30 July 2008
The Future of the Administrative Profession: Where do I Think We Are Headed?
As a secretary I typed letters, answered the phone and did the filing. As an administrative assistant I manage my boss's practice so he can do his job. I draft letters, schedule his time, set reminders for deadlines, bring forward items, make travel arrangements, make some business decisions, arrange conferences, manage client relations and some bookkeeping. An administrative assistant can be indispensible to an executive. An executive assistant does this and more, including taking minutes and organizing board meetings.
Where do I think the secretarial profession is headed? The role of the secretary/assistant has always followed the needs of management. With the advances in technology, management's role is changing and ours most certainly will follow suit.
New executives are computer savvy and are comfortable on a keyboard. They also rely on their wireless hand-held device for access to their e-mail account and voicemail. Why hire an assistant? With the pressure to be available 24/7 however these new working habits are not sustainable without help. As they try to juggle the role of doing their job and the administrative part of the work as well, that makes for a heavy workload that could easily be handled by the administrative assistant.
But how can we help?
The up and coming assistant will need to be knowledgeable and skilled in what they do and assertive in doing it. Their role will be to assist and manage executives to become the best they can be. A good assistant should be able to free the executive up to pursue their expertise and not be burdened down with the day-to-day running of an office.
In the past the Administrative Assistant was the face and voice of the organization to anyone who called or visited the office. An assistant would often be the professional gatekeeper as to who gets in to see the boss and how quickly they get to speak to them on the phone. No longer are people only going through the assistant to contact the boss, many times they are going directly to the boss through the wireless hand-held device.Some professionals out of necessity have given their assistant access to their Inbox so the assistant can screen messages and weed out what they do not need to look at, or things that the assistant can handle on their behalf.
It is becoming increasingly important to read e-mails thoroughly to look for action items or dates that need to be put in the bosses' calendar and handling requests for information. The ability to be organized has taken on a whole new meaning for the assistant as we turn our attention to helping our professionals cope with the demands.
Our roles are changing and I believe e-mail management will be a key role for the assistant as well as document management and time management. These are the areas where I believe the need will be the greatest for assistants. Having advanced level software skills will also be a must.
I believe satellite offices and working remotely from home will become more prevalent. With technological advances we will be able to file everything electronically and have the office at our fingertips at home and still be in direct contact with our bosses and co-workers through e-mail and the wireless.
The services of the virtual assistant will be something we will utilize a lot more and will be a great tool to delegate work. The administrative assistant will be a key player in managing that delegation process for the executive.
The US Department of Labor reports that the demand for administrative professionals is going to increase. Are we ready?