10 May 2009

Getting your foot in the door...

Would you take a job just to get your foot in the door of an organization you really wanted to work for, even if it was a position that you didn't want to make a career out of? Would you hire someone you thought was just trying to get their foot in the door?

Many times the administrative assistant position is a good way into an organization and what a great training ground to know an organization's inner workings than in this profession. Where I used to work one of the lawyers encouraged her daughter to work for the summer in law firms as an admin just for that purpose. She saw the importance of this training to help her daughter know the workings of an office from the bottom up and the office benefitted from her educational training. She was a smart kid and picked up the tasks assigned to her very quickly.

I think many university students are seeing the value in having this kind of training. So much is expected of executives these days. It used to be the secretary did everything for the boss, now the executives do a lot of their own administrative work, such as email management, so a background as an admin assistant can certainly help.

The administrative position can be a springboard for a management position if you want to go in that direction and have the right educational background. If you can prove yourself as a good worker you can go up through the ranks and because they already know how you work, they are more apt to promote you. I have seen admin assistants climb up the corporate ladder just that way.

I used to work with someone who was an assistant in the Human Resources Department of a major law firm and has now become the Director of Human Resources in that same firm. Another assistant I know worked in an accounting firm and went to school at nights to get the needed education and is now a junior accountant and loving it. Still another assistant I worked with now owns her own real estate business and has an assistant assisting her. You can be sure they value the training they received while on the front lines at the office.

I have chosen to stay in the administrative field, but in a higher level as an executive assistant and am loving it. Although I was fearful to make the move and doubted my abilities, the transition has been relatively easy to make and more suited to what I am skilled to do.

So if you want to get your foot in the door as an admin, there is no shame in that and it will be valuable training for whatever career you ultimately choose. If you have chosen this path, give it all you've got and really get your hands dirty so to speak. If a more experienced assistant comes alongside you and provides mentoring - don't refuse it. They have gotten where they are with a lot of hard work and will be able to give you good tips and skills to progress in your career, whether you stay as an admin or move on.

You should stay in the position for long enough to make what you've learned stick to be fair to yourself and the organization who hired you. When I was a teenager, I had some good advice from someone I used to babysit for. She advised that I should stay at least one year in any job I was in. She said it wouldn't look good on my resume if I was seen as a job hopper. Today, I would recommend at least two years to really get the benefit of the training. Of course if you know in the probationary period that this is just not the right fit for you, better to get out rather than being in a job you hate.

Would I hire someone I knew just wanted to get their foot in the door? Why not? You will find they make great workers because they have a purpose - to succeed!

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