For the second week Administrative Professionals Day month, I’m going to talk about what I wish I knew when I became an admin.
Okay, no one really knows what to expect when you start any job. It’s a crapshoot. You just hope that when you start, they don’t all transform into micromanaging, egomaniacal jerks.
However, my journey actually had more to do with me and less with anyone else.
While I did a lot of the things in this post, obvs, I didn’t really know why I was doing it. It wasn’t a plan or big picture map on my quest to be an admin.
I just did stuff, largely, cause I’m a nerd. I hope you enjoy.
Technology is your friend! Seriously, sometimes the difference between being okay and greatness is our ability to learn and use technology.
Depending on who we work with, simply being aware that software exists that could make lives easier can pivotal to our success.
In almost every industry, there are people who are not very tech savvy or even dislike for a variety of reasons. For some reason, some people consider technology is “fake” and tangible/in-person is “real.” Regardless of where you fall on the matter, if it helps enhance or improve your productivity, it’s worth considering.
Inevitably, people will need help to use software, and will ask you if you know how. Being familiar with some basic software and skills will make sure you start out on the right foot.
For example, Microsoft Excel, Word, and PowerPoint should be programs you’re already familiar with. You don’t have to be an expert, but you should know the basics of how to work in those programs, so you at least know what to Google.
One of my personal favorites is Access. I swear if more admins knew about Access, it would be the most popular program nowadays, so give it a whirl.
A Little Story
When I got my first job in my teens, I started playing Excel. I plugged in my paycheck to help me keep track of my money. When I started my administrative career, I was one of the few who knew how to use Excel. A few years later, I created a fully functional Excel workbook for a project.
My ability to use Excel has even extended to this blog where I’m able to offer you all a free budgeting spreadsheet to help you financially stay on track as I am.
I never knew that my efforts so long ago would pay off so much in the future.
More Technology programs and software
Other programs you should be familiar with are Adobe Photoshop and InDesign.
Again, you don’t have to be an expert, you just need to know how to maneuver in them. There are many resources to help you become more familiar with any program. I currently am loving LinkedIn Learning.
When I use LinkedIn Learning, I appreciate the “Pathways” to become or learn how to be a specific career. I found that when I try to learn something new, I’m not aware of what I don’t know in order to build my lesson plan.
Last, organization is 85% (or more) of what we do. I strongly suggest you take the time to look through software to help you stay organized.
I am a fan of Trello, but any software will do, as long as it works for you. If you want to know more about Trello and my journey with it, check out these posts to get you started.
- Trello–The Virtual Admin Support Tool
- 7 Trello Resources To Get Admins Started
- How I Use Trello as My Virtual Administrative Support Tool
- My Favorite Trello Power-Up Picks For Admins
How to Think About Your Job and the Admin Profession
When I became an admin, I wish I knew the common perceptions about my job and career from other people. I did not realize the stereotypes and connotations that came with my job.
However, the stereotypes weren’t just other people’s; they were also my own. When I started, I thought the job would just be answering phones and smiling at clients. We all have the image of the secretary chewing gum and filing her nails while ignoring the phone.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I just had to be better than that, and I would automatically be a decent admin at first.
Over time, as I experienced the condescending tones and lack of respect, I realized other people might also have that misguided perception of an admin in their head too.
It was “okay” and funny to stereotype my profession when it was just on TV, but now that I was experiencing the negativity, everything changed for me. Unfortunately, the perception only changed for me, not managers or co-workers, because they weren’t being treated the same way.
Man, it feels bad. I always felt like I had to prove that I was smart enough, wasn’t “just an admin,” and that being an admin “wasn’t what I wanted to do.”
I felt ashamed. Why wasn’t it respectable to want to be an administrative professional? Why does administrative support perceived as less than?
Spoiler alert – Answer: Because it’s an industry dominated by women and therefore the pay is shit. But I didn’t know that then.
Looking back, I suppose I wish I could have told me, “It’s admirable to be an admin. Admins are the unsung heroes that keep the world running. If you love being an unsung hero, and helping people using your skill set makes you happy. Do it anyway.”
Treat Your Job as a Guinea Pig
One perk about being an admin is that the organization/dept IS NOT YOUR BABY!!
What do I mean?
I mean, remember that you joined this organization. It’s not your creation or big idea.
No, I don’t mean not to care about your job or organization. I mean, you need to remember that you’re not responsible for the overall success of the company.
This advice comes in really handy when no one listens to you in meetings or elsewhere. Owners and managers can sometimes get butthurt if they feel you’re making their decisions for them by simply offering ideas and opinions.
Remember that you signed on to their big picture to support them. That’s your job. So have some fun. Try out new technology, new software, practices, and organizations methods and see if they work at your organization.
No, you’re not sabotaging them. In order to get better and be more experienced, you have to try things and experience them!
Find areas that could be improved and try new things, programs, and processes to see if it works! If you really like the results, then you can consider making it a regular thing or switch to new software. In this way, you’re proactively helping your organization while learning new things.
But you will only know if something works if you try it! My personal goal when I’m exploring a new program or software is to break it. Yep, sure do. If you throw everything you got at it and it’s still standing, it’s a winner!
Some adults are just overgrown children sometimes, myself included. I’m always ready for a good whine and pouting session.
When I became an admin, I wish I knew how best to manage conflict in a professional setting. Not knowing made it hard to protect myself and others.
I’ve personally been in environments where managers and coworkers yelled and screamed at me, sexually harassed me, threw tantrums, wanted me to take sides, and gaslit me.
Knowing what to do in those circumstances can have an enormous impact on your happiness, confidence, and self-esteem.
Depending on your situation, a customer, not a colleague or manager, could also cause the conflict. Having the reassurance that you’re responding (or not) in a way that best represents you and your wishes is crucial to help you no matter what comes your way.
When you start out as an admin, figure out what kind of admin you are – if at all. You might get into the job and hate it. Realistically, there are a LOT of cons that in our line of work.
The feelings of being taken for granted, overlooked, underpaid, and consistently perceived as “less than” are VERY hard obstacles to overcome. It’s not for everybody.
When you get your first job as an admin or when you’re starting out, make the most of it. Explore, learn, think about, and practice how to be the kind of admin you want to be. With that knowledge, you’ll be able to look at job descriptions differently and tailor your next job to your preferences.
Every organization is going to try to make you into their admin, which is understandable, but don’t forget, they hired you. Remember who you are is important.
If you’re new to being an admin, you can make your own path. You can be the admin you want to be, and someone out there is looking for someone just like you.