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A Day In The Life Of An Administrative Assistant: What An Administrative Assistant Does, Day–In and Day–Out, and What You Can Learn To Improve Your Administrative Skills

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Administrative assistants get a bum rap. Many people may think administrative assistants push papers and answer phones, and little else. But as one experienced administrative assistant tells us, there is a lot more involved in working as an administrative assistant. Read on to learn the many responsibilities administrative assistants have and what you can do to increase your administrative skills.

Administrative Assistants—Misunderstood and Underappreciated

When imagining an administrative assistant's job duties, most people may envision someone making copies, answering phones, and faxing documents. Indeed, when I worked as an administrative assistant, I made copies, answered phones, and faxed documents. But then again, I was 16, working part-time, and it was my first paid job I ever had. Administrative assistants in reality have many more responsibilities, put on and change hats numerous times a day, and can be thought of as the oil that keeps the wheels of an organization spinning.

The Real Story of Working As An Administrative Assistant—Straight From the Administrative Assistant's Mouth

Diane Montgomery has been an administrative assistant for six years. She's currently working at a satellite office for a high profile financial institution. When I asked her what she does every day, she gave me a funny look and said, ''Do you have a couple of hours?''

Administrative assistants, Montgomery tells me, have to do the grunt work for entire offices, even entire organizations. Senior partners, associates, even other administrative personnel, assign projects, tasks, and assignments to administrative assistants every day, and this is on top of their normal job duties.

''When I come into work everyday, I have a set schedule and list of what needs to be done,'' explained Montgomery. ''But my day never goes as planned thanks to partners and senior associates. They give me assignments all day long, so I have to find time to do them, plus my daily tasks.''

Administrative assistants are generally given a set list of tasks and assignments. For instance, a medical administrative assistant may be required set appointments, maintain patient files, and handle insurance matters. However, administrative assistants are routinely assigned tasks throughout the day, which they must then schedule and complete in the midst of their regular duties.

Montgomery begins her day by checking her email. As the central point of contact for her office, and for offices around the country, she gets several hundred a day. She then gets started on her daily tasks, which are assigned by different people throughout the company. In the course of her day, she also answers the company phone, which rings non-stop during business hours.

''I can get so distracted when the phone rings. Sometimes I have to deal with irate customers or vendors. It's nerve-wracking, especially when the entire company decides not to take calls. You can only transfer the same pesky client to voicemail so many times,'' said Montgomery.

Montgomery also acts as the central point of contact for the entire company. And she personally supports at least 20 people. She gets asked to do the most mundane things, like print out a document.

''People are clueless when it comes to doing basic things so you have to do it for them, said Montgomery. ''It makes me laugh to know such an accomplished person can be so helpless.''

She is also responsible for several projects that can take weeks or months to complete.

In other words, administrative assistants do anything and everything that is thrown at them.

How to Improve Your Administrative Skills

I asked Montgomery what advice she would give to entry-level administrative assistants or even senior administrative assistants.

''Be a sponge and absorb everything that you can,'' responded Montgomery with no hesitation. She urges administrative assistants to listen to and learn from the people around them. ''The best way to learn new skills as an administrative assistant is to simply keep your eyes and ears open.''

Montgomery feels that the more you come to know, the better of an asset you are to the company.


The job of an administrative assistant may be considered easy. But when one takes into consideration the volume of assignments administrative assistants are responsible for, along with the various personnel they support, then one can appreciate how crucial administrative assistants are to a successful company.
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