This might involve searching databases, retrieving files, or maintaining records. They typically need at least some coursework or experience with spreadsheet computer programs.

Data Entry
Information Clerk
Records Management Analyst
Support Assistant
Support Specialist
Mail Clerks: Postal service clerks receive, sort, and deliver mail. The may also assist customers either on the phone or in person.

Mail Clerk
Mail Clerk Leader
Material Recording Clerks: Material recording clerks track product information. They ensure proper shipment of items, track shipments, and maintain inventory. They might do some of their data recording in an office but often spend time tracking inventory in the company’s warehouse.

Facility Manager
Material Recording Clerk
Senior Coordinator
Receptionists: Receptionists perform a variety of administrative tasks. They are often the first point of contact for clients and customers. They answer phones, greet customers, and answer questions about the organization.

Client Relations Manager
Office Assistant
Receptionist
Virtual Assistant
Virtual Receptionist