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How to Move Beyond an Administrative Assistant Role

How to Move Beyond Your Administrative Assistant Role

There's a reason why the adage "you have to start somewhere" has stuck around. Perhaps it's only mildly comforting to hear when you're in a job-hating state of mind, but the truth is most people have had to work their way into their successful careers. A common role for recent graduates is that of administrative assistant, a position with a job description that usually doesn't do it justice. This jack-of-all-trades job has more of a career growth track than it did five years ago, according to a survey of executives, and several experts shared information with The New York Times on how to make the most of an administrative position.

  • What career paths are open if you join a company as an administrative assistant? The most common opportunities for advancement are in marketing, human resources, operations and facilities management.
  • One key to advancement is showing that you can handle more challenging responsibilities. How can you do that? Begin by thinking about what areas of the company you're interested in and figure out how you'll add more responsibilities to your current duties. Volunteer to help with projects that are related to your areas of interest but add these activities in slowly so you don't spread yourself thin.
  • You don't want to appear uninterested in your job as soon as you are hired, so how long should you wait to start looking for additional responsibilities? Excel in your administrative assistant position for six months to a year so your boss sees that you are invested in your job.
  • How can you convince your boss to support you in your efforts to move up in the organization? And if you can't get that support, how can you make sure that others know what you've accomplished? Make it clear to your boss that you are serious about making a career in the industry and be prepared with examples of how you can make yourself more valuable to the company. Keep a record of everything you've accomplished in case your boss isn't willing to help you move up the ladder.
Image Source: Stock Snap / Tim Gouw
Currin Currin 8 years
Hi all! It is funny - I was quoted in that NYTimes article mentioned here. :) I run a site for admins called After you have gotten the fashion, health and gossip news from the AMAZING Sugar sites, come visit AdminSecret for great admin-specific career advice. Best to you all!
queenegg queenegg 8 years
This makes me feel a little better. I was an admin, went to night school, got an associates, and then quit to get my four year. It took me a long time to find a job (almost a year) and now I'm an admin again. It's been very upsetting, but reading the article and your responses I feel a lot better. nowisthetime- I don't have any advice for you. Just keep trying and good luck in finding something.
nowisthetime nowisthetime 8 years
I was an Executive Assistant for a major company but the job became mega routine and we had a mutal agreement for me to leave. That was 5 years ago, I temped, looked for another job that would be more in a creative atmosphere and now I feel completely trapped. 41 (going on 42) no job, and most people thinking why should we hire her when she hasn't had a permanent job for 5 years. Any suggestions? I will probably have to go back to being a receptionist. I am to qualified for Entry Level jobs and the more experienced ones want you to have a degree (which I think is nuts to have when I have done this for over 8 years). Sorry for the wine session, just not sure what to do.
girlgreen girlgreen 8 years
thanks for this, savvy! i graduated in 07 and i'm an admin now at a major music company. i can totally use these tips.
EastVillageAmy EastVillageAmy 8 years
The company where I work is so small that there really is no other position to move up to. I started out as a freelancer and when the admin assistant left on maternity leave, I filled in only she never came back. At the time it was a great deal, because I could have a regular schedule and paycheck, but now 7 yrs later I feel it's time to move on. It was probably time to move on a few years ago, but the work environment was mostly stress free, it's close by, no dress code, good benefits and vacay time and nice people so it makes it difficult to jump into something else, especially with people cutting back left and right.
Advah Advah 8 years
Ilanac, I wish I could work for you. :) You sound so much more encouraging than my boss!
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
i've always been one of the biggest cheerleaders for my assistants - so i can understand how a lot of these are really helpful tips. i think that it's key that if you're in a role as an admin, that you don't lose focus and realize that we've all been in a position to have to 'pay our dues' and that it's not always the best, but if we act like we want to learn more and try to take on more work, then there's a chance that you won't stay an admin forever.
bellaressa bellaressa 8 years
Congrats Monday!!!! That is wonderful.
mondaymoos mondaymoos 8 years
I'm an administrative assistant now. When my weekend job offered me a full-time position at better pay, I sat down with my boss and laid out what they were offering me. Now he's paying for me to go to school to be an accountant here at the firm. :D And my Christmas bonus is significantly higher than the other admin because I'm "showing initiative" Booyah!
mannylove mannylove 8 years
I was just thinking about this exact issue last night! I have been at my company forever and while I now have the title of managing the admin staff (2 front desk / admin assistants), ultimately my job is still the same as theirs, except I just don't have to answer phones or get the mail, etc. I know I can't move up within my own company, there are only sales positions to go to, which I am not interested in, but I feel trapped and almost like if I go elsewhere I will end up w/another entry level admin assistant position and have to start all over again. It's extremely frustrating. I wish I could afford to go back to school and study a more exact trade, if I could go back & do it all over again I would have had a much different education than just a generic marketing B.S. degree.
Advah Advah 8 years
Another tip is: in the question part of your interview, ask if the job allows you to learn and possibly do more than you're required. That way when you start the job people already know you're interested in it. Also, some admin jobs can't lead to anything, and it's good to be aware of that. My fatmate works for an electric design company (she has a background in English lit) - she'll never get more than the admin job in her company, as all the other jobs require a strong background in design. Unfortunately it's the same with mine - I'm a PA in an art gallery, and since I haven't studied art history or museum management at all, I'll never get more than an admin position in here (which can be incredibly frustrating to see how amazing a curator's job is, while I'm stuck with answering the phone and arranging my boss's diary).. This being said, you'd be surprised at how much it helps to have your foot in the door, and let the right people know you're interested in a different job.
356UIK 356UIK 8 years
I loved being an executive assistant. That was badass.
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 8 years
I just started taking marketing in school part-time (I am an admin. assistant right now). I don't want to do my job for the rest fo my life, so I gotta get going on finding something else.
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