These days, with companies reorganizing and downsizing, more and more is being expected of the Administrative Assistant role. We’re not just expected to take care of the boss anymore, we’re also expected to design databases, manage websites, produce newsletters and a plethora of other duties we weren’t expected to do in the past. As such, more and more software knowledge is expected of someone applying for an Administrative Assistant position over and above the usual Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. I’ve put together a list of software that could be beneficial for you to learn. Needless to say, you should also be expert at the aforementioned software.
While many of you may have worked with Microsoft Access, you probably have done simple work like adding and updating records and running predesigned reports. More and more these days, companies are wanting Administrative Assistants to be able to handle everything from the design phase of the database to building it, designing forms and reports, and managing security. If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend taking an advanced Access class that talks not only about the specifics of the software, but the concept of relational database design.
One very common theme I’ve seen in job ads recently is the requirement to be able to manage a website. You’ll find a variety of website editors that companies use to manage websites. The most popular ones, though, are Microsoft FrontPage and Adobe Dreamweaver. FrontPage seems to be the one must requested, probably because it was included in Microsoft Office Professional starting in 2003. However, FrontPage is being phased out by Microsoft, so there are other web authoring tools being offered. Dreamweaver is considered the industry standard for web design, but it’s a very expensive program, so you see it less often in your run of the mill office setting. I’ve found, though, that if you understand the concepts in one program, you can apply it to the other program. You just need to learn the mechanics of the new program.
Again, I recommend taking a class that includes not just the mechanics of the programs, but the concepts of web design. It’s not just about looking good, but functioning well and loading fast.
Many Administrative Assistants produce newsletters, fliers, posters, table cards, name tags and any number of other items. Some of these items must be professionally printed. Microsoft Publisher, which comes with Microsoft Office these days, is a good tool for simple graphic design and works for internal items. But if you are going to have things professionally printed, it doesn’t work as well. Many printers don’t accept Publisher files, and converting them to PDF can sometimes be problematic. Publisher also provides very little control over color, placement, bleeds and other issues.
Adobe InDesign is another software that you may see requested in job ads. It’s a very complex, graphic design software. You won’t be able to learn it overnight. And, if you are a Microsoft person, you’ll have a pretty big learning curve because Adobe uses completely different terminology for the same things than Microsoft. I was able to teach myself the basics of InDesign, but more than any other software, I recommend taking a class on InDesign. It really is very complex and to use it effectively, you’ll be better off taking a class.
If you’re working on websites and newsletters, you are perforce going to be working with graphics. Unfortunately, there is much more to working with graphics than just dragging and dropping them into your document. You need to be able to change resolutions, crop, resize, adjust brightness and contrast, cut out unwanted elements, and a plethora of other little details to make your graphics look great.
In this case, Microsoft doesn’t have a nice, out-of-the-box option for you. Microsoft Paint just doesn’t do what you want it to, and Microsoft Photo Editor isn’t much better.
The industry standard for working with graphics is Adobe Photoshop. It’s a full scale graphic design tool that lets you do everything from adjusting photos to painting portraits. It’s a little over the top for the type of graphics work we do as Administrative Assistants, and it has a price tag to match.
There is another program that you can use. It’s an Open Source, free ware program called GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program). If you are already familiar with PhotoShop, there is even an overaly for GIMP called GIMPShop, which is designed to have a similar interface to PhotoShop. I’ve been using GIMP for a few years, and while there is a learning curve to it, it pretty much does the job you want for a great price… FREE!
The career path of an Administrative Assistant requires that you learn many skills. Some of these skills will be software related. Especially in this current economic climate, you will be best poised to climb the career ladder if you know the software companies are using. Do yourself a favor, learn them now instead of later.
Let’s hear from some of the other Administrative and Executive Assistants out there. What software do you consider important for someone climbing the Administrative career ladder to know?