The job description of a clerical worker is never stable. Sometimes, it seems admin workers get every job that's left after management and the consultants finish their work. New office technology drives this clerical generalization even further until there's no such thing as a typical office worker's job. From scheduling appointments to resolving miscommunications between departments, and from taking the minutes of weekly meetings to fetching the coffee for an executive, the office professional faces a demanding and unpredictable set of imperatives that new workplace technology is as likely to complicate as it is to simplify. Here are three items of office technology that you're going to have to know in 2014 if you're to have any hope of keeping up.
One of the nice things about being a clerical worker in the Information Age is that more and more of the work you do can be handled from home. Indeed, more than a few clerical professionals have become fully independent freelancers and now do their work remotely, for clients, rather than reporting to traditional offices. Even for office workers, new communication systems are becoming as common as any other form of office technology. Skype is foremost among these for its ability to connect people from all over the world, face-to-face or by voice alone, without the need to maintain expensive phone networks. Whether you're a freelancer negotiating your rate for outsourced office work or an in-house administrative manager, much of what you do will involve talking, and increasingly more of that talking will be via Skype or a similar service.
A large part of the clerical professional's job involves data. From appointments to visitor logs, much administrative work revolves around keeping track of information and pressing it into useful shapes for company planners. To this end, it's a good idea to acquaint yourself with one or more relational database programs. While there's hardly a secretary or an administrative assistant in the world who doesn't know Excel, office technology has far surpassed the simple spreadsheet, and a working familiarity with SQL Server, Oracle, or an in-house proprietary database will set you apart from average office workers.
More and more, workplace technology is finding applications outside of the office environment. This is why so many office workers today are finding themselves called on to telecommute or to do at least some of their work from home. Familiarity with mobile accounting apps, time-tracking apps, and the tablets they're designed to run on are quickly becoming must-have skills of office workers across the country. Being able to arrive at work in the morning with appointments already scheduled and the day's tasks already planned gives you the edge in attracting positive attention from management.
In the past, mastering office technology was largely a matter of learning how to replace toner cartridges and keep the ribbon on the typewriter. Today's office technology has slipped these primitive moorings and is finding a new berth in your tablet, home office, and smartphone. Keeping up with the latest office technology isn't optional,—the new skills you need to stay on top will make you indispensable to your employer throughout your career.
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