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A compendium of best practices for today's administrative professional

Jason B. Lloyd 04.05.2017 | Business Management Daily

In today's business world, being proficient in a specific skillset is not always enough. To be successful in an administrative role, it is also necessary to demonstrate professionalism, a customer service mindset, a proactive approach, and a positive attitude. Lacking such values may hinder various aspects of an employee's career, including potential advancement, compensation, their personal brand (image), and may even impact their continued employment.

As an administrative professional, one must determine how to better position oneself for recognition by their employer. This article outlines valuable insights on how to succeed in any administrative career, regardless of industry or the department in which one may work.

Keep Current with Administrative Practices

One way for administrative professionals to be successful is to stay updated on technology and software advancements. For instance, many firms are going paperless, which significantly impacts administrative responsibilities. A paperless environment translates into increased scanning (PDFs), e-mailing, using electronic storage/portals, and applying electronic letterhead and signatures, with a corresponding decline in faxing, copying and mailing. By ensuring knowledge is current, administrative professionals can suggest alternatives for making processes run more efficiently. Doing so will not only benefit the organization, but will also help the employee enhance their personal brand within the organization.

In most organizations, there are multiple administrative departments, and although an employee may be assigned to only one, it is often advantageous to have knowledge about the processes and activities of other administrative and operational departments. Developing a comprehensive understanding of other administrative areas is not only beneficial for professional growth, but is also representative of a team player who can pitch in where needed. Organizations will often recognize employees who are able to provide added value. 

Provide Excellent Customer Service

Another way for administrative professionals to be successful is to provide excellent customer service. While administrative professionals serve an organization's clients indirectly, their direct customers are, in essence, the client-facing professionals within the organization. Providing a high level of service and support to client-facing staff enables administrative professionals to help the organization deliver the best product to its clients, in an efficient manner. 

It is also necessary for administrative professionals to maintain a positive attitude when working with others, which will reflect positively upon one's personal brand. Regardless of the project or task, maintaining a positive attitude helps with completing projects timely and accurately, and also promotes a collegial, enjoyable work environment.

Demonstrate Effective Communication Skills

Aside from staying up to date on trends in administrative areas and providing exceptional customer service, administrative professionals can be successful by demonstrating excellent communication skills-which can often be a challenge. For most administrative roles, it is important to accept constructive criticism from managers, as well as effectively communicate with others under a variety of circumstances. Good communication skills will also help develop effective co-worker relationships, but remember to avoid gossip and negativity as they can be a distraction and can reflect poorly on one's personal brand.

By exhibiting a friendly demeanor, a professional work ethic, and a sharp customer service mindset, an administrative professional will discover multiple opportunities for growth within the organization.

Be Proactive

Another important behavior that contributes to the success of an administrative professional is to be proactive. While it may not seem apparent initially, small gestures and extra effort will not go unnoticed by one's managers. In order to be proactive and stand out in the workplace, the following habits may be helpful:

  • Acknowledge e-mails and voicemails upon receipt to keep the sender informed, regardless of whether an answer is available right away
  • Follow up with others, including outside vendors, to ensure that a job gets done and to help avoid delays or discrepancies
  • Offer assistance when a co-worker or customer appears in need-regardless of whether or not they accept the offer, this conveys a positive image for the department and promotes a team-based approach.

Exhibit Professional Behavior in the Workplace       

Finally, administrative professionals should be concerned about their personal brand in the workplace. The following behaviors can negatively impact one's brand and should be avoided in a professional environment:

Gossip and spreading negativity

  • Often distorts the truth and taints personal and working relationships
  • Diminishes credibility and overshadows talent and know-how
  • May lead to HR involvement or disciplinary action.

Excessive chatting, texting, and phone use

  • If managers notice continuous chatting on the phone or with co-workers, surfing the Internet and/or social media platforms, they will feel that you're not giving the work your full attention and focus (and they'd be correct).
  • Make more productive use of downtime. Inform the manager that you are available to help out. This shows an interest in contributing to other activities, which helps benefit the organization, as well as your career.

Joking around... too much

  • You're buddies with someone at work; that can be a nice thing. However, your behavior in the workplace may be seen or overheard by co-workers, managers, and/or other staff. What you may consider joking with your friend, may actually be offensive towards and considered unprofessional by others in the workplace. Excessive joking or pranking could really impact the level of respect certain employees have for you, and could reduce chances for advancement, if not result in disciplinary action.

The values and behaviors discussed in this article are not often taught in school, but are just as important as technical skills as you build your career. Some organizations provide training programs related to these soft skills, which can promote personal and professional growth. Others offer mentoring programs, which provide an outlet for learning and discussing how one can improve in these areas. Consider taking advantage of these programs, or seek out a mentor in a trusted friend or work associate.

Jason Lloyd, Director, Word Processing and Office Services, can be reached at JLloyd@berdonllp.com.