Are you looking for a versatile job position that provides opportunities for growth and training? Working as an administrative assistant can be a challenging yet rewarding pathway, and many companies are hiring now in this position. Here’s our guide about what to expect from entry-level administrative assistant jobs.
What do administrative assistants do?
“Administrative assistant” is a fairly vague job title. This position often acts as a “catch-all” for a variety of internal and customer-facing tasks. Broadly, administrative assistants control the office efficiency. They are responsible for ensuring operations run smoothly. This can involve:
- Answering and directing phone calls and emails
- Organizing and scheduling meetings
- Ordering office supplies
- Assisting with special projects
- Producing and distributing correspondence
- Greeting customers or clients
- Booking travel arrangements
The Washington, D.C. metropolitan area is a perfect market for this role with so many private businesses, consulting firms and government contractors needing entry-level administrative assistants to ensure jobs are completed on time. While some of these descriptions sound more like a secretary or receptionist, there are some distinctions in those titles.
How is an entry level administrative assistant job different from a secretary or receptionist?
In general, receptionists serve as the first point of contact for an office, secretaries do clerical work and administrative assistants keep the office running smoothly. All of these job categories overlap and work together. In some offices, being an administrative assistant will look very similar to the role of a secretary or receptionist. Other times, often in larger companies, administrative assistants are more of efficiency specialists, like project managers, who oversee and ensure that overall work operations flow smoothly.
For example, rather than directly manning the phones, an administrative assistant may provide a receptionist with a flow chart of how to more effectively direct calls. Working an entry-level administrative assistant job could, in that context, also include serving as a go-between for the receptionist and the higher levels of leadership in the office.
When applying for an administrative assistant job in Washington, D.C. or the surrounding area, it’s important to understand the industry, company structure and work culture. Depending on the company’s needs, the role may look different from one place to the next. Many companies look for candidates with a willingness to adapt and take on new responsibilities.
Making your own system within the established structure
Administrative assistants work in a delicate balance. The position can be one of the most versatile in an office because there are so many administrative tasks that need to get done. Often managers will expect administrative assistants to bring their own ideas and systems to fit within the established structure.
For example, maybe the traditional protocol is that the administrative assistant will make calls to confirm the next day’s appointments. The administrative assistant may have the freedom to make notes in a client’s file or update calendar meetings in a manner that they find most efficient and helpful for the senior staff. Managers often appreciate assertive, independent assistants who can complete core tasks without asking too many questions.
Day-to-day management with a broad perspective
To be successful in an entry-level administrative assistant job, prospective candidates have to recognize that they will be responsible both for the fine details of the day-to-day office management and the larger picture of the company’s goals and objectives. A detail-oriented mindset and the ability to concisely summarize key takeaways are both important.
Administrative assistants often deal with putting out lots of little “fires” that pop up throughout the natural workday, but they need to maintain a broad perspective so urgent tasks don’t replace the important components of the role. Fast-paced markets like Washington, D.C. expect administrative assistants to keep up with action items and prioritize effectively, even in an entry-level job.
Serve as an assistant, not a manager
While administrative assistants do track and monitor efficiency, ultimately this is a supportive role rather than leadership. This means that administrative assistants work directly under some sort of higher management or leadership in the office. Administrative assistants will typically not have to make the tough calls themselves.
Administrative assistants have a specific hierarchical place in the company that may vary depending on the industry, company size and other factors. Regardless of the specific structure, administrative assistants typically work very closely with the leadership they work to assist. In this role, you could expect plenty of formal and informal meetings and check-ins with one or several leadership personnel at the office.
Get a specific snapshot of your possibilities
Each administrative assistant position looks a little different. If you have the related skills of multitasking, prioritizing, organizing, and making sure others stay on task, an administrative assistant job could be a great fit for you. Whitman Associates, Inc. helps place candidates in entry-level administrative assistant jobs in Washington, D.C. and the surrounding area. We have more than 50 years of expert staffing experience. When you’re ready to start your new career path, send your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll provide a specific snapshot of your possibilities as an administrative assistant.