One of the pieces of advice we've been giving students over the past several weeks has been to look "outside of the box" when it comes to the job search. This basically means considering jobs or organizations that you might not have previously thought were the right fit for you. This can be difficult to swallow for students who may have had their hearts set on working for one of the large, well-known organizations that used to come to campus year after year (or that small, but perfect company that you wanted to apply to - and which is now undergoing a hiring freeze). But as we all know, this year's job market is tougher than in years past, and hence, the "outside of the box" advice. One place that students may not have started to look is openings for administrative positions - but according to a recent article in The New York Times, administrative assistant positions are offering more professional growth than in years past.
Unlike the administrative assistants of days past (who were almost always women, were referred to as "secretaries" and received about as much respect as the fictional administrative assistants on Mad Men), today's administrative assistant positions cut across gender lines and often involve access to confidential information and plenty of responsibility to keep you busy. As the NYT article states:
"The core functions of administrative assistants are often secretarial, but the job can also involve client communications, negotiating with vendors, conducting research and preparing memos and reports...Fifty-seven percent of executives polled in an OfficeTeam survey last March said that administrative staff members have more of a career-growth track than they did five years ago."
Even if working as an administrative assistant isn't part of your long term plan, one important perk of starting out in the role: a foot in the door at an organization you'd like to move up in. The NYT says, "The most common opportunities for advancement are in marketing, human resources, operations and facilities management...But no area is off limits."
Of course, like in any job, you have to put in your time before you can move up - so don't start looking for advancement on day one. The article suggests that putting in six months of dedicated work in an administrative position is key, before you start asking for a promotion or new role.
One last piece of advice regarding administrative assistants - no matter what type of job you are applying to, always be polite and professional with everyone you meet - from the administrative assistant, to the recruiter, to the CEO. Being rude to someone who you may think is "just a secretary" is a sure fire way to guarantee you won't make it to the second round interview.
Comments, questions or suggestions for getting your foot in the door at an organization? Post them here.