Probably the most frequent questions I get and that I see asked on the internet is what is appropriate work for an Administrative Assistant. You will rarely find any cohesive answers for this question, though, because the job description for any Administrative Assistant position will vary widely depending on the industry, the company, the department, and even the individual boss involved. However, regardless of the specifics, most duties fall within certain general guidelines for Administrative Assistants.
Generalized Administrative Assistant Duties
- Answering Phones and Screening Calls. Your description may say something about “transferring calls appropriately”, which is just polite speak for screening calls. Whether you support an entire department or just one individual, you will likely have this duty on your job description.
- Greeting Clients and Visitors. Even if you aren’t in a Front Desk position, you will occasionally be greeting and escorting visitors.
- Managing Calendars. This could be for your boss or bosses or conference rooms and other resources.
- Creating and Modifying Documents. This one item can become a whole list on some job descriptions if they get specific as to the particular documents you’ll manage. This can include everything from letters and memos to producing entire books and catalogues. This can also include creating and modifying PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets.
- Receive and Distribute mail. Even if you only receive mail for your particular boss, you will at some level be handling mail. You may also, depending on your position, be responsible for handling and stamping outgoing mail.
- Filing. This includes setting up and managing electronic and physical files.
- Scheduling and Setting Up Meetings. This would include confirming attendees, scheduling conference rooms, setting up conference calls, and managing multi-media needs. Also included here would be taking and transcribing meeting minutes.
- Project Management. Administrative Assistants are often called upon to handle big projects such as setting up special events, creating a procedures book, or handling office moves. While part of the work will likely be handled by the assistant herself, the assistant will also be coordinating the work of others involved in the project.
- Making Travel Arrangements and Compiling Expense Reports.
- Managing Office Machinery. This includes clearing jams from copy and fax machines; ordering toner, ink and other supplies; and being the contact person for machine repairs.
- Maintaining the Office Supply Cabinet. This duty usually includes various procurement duties such as pricing out new office machinery and finding money-saving alternatives to current supply needs.
- Maintaining Office Databases. While some database creation knowledge may be desired in a specific job, usually the requirements lean more toward updating data and running canned reports.
- Website Maintenance. While assistants don’t usually create websites, many do make periodic updates to company or department websites.
Most Administrative Assistant duties will fall somewhere among these generalized job duties. That doesn’t mean you won’t see more extensive duties that fall outside of these. And that brings us to our next topic.
Other Duties As Assigned
The ubiquitous “Other Duties” clause found in almost every Administrative job description. This can include anything from a last minute bank run to working on a company-wide committee to making sure everyone filled out an updated W-4. And, yes, it includes getting coffee.
Maybe I’m a little old fashioned in my concept of an Administrative Assistant, but I view the job as being whatever is needed to help the boss get her work done. If that includes getting him a cup of coffee so he can continue working or make it to a meeting on time, then so be it. If picking up his lunch means he has more work time at his desk, then I pick up his lunch.
The caveat I would add to this is if the boss is using you to do a great deal of personal errands for him. I have occasionally made personal reservations, booked personal travel, and even picked up dry cleaning for my boss, but these were exceptions rather than the rule. They were times when the boss was slammed with work, and I did these things so he could manage his schedule. If you are in a corporate environment and these personal duties are a regular occurrence, though, it could be considered a misuse of company funds, namely your salary. Look carefully at your personnel policies, and if you think it is a misuse of your time, talk to your boss or someone in HR about it. However, if you are working for the owner of a company that is a sole proprietorship, then your duties are whatever the boss thinks they are.