I expect this post might be a tad controversial in that casual attire has become much more accepted in the business world today. Having worked as an administrative assistant for close to 30 years now, I admit I appreciate that the overall atmosphere of the corporate world has become a bit more flexible these days. However, it remains imperative that the work we do continues to be top notch and that our demeanor continues to be professional. And it follows that our appearance, while perhaps slightly less formal, should remain business-like as well. In fact, during this time of relaxed expectations, dressing for success could be the perfect area of opportunity for you to shine.
As you'll recall, in my former post about Basic Office Expectations, I suggest administrative assistants should model their office attire after their superiors. A real life phenomenon I have noticed is that when I stop by the local home improvement or grocery store on my way home from work, I am usually inundated with employees (male and female, young and old) asking if they may assist me. I can go into the same stores on a weekend or after having changed out of business attire and will not command the same attention. I believe this unintentional experiment proves that the more business-like you dress, the greater respect you bring upon yourself and, subsequently, to your business. While this scenario in no way suggests one person is of greater importance than another, it does suggest that the manner you dress is quite influential when it comes to interacting with the public, potential customers and clients, peers, and superiors.
Dressing for success does not require that you adorn Chanel or Armani. It would be hypocritical of me, as an administrative assistant myself, to even suggest this is the case as our salaries simply will not support such extravagant attire on a daily basis. However, it is possible to dress very nicely on an office professional's budget. By implementing a few of the below tips and tricks you can certainly increase your professional status without greatly increasing your clothing expense.
In conclusion, as many health and fitness programs tout - when you look better, you feel better - your confidence is increased and you command respect and positive attention. Which, in turn, will offer you added opportunities to develop and display your many other valuable administrative attributes.
From one admin to another,
Download | Duration: 00:06:06
In this day and time, with all the electronic methods and gadgets available in the business world commonly used for communication, the telephone may actually be the least method of communication used during an administrative assistant's work day. However, in spite of the popularity, and in some cases, preference, of email and texting, the telephone caller remains an equally valuable customer and should be handled as such. In fact, it is probably most important that you are patient with, and offer respect to, your telephone caller.
Consider your own habits with the telephone. If something is pressing, you are most likely to pick up the phone and handle the situation right away rather than sit down and type out an email. For example, last week I inadvertently ordered an item twice while shopping online. Instead of attempting to correct the mistake by email or otherwise, I promptly picked up the phone and dialed customer service and was able to take care of the issue immediately. (See http://natureisnurture.net/2011/11/19/psycho-cat.aspx for the full story!) Another habit we have is to make phone calls while performing errands or driving. While I do not advocate dialing and driving, especially on freeways, it is simply a fact of life that most of us speak as we drive from time to time. As we are performing these other tasks and speaking on the phone, we are counting on the person on the other end of the line to assist us promptly and courteously, correct? We also expect that they are considerate and accepting of our sometimes poor cell phone reception. And don't forget, another reason we may use a telephone versus a computer or texting device is simply because we may not have access to the alternative. For example, my mom did not own a computer until about two years ago and thereafter, only had access to dial-up internet. A phone call was simply quicker, easier and less frustrating than waiting for a rural dial-up plan to connect! Taking all of these above scenarios into consideration, I am sure the telephone will remain an important part of an administrative assistant's day for a good while yet, even if its use has dropped in frequency.
Thus, how can we improve our telephone etiquette and enhance our customers' experience? (P.S. I write these tips as friendly reminders for me too!)
Introduce yourself and answer the phone with an upbeat and sincere attitude of helpfulness. This is especially important if you work in a customer service or complaint related department. Oftentimes a simple "How may I assist you?" (after your name and introduction) will diffuse an impending difficult conversation.
In line with the above, try smiling when you answer the phone. It works for both you and the customer!
Which of the above would you rather speak to?
Speak clearly and slowly - no matter how rushed you are - the person on the other end of the line deserves your full attention.
Speaking of full attention - try not to be distracted by your email messages, other employees or otherwise when speaking on the phone. Have you ever been involved in a phone conversation with a friend or relative who is constantly scolding their child while you speak? Same issue, just a different scenario.
The order of succession I use when communicating in both business and personal situations (unless in emergencies) is this:
In other words, if an email pops up that I've been waiting for in the midst of a telephone conversation with a client, I turn away from the computer and give the caller my attention until their issue is resolved. After the phone call I can appropriately deal with the email communication.
Use professional, but easy to understand, layman's language when speaking to the public. Try to avoid using slang words and company acronyms.
Do not eat, drink, sigh or smack gum in the midst of a telephone conversation.
If your caller has initially been on hold for a while, thank them for their patience. If you personally must place a caller on hold, be certain to ask them if you may do so and explain why, if possible.
If you must transfer a caller to another person or department, do not cold transfer them. Introduce the caller to the new representative and briefly explain why you are making the transfer. If possible, remain on the line until you are sure the caller has connected with the new person.
In your position as an administrative assistant, you may be tasked with screening and introducing calls to one or more persons. This can be a touchy task as a minority of callers are hesitant to divulge their reason for calling - and sometimes divulge their name! In these cases, I explain to the caller I am the assistant to Mr. Jones and I ask if I may have their name. If I am successful, I then ask the caller if Mr. Jones is aware of the subject of their call. (This method usually diffuses any issue with a caller who may be dealing with a delicate topic.) If the answer is yes, I inform Mr. Jones of such before transferring the caller. If they say no, typically the caller will then be forthcoming with further info or will simply tell me they prefer not to say. You may wish to speak with your supervisor to determine how he/she wishes you to handle callers that insist on remaining anonymous and vague. Some supervisors will take the calls and some may prefer not to do so. In these cases, I attempt to, again, retrieve a name and phone number in which Mr. Jones can return the call. While the caller isn't directly transferred to your boss, this method often saves time and effort in the long run for the caller because Mr. Jones will be more prepared to resolve an issue after he has been briefed and equipped with as much background information available on an issue within the company's records.
Sometimes the above approach isn't successful and a caller will demand to speak to your supervisor regardless of your supervisor's screening policies, and, of course, you should comply if at all possible. Not all of these are irate callers, but . . .
If you find you are dealing with a very difficult person on the line, who hasn't demanded a supervisor as yet - allow them the time to vent. This can be a hard task to accomplish, especially if you are very busy, but it is often essential to resolving the problem at hand. In fact, I have had customers personally resolve or at least, accept, their issues simply by allowing them to vent over the phone. There are times we all realize a situation can't be changed, but it remains satisfying to have our opinions heard regardless.
Having said above - and you may wish to check with your H/R department on this one depending on the environment in which you work - I believe it is never OK to tolerate abusive, discriminatory or offensive language. In these cases I simply tell the caller I will be happy to help them when they are able to speak with me respectfully and I hang up. Should they call back displaying the same inappropriate behavior, I pass them on to a supervisor.
On a much more serious note, if you or your company are threatened over the phone, notify your supervisor immediately and insist the proper authorities are notified. Even if the threat is benign or from a repeat offender, it is essential that it is recorded and appropriate precautions are taken. Many years ago I worked at a location under renovation and my office was housed in a small trailer temporarily. A disgruntled citizen walked in and being incredibly angry with my organization, told me he planned to blow up the trailer. Once I explained the situation to my supervisor, the citizen was located and arrested for terroristic threat. As it turned out, he had a criminal history and very well may have been capable of making good on his threat. Threats are serious whether they are meant to be or not - think of our no tolerance policy at airports.
If you are the one initiating or returning a call, there are additional points you should consider regarding telephone etiquette, some of which are similar to above:
ALWAYS introduce yourself and again, speak slowly and clearly.
Provide a brief bit of introductory information to the answerer so that he/she can help you or get you to the proper department that can. For example you might say: "This is Cindy Pierce with ABC Company and I am calling to schedule an appointment with your technology director. Can you help or transfer me to the person who can?"
Automated answering systems, interactive voice prompt systems, timed holds and voice mail are necessary evils in our busy world. In fact, your company may participate in one or more of the above technologies. When making business calls, mentally prepare yourself in advance that you may be faced with listening to muzak or sifting through a long line of options before you reach the intended person. If you can work with a headset, it would be optimal for days you know you will be making numerous calls. If you do not have a headset, I typically use the speaker phone option to comfortably sort through the recorded dialogue and hold times without cramping my neck.
When you are making a call, business or professional, and become faced with a less than acceptable response on the other end of the telephone line - take a deep breath and continue to be professional in your demeanor. No matter how upsetting the situation is, strive not to become one of the irrational or difficult people described in the scenarios above. Believe me, we've all been there at one time or another so don't beat yourself up! Just remind yourself the information provided to you via phone simply isn't personal and is probably the first line policy of the business. If you are not able to obtain satisfaction with the receptionist, customer service rep or admin assistant you are communicating with via telephone, you may need to request to speak to a higher authority or put your request in writing if time is not of essence.
Well, I hope the above tips enhance your daily telephone responsibilities and make your days much more pleasant. In the end, probably the easiest way to sum up the above points is to simply follow the Golden Rule - treat others as you would want to be treated - and that goes for on the telephone too!
From one admin to another, I wish you the best -
Download | Duration: 00:14:24
In my last post, we talked about the benefits of being consistent in preparing our correspondence. In particular, we discussed the importance of utilizing consistent letter style, margins, font, and signature block. We emphasized how a company's esteem (brand) can be raised simply by communicating with consistently-themed, neat and accurately prepared documents.
In this post, I'd like to briefly touch on a few other areas that come into play with regard to producing exceptional correspondence. If you'll recall, in the previous post I mentioned it is acceptable to reduce the font of a letter if it would allow all the text to appropriately fit onto one page. This is an important point because it brought to mind a few additional "rules of thumb" that I use when creating business letters.
I'd like to share them with you -
cc: Judy Q. Private, w/o enclosure
Download | Duration: 00:07:12
An excellent source for detailed descriptions of business letter styles, along with their respective diagrams, can be found at http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/653/01/.
In conclusion, a neat and uniform correspondence style is the best foundation upon which to convey your boss' thoughts and ideas with both professionalism and confidence.
From one admin to another,
Side Note: If you do some or all of your holiday shopping online, please enter through site ads to the right of my blog. It will not cost you one cent more to reach Amazon.com through my blog, but it will drive up my traffic and establish topic authority that will in turn help me get found more easily in the search engines. Much appreciate it! Happy Thanksgiving!
Download | Duration: 00:06:32
I'd like to tell you about a few very simple and inexpensive office supply items I use that I believe can be very valuable to your work day as an administrative assistant. Interestingly, all of these items share in keeping your desk, your office, and your processes ORGANIZED!
Just for fun, I'll start out with the simplest and least expensive tool - the "Sign-Here" sticky flag (pic above). If you work in an office where you handle multiple documents needing review or signature, this little sticker is worth its weight in gold and some. In fact, if you work with legal documents, such as contracts and agreements, you may wish to invest in sticky flags that state "Notary", "Initial Here", or blank ones on which you can write customized instructions. Oftentimes official documents must be executed in duplicate, triplicate and more. Once these documents reach your hands, pull out these handy flags and mark where each event needs to happen so that your boss and subsequent reviewers have no trouble locating all of the areas they need sign. Your boss will be very appreciative of being able to flip immediately to the signature pages of identical documents after he has reviewed and signed the original. The benefit to you? Much time saved by preventing you and your boss from re-handling the same documents due to a missed signature page.
The next inexpensive item is the poly (or plastic) colored expanding file pocket. These usually come 4 to a package (4 different colors) and it is my recommendation you purchase two or three packages. I personally use these folders to track and separate correspondence by priority on a daily basis. However, if a supervisor is out of the office a few days or more, these handy color-coded folders are also wonderful for storing correspondence, again, by priority, in an organized manner for their return to the office. For example, you could designate a red folder to house items for immediate attention, green for internal information, yellow for external information and blue for publications and low priority documents. If your supervisor arrives back to the office to a booked calendar, he/she can easily grab the red folder and take care of urgent business, knowing the remainder of the mail can wait. Once the color-code is established between you and your supervisor, the system could be expanded throughout your office or business to enhance the flow and timeliness of document handling.
The third invaluable office tool is the good ole tickler file. (tickler file = reminder file) Yes, there are many ways to "tickle" appointments and events electronically and believe me, I utilize my electronic calendar to the max in this area. However there simply isn't a substitute for the hard tickler file when it comes to organizing documents (flight, hotel, and registration receipts), hard invitations, event tickets, printed maps to events, parking passes, and not to mention, the convenience of having hard copies when systems go down or you are out of the office and need to direct your supervisor or another assistant to the file. Don't get me wrong, I am not advocating that every event or appointment is printed and kept in this file. I am a proponent of being as paperless as possible. For the most part, the tickler file is a place to house invitations and correspondence already printed and received by you. And with regard to travel documents and receipts, printing them as you work and placing them together in one place provides easy reference up to the travel date and again, is valuable for the traveler to take with them. I use this tickler system as an organizational tool by providing my supervisor items from the file the day before an event occurs. This serves as a reminder to both of us, gives my boss a visual of the event, and provides us a little time to do any last minute checkups such as the need for RSVP's (if not already done), speech writing, gifts, tokens, etc.
Speaking of travel documents, my final recommended item is a 3-ring travel portfolio plus interior components. Depending upon the style, brand, and material, this item may be the most expensive of the group, but keep in mind, the plan is to re-use it (and its interior components) as an organizational guide for your supervisor's many trips and/or events. Should you decide to go high end and purchase a zippered leather style, the cost of the portfolio will probably hover around a modest $50 - $60. Please note, the importance of the 3-ring binder inside the portfolio comes into play with regard to re-use of the item. To be able to customize your travel packet according to each trip or event, it is important to utilize 3-hole punched sheet protectors and dividers/tabs (these are re-usuable too.) Sheet protectors are important to use, versus directly hole-punching, because sometimes you must organize small items such as reception tickets or boarding passes and these items can not or should not be hole-punched. Slipping them into a top-feeding sheet protector is optimal. There are many styles and types of dividers and tabs you can purchase to further organize your packet. I personally use a set of sheet protectors with built-in tabs. This format makes everything uniform, which I like. When compiling a travel portfolio I usually create tabs for flight, hotel, and registration and one for each day of the event. When the trip is over, I deconstruct the packet and save the material for expense report purposes. As the next trip or event nears, I simply locate the documents stored in my ticker file (see above) and arrange them into the travel portfolio accordingly using the pre-labeled tabs. While having travel confirmation numbers inserted in your supervisor's electronic calendar is great, it is a bonus to him/her to have his hard copy documents (again, printed once) when actually traveling. How many times have you traveled and the attendant can't locate your reservation??? A side note: Of course, you will wish to purchase the style and type of portfolio best for your individual boss. -And, arrange its interior to his/her style as well. As for me, I use a rather lightweight, flexible 3-ring leather folder and arrange documents by the day of the week and it seems to work well. Your supervisor may want a briefcase or zippered style and may prefer documents are arranged by topic, client, or otherwise.
Well, as you can tell, I firmly believe the items described above can come in handy in organizing any work day. Whether you are in an office of two or two thousand, these inexpensive tools can greatly enhance and expedite the workflow. Why don't you give them a try?
If you'd like to read a little more about the specific products I use or similar office products, browse over to my sidebar to the right and check out the detailed descriptions listed at Amazon.com.
From one admin to another,
Download | Duration: 00:10:05
In recent blog posts, we discussed demeanor and employee-to-supervisor communication that can be helpful to administrative assistants. In this segment, I'd like to talk about some very basic expectations a boss or business will have regarding employees who work in an office atmosphere. These expectations are not solely attributed to administrative assistants - they are universal workplace expectations, actually.
A good employee will:
Well, I am sure you can think of other expectations of employees that are important in your particular workplace that I may not have touched upon. Please share your thoughts and ideas!
From one admin to another, I wish you the best -
Download | Duration: 00:04:29
If you've done any research at all regarding essential skills of a successful administrative assistant, I am sure you have read about the importance of communication skills more than a few times! Indeed, communication skills in general are very critical in the workplace. However, in this post I'd like to focus upon the communication between an administrative assistant and his or her boss or team of bosses.
There are many valuable, concrete communication skills an administrative assistant can possess that aid to the success of an office. You may have perfect email skills, can compose awesome letters, and can verbally articulate complicated concepts to others - but unless you know your direct supervisor's vision and goals and how best to help reach them you may fall short of providing the exceptional support I know you wish to provide. Basically, what this means is - you should determine the best manner you can utilize your skills to assist your supervisor. And just how do you determine this? Communicate!
Yes, I know it can be intimidating for some to communicate with the boss, and especially to feel as though you may be asking too many questions or should already know the answers. But the fact is, you can't know a direction to take until you ask the question. Most supervisors appreciate being asked about their philosophies. It lets them know you are interested in being an active part of a winning team. If you are working in a formal atmosphere, schedule a meeting with your supervisor to simply sit down and ask how you can use your skills to better assist him or her and if there is anything at all that you need to perform differently. If your office is informal, take a moment to check in with your boss the next time he or she passes by.
Below are a few sample questions you can consider asking your supervisor to ensure you are working in tandem with his or her goals and philosophies. (P.S. These are great questions to ask specifically if you are a new employee or have been assigned to a new supervisor.)
1. How do you prefer to be addressed, i.e., formally or casually?
2. How do you prefer your correspondence is signed (signature block)?
3. How do you prefer office phones are answered?
4. Shall I answer your direct telephone line?
5. Shall I screen your calls?
6. Do you prefer visitors are announced or do you have an open door policy?
Is this both internal and external of the company?
7. Can I enter items directly on your calendar or do I need to check with you first
and get back to the requestor?
8. Am I expected to attend staff meetings?
9. Are there routine inquiries or policies of which I can communicate on your behalf?
10. Are there other routine tasks I can perform to free your day?
11. Are you open to ideas I have that may make our office processes more efficient?
The above questions may spark a few others you can ask relevant to the type of business or office of which you are employed. Open communication ensures the mutual understanding of priorities and provides a more trusting and comfortable atmosphere for both supervisor and assistant. In conclusion, regardless of the demeanor, work style or title of of your supervisor, asking the above questions is a proactive step toward creating a very positive working relationship with your boss and consequently, with others among your organization.
Until next time-
Download | Duration: 00:05:28
As I was pondering the subject of my first blog post (outside of the welcome), I decided instead of focusing on clerical skills and talents, it would be best to begin with discussing what I believe is the primary trait required of a good assistant.
Before I get to that trait, I'd like to mention a few secondary, yet very important, characteristics of a good admin. These qualities include communication skills (courtesy and tact), organizational skills, computer and software skills, flexibility and problem-solving (when things don't go right the first time), and time management. If you do not already possess these qualities, don't fret! They can certainly be developed and enhanced with training and practice. In fact, I hope to teach and guide you through these quailities based on my experiences I will share in this blog. However, there is indeed an underlying trait you should possess, or at least get acquainted with, that will determine your success with all of the above.
The first and foremost trait of a good assistant is the position's verbal namesake - you should be willing to assist. Those of you who are described as helpful, considerate, responsible, diligent, a team player - well, assisting probably comes second nature! This does not mean those of you who are not innately supportive are not capable of being so. It merely means you may have to make more of a conscious effort to forego the "director" or "leadership" role to be successful in a supportive role. Should an auxiliary role not be a natural fit for you, yet you remain interested in the administrative assistant field, you should at least be genuine in your efforts to grow into the role - giving both yourself and the one you are assisting a fair chance.
The tasks and duties of an administrative assistant are indeed many and varied. You may be the assistant that literally "runs the office" or you may be at entry-level, spending most of your day filing with little to no decision-making power. While at extremes in responsibilities, both of the aforementioned positions share the common denominator of helping or assisting an organization become successful.
Why have I begun admin-training.com discussing the abstract topic of one's willingness to assist?
It is the foundation upon which all successful administrative assistant behaviors, skills and training are built.
In today's somewhat unstable economic world, many of us are finding ourselves seeking employment in fields of which we had not planned to work - either permanently or temporarily. Whether your dream has always been to be a top executive assistant or you simply need to be at the top of this field to retain or find work, I hope you take the time to consider the basic tenet of being an assistant - that is, to be of help to another for the overall good of the pair, team or organization. Once you embrace this principle, developing and enhancing your administrative assistant skills will be much easier and far more rewarding!
Until next time -
Download | Duration: 00:04:52
Welcome to the first post of my blog, admin-training.com. I hope the tips and tricks of the trade I wish to share greatly assists those of you interested in entering the field of administrative assistant work, those looking to improve within your current position, and those of you that wish to reach beyond the assistant level. It is my goal, through my education and 28 years of administrative experience, to provide you tips and tricks that will make your work life easier and more rewarding, whether you are currently interviewing, are content in your present position or are hoping to promote. This blog is sure to have something for everyone, so stay tuned!
Download | Duration: 00:02:33