April 24, 2011
‘Help desk’: Admins are the original multitasking office professionals
On the eve of Administrative Professionals Week, we spend a morning with “Admina,” a made-up representative of the more than 4 million people who work as administrative assistants in this country.
At 7:45 a.m., Admina plops her purse and a pastry box onto her desk at Agency, the advertising firm she started working for two years ago.
The gleaming desk in Agency’s lobby hasn’t always been hers. Last month, the firm’s only receptionist moved to another city and Admina absorbed his duties, despite the fact that her job supporting the firm’s creative staff had already kept her going nonstop.
Administrative positions come with many different titles: office coordinator, executive assistant, office manager and secretary, to name a few.
By 8, Admina needs to clear out the dozen voice-mail messages left on Agency’s main number overnight, distribute a stack of tear sheets and stock the conference room with drinks and pastries for the weekly creative meeting.
It’s a tight timeline, made even more challenging by the fact that Agency’s main line is flashing with an important East Coast client who always chats about his dog for several minutes before asking to be transferred to the president’s voice mail.
The median hourly wage for secretaries was estimated at $14.41 in 2009, the most recent figure available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For executive secretaries and administrative assistants, it was $20.03.
Administrative Professionals Week
When: April 24-30; April 27 is Administrative Professionals Day
2011 theme: This year, celebrate all office professionals
Name change: Until the year 2000, the day of recognition was known as Professional Secretaries Day.
Local event: The Seattle chapter of the International Association of Administrative Professionals hosts the 2011 Administrative Professionals Week mixer and celebration on April 28 at the Sorrento Hotel. Visit iaapseattle.org for more information.
At mid-morning, Admina reaches into her bag for a banana, which reminds her that she needs to take away the pastry detritus before clients arrive for an 11 a.m. pitch meeting in the conference room.
Unofficially, she’s the go-to person when no one else seems to know what to do. Men’s room is out of toilet paper? Tell Admina. Is Earth Day a paid holiday? Admina keeps the list. Vending machine ate your money? Talk to Admina. Where should I take a client with food allergies to lunch? Admina will know.
Officially, she puts together pitch presentations, coordinates meetings, orders supplies, does research for the team, keeps track of schedules and time sheets, and, lately, greets visitors and answers phones.
It can be tricky to prioritize when you’re wearing more hats than the queen of England. The sticky table is waiting to be cleaned, the phone lines won’t stop flashing and the UPS man needs a signature. Some days, the banana stays in the the bag.
The expected average salary increase for an administrative assistant this year is 2.5 percent, according to the OfficeTeam 2011 Salary Guide. Entry-level assistants can expect a 1.4 percent average increase.
After juggling tasks all morning, it’s finally lunchtime. Admina sends calls to voice mail and pulls a sandwich and a textbook from her bag. Though she scoffs at how secretaries are often portrayed in the movies, she does share one trait with Melanie Griffith’s character in the movie “Working Girl”: ambition.
Helping the creative team brainstorm one day last year made Admina hungry to land that type of job herself. When she brought up the prospect at her performance review, her boss said Admina would need to finish her bachelor’s degree to have a shot in the competitive advertising industry.
Happily, Admina’s remaining coursework qualified for Agency’s tuition-assistance program. It’s been challenging for her to go to class two nights a week, but she’s aiming for a promotion at Agency. Then she’ll be the one eating the pastries instead of arranging them.
The International Association of Administrative Professionals suggests celebrating Administrative Professionals Week by facilitating professional development for admins through tuition reimbursement, training opportunities and membership in professional organizations, and with business-related gifts such as personalized business cards, a nameplate, gift certificates or a monetary bonus for exemplary performance.
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