What are Some Important Administrative Assistant Skills?

Julie Shenkman
Posted by in Administrative & Clerical Services

Today's administrative assistant is the backbone of any company, and as such, needs to be adept at a variety of tasks. As the instability of the economy causes many businesses to cut back on staff, the role of the administrative assistant becomes even more complex. Certain skills are crucial to successfully navigating today's business world as an administrative assistant.

One of the most important skills an administrative assistant can possess is communication abilities. Typically, an administrative assistant is the first point of contact for clients, vendors and other outside agencies; he takes and relays messages, screens phone calls, greets visitors and helps clients and customers with their questions and concerns. The administrative assistant must be patient, understanding, and willing to listen and explain, so top-notch communication skills are absolutely necessary.

A good administrative assistant must be able to keep his workload organized. An assistant's list of duties is never complete, and multitasking is the norm. The assistant must be able to prioritize and keep track of every task in order to relieve the pressure on executives and managers.

Time management is another essential skill for administrative assistants. He must be punctual to work and meetings and know how to divide his time in order to get the most done each day. The assistant must also be able to work through constant distractions since emails and phone calls may occur all day long.

Any great administrative assistant must be dependable and very trustworthy. Because of the high degree of responsibility typically placed on an assistant's shoulders, he must be willing to go above and beyond in certain situations, even if it means coming in early or staying late to complete a project. The assistant should also be able to get work done in a timely and efficient manner without much supervision or direction. Also, administrative assistants are usually privy to highly confidential information, such as business documents, contracts and financial information. The assistant must be able to maintain full confidentiality and avoid personal gossip with co-workers.

Flexibility is another important skill for administrative assistants. The assistant does not have the luxury of having a "typical day" in the office, which can be both exciting and challenging. No two days are alike, and urgent requests or crises crop up routinely. A good administrative assistant handles last-minute situations with ease and grace, not allowing them to derail the entire workday. The assistant should be able to handle emergencies with urgency and speed, and then get right back to scheduled tasks.

Often, administrative assistants are considered merely support positions. However, whether the title is Administrative Assistant, Executive Assistant, Front Desk Clerk or Office Manager, the skills and expertise required to do a great job must be exceptional, especially in today's increasingly challenging workplace.


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  • Lenora M.
    Lenora M.

    Being very well mannered and not hot headed!

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    So very true ladies. As Admins we are required to deal with difficult coworkers while retaining a positive, upbeat attitude. We are required to problem solve, multitask and to fill several different roles. What an exciting role we have as AAs. We learn so much more in this position than we would in any other position. I loved working as an AA as each day brought a new/different challenge!

  • Victoria R.
    Victoria R.

    Difficult personalities, Problem solving, To adapt to a variety of tasks, Positive attitude.

  • Janet B.
    Janet B.

    Multi-Tasking, knowledge, communication, typing, accuracy, prob

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Beth yes these are very important. Working as a team is one of the top things that employers look for. They need to know that you will be able to get along well with others - especially in an AA position. Most people don't think about leadership when it comes to an AA but then, when people need help, who do they go to? Yes, the AA. Being a self-starter goes without saying. You wouldn't get the position if you weren't a self-starter. In an AA position, no one is going to lead you by the hand. You have to hit the ground running and learn as you go! At least that was my experience and I loved it!


    work as team; leadership; selfstarter

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Peggy thanks for your comments. Yes, as always, it is a two-way street. As an AA we have to ask for what we want. We have to give respect to receive it. I worked as an EA for several years and absolutely loved my job, the company and my boss. I learned quickly that if I didn't ask, then I was out of luck. My boss respected me more because I didn't sit on my thumbs and hope for something; I went after it. As we all should. Best of luck.

  • Peggy M.
    Peggy M.

    While the times have changed many old boy management types have not and unfortunately do not reward their AA's as they should. A pat on the back is sufficient, but don't ask them to give of their money. Keep talking, sometimes it takes more than one discussion. While I believe and am very active in the daily task of my BM, it is still up to the BM to be sure to share his needs and priorities with me. They are adults and should act accordingly, they grew out of their bibs a long time ago. The guessing game of what he may need and the waste of time that occurs when they don't communicate could be put to better use. Like any good relationship, it takes two to tango and the only way an admin can be exceptional is if the person they work for is exceptional and supportive. I'm lucky, my BM is exceptional and we work closely as a team. I feel for those who I know who do not have this kind of relationship. People like myself that actually love doing what I do need to also make sure to not settle. Do your best, have a great attitude, not for anybody else, but for yourself so you can have a great day and leave knowing you've accomplished the task at hand. And, if the opportunity arises to move upward and forward, take it and feel no regrets. You can take ownership in knowing that you did your job well.

  • JOHN G.
    JOHN G.

    The good salary is the one you negotiate for, because the job has not change as far as expectations are concern. Attitude is everything in this type of job.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Deborah, I have asked myself that question many times. I am not sure why AA's are paid at a lower rate than other staff while they perform twice the work. Could just be a hold over from the past. But I have to say that the salary level for AA's has risen considerably in the past ten years. If you are considering a position as an administrative assistant, then you need to negotiate for a salary that is equivalent to your skills. You may not get exactly what you are looking for but you could come close. Things won't change until we change them.

  • Deborah G.
    Deborah G.

    With these job requirements, why are we generally paid so poorly? Certainly not in keeping with other staff.

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