We have all heard it from our colleagues at one time or another when they do not feel a certain job is their responsibility. And sometimes it isn’t, but from my experience if you read an administrative or executive assistant job description there is usually a phrase something like this, “providing administrative support.” But what does it mean exactly and does that include everything?
Providing administrative support is a big statement and can be anything from arranging a meeting, making a reservation at a restaurant for a business luncheon, bringing items forward for action, following up for your boss, making travel arrangements, data entry, taking minutes, drafting letters, preparing correspondence for distribution, typing reports, proofreading documents, organizing a filing system, photocopying and assembling documents, faxing, scanning, organizing events, managing information lists and the duties can go on and be varied from office to office and from job to job. In my experience I have found that providing administrative support is whatever is needed to support your boss and make the office function efficiently.
What might be considered more than what your job description requires is running personal errands for your boss, but even then it depends on your working relationship with your boss and the requirements of the job. Some people hire a personal assistant to do everything for them. In that case personal errands would be part of the job. Many stars hire personal assistants who do everything from arranging dinner engagements and parties to bringing the children to daycare. That is why I suggest when you go to an interview you should ask questions and find out exactly what “providing administrative support” means. Most assistants however will know that their jobs can change from day to day depending on the need and personally that is what I like about it. I am not stuck in a job description box. At times I have been pushed to do something that I didn’t think I could do and found it was something I really enjoyed, such as minute taking.
Providing administrative support can even lead you to another area of work. I know of three administrative assistants who have taken on the challenges of doing different types of work within their admin role and it has led to a new career. One assistant was very good at technology and was always finding solutions to software problems. She very easily moved into the IT field and is very good at her job and her administrative background makes her a favourite among the other assistants because she knows what we are trying to accomplish and can help us get there. Another colleague worked in an accounting firm and volunteered to take on some small accounting jobs to get her feet wet. Her office encouraged her when they saw her knack for numbers and she pursued further education and is now a junior accountant. Another woman started as an executive assistant, moved into the communications field and became the director and now owns her own business.
Whatever you are doing as an administrative assistant, don’t be afraid to try new things and expand your knowledge. I find that generally administrative assistants are good in a lot of different areas and are in a unique position of being in a close working relationship with management that could open doors to new work experiences and better overall job satisfaction.
There are some assistants however who enjoy the organizing and the business of being an administrative or executive assistant and they are good at their job and get great satisfaction in what they do. They don't want to change their career and that is all right too. A strong administrative assistant provides a solid backbone to any office and are the go-to people and provide a needed service.
Whichever way you decide to go, the possibilities are endless on what you can do, so don't get boxed into "that's not in my job description" or you could miss out on a satisfying job experience.
What if I have too much to do?
There is always the possibility that it is not that you don't want to try something new, but your plate is too full and you just can't take on anything else. This also can be a problem and should be handled with your boss.
I find making a list of everything you do and determining how much time you spend on each task can help you, but can also show your boss what your workload is and your capacity for taking on new tasks.
Prioriting your work can also help to show your boss what is the urgency to some of the work you are doing and what is getting left behind because of it.
It's all in how you handle it and how you present it to your boss. "It is not in my job description" comes across as whiney and it looks like you don't want to do your job. If you approach your boss in a professional manner with the problems clearly set out and possible solutions, it will come across much better.