Traditionally, assistants of all sorts are among the most "underappreciated" group of employees. In fact, this perception is so common that many assistants - virtual and otherwise - start out from their very first day of work bemoaning the fact that they are unrecognized and unappreciated. The hard facts of life are that this may be true, and it is unlikely to change much except during administrative assistants' appreciation week. However, in order to succeed as an admin, you must learn to get past this and not let it impact your daily attitude. If you can learn to "dole it out," then you will soon find that the level of appreciation for your work rises correspondingly to how appreciative you are of other people.
This can take some very basic forms. Whenever you speak to someone on the phone, thank them for calling (even if they are being obnoxious and you and your employer could not possibly care less about what they have to say!). This contributes to a positive perception of you and your employer, and will make future calls - and call screenings - run more smoothly. Also, be sure to thank people for their hard work whenever you send them any type of request. For example, if you need a document reviewed by another member of the team, when you send it, close with a "thank you for your time and effort" line that will let them know you appreciate the time that they are putting into getting this done for you. These types of closings will lead to a noticeable decrease in turnaround time for projects.
In addition to simple thank-you's, once a year show your employer some appreciation for providing you with a job. This generally takes the form of a traditional holiday greeting and perhaps a small gift. Simply thanking an employer for the opportunity to work for them can lead to a positive and growing relationship between you and your boss. This is particularly important for VA's, who tend to inspire less emotional loyalty than assistants who are physically present. By your virtual nature, you will always be easier to "let go" than someone who is right there in the office. As a result, you need to fortify your relationship with an employer via showing appreciation for them as well as by doing a great job in the role that you serve.
If you serve as any type of administrative assistant, you may not realize how important it is to develop your leadership skills. After all, most of your best work is likely done partially or entirely behind the scenes. However, in reality, your leadership abilities are vital to your success - even if you work in a virtual capacity and enter the office seldom or never. Leadership is more than inspiring people. It is also all about getting things done effectively. As a result, good leadership skills will make your role as an administrative assistant far more rewarding and fulfilling.
When it comes to admin positions, much of your role probably involves negotiations. Just because you are not on the front lines "duking it out" with competitors and vendors does not mean you are not critical to the success of these meetings. You must take a firm but helpful tone when it comes to setting up meeting times and making sure that people are where they need to be. This not only means getting your boss in place, but it also means setting the tone when you set meetings with other people. If they have had a positive experience working with your company through you before they ever encounter your superiors, then the meetings are certain to progress more smoothly. You might want to work with your boss to establish the tone that they would like you to set when you are making appointments so that the two of you are working together from the start to accomplish business goals.
In addition to being the first point of contact for clients and potential clients, you will also likely be involved in a fair amount of supervision and delegation - even if those words are nowhere in your job description. Strong leadership skills will help you get people where they need to be on time and enable you to get results when you request information or assistance from other people in your business network. Being able to elicit aid in a way that actually gets the response that you need is a key leadership skill for any admin position.
Finally, whether you realize it or not, your involvement in the basic organization of the business sets you up as a mentor and role model to other members of your office. You probably know that you know more about running the business and how things work than a lot of other employees. Using this information in a helpful fashion to enable others to succeed with you is one of the best ways to use your leadership skills to benefit the entire business.
If you are any type of administrative assistant - virtual, on-site, part time or otherwise - you may be tempted to allow yourself to consider your role in the company as a "just" role. This means that you think of yourself - or allow others to think of you - as "just a secretary," "just an administrator" or "just an assistant." However, when you are truly involved and effective in your role as "just" any of these things, you are, in reality, absolutely indispensable to the company.
This type of "just" mindset is extremely unhealthy. Not only can it lead to under-appreciation of your efforts should supervisors and other co-workers follow your lead, but it also can contribute to a deep seated workplace dissatisfaction. After all, if you start out each day thinking of yourself as someone who is not very important, then spend the entire day working very hard on important things, you will inevitably find yourself feeling depressed and negative about your situation.
In truth, administrative assistants of all kinds are the literal backbone behind the company. They see that things get done. It is your responsibility to make sure that everyone is not only where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there, but you are likely also responsible for hundreds of other small details that no one else can be trusted to know or relied upon to remember. As a result, you are integral to the success of every account and team within your business, and you must remember that each and every day as you work on making every team a working and fully operational part of the larger business machine.
Virtual assistants struggle with the "just" misconception just as much as other types of administrative assistants and some even more so because they have to deal with people that they may not actually ever see in person. It is easy to feel removed and unnoticed when you are working in an environment that may necessitate communication only by email and other impersonal means. As a result, it is very important that you have a firm hold on your own value to yourself and to your company. If you cannot get past the "just" mindset, then it is possible that you should consider another line of work that will be less stressful on your own psyche and enable you to perform past "just" and all the way to your full potential.
When you apply for a job, you probably understand - more or less - the requirements of the position going in. Furthermore, you probably believe that you have the skills and ability to perform the tasks involved in the position, or you would not apply. However, we all know that there is more to getting - and keeping - a position than simply meeting the paper requirements of a job. This is particularly true in administrative positions, which rely heavily on your ability to work with other people effectively. When it comes to this type of position, you will not only need technical skills like word processing and computer literacy, you will also need to cultivate an effective set of "soft skills" that will show an employer from the very beginning that you have what it takes to get the job done.
Here are some examples of "soft skills" that will help you nail an interview and secure a position:
- Effective communication
- High self-esteem
- Working well with others
The best way to demonstrate from the initial meeting on that you possess these skills is by:
- Being prepared
- Bring copies of your resume, a pen, and samples of your work. You should also have a few prepared questions, letters of recommendation and a list of additional references.
- Presenting yourself effectively
- Dress professionally - even if the office code does not require it. Smile and speak clearly. Make sure your handshake is firm.
- Be friendly
You never know who all might be involved in the decision to give you a job. Always be polite starting with the receptionist and moving forward. Do your best to make the interview flow like a conversation.
If this list reads like a list of interview tips, that is because it is. While you will have to cultivate your soft skills throughout your career just as you would build on existing technical abilities, you will only have one shot at showing a potential employer that you have the soft skills as well as the technical ones to function effectively in a position. Starting out by demonstrating your effectiveness at communication and working with others is the best way to set off on the right foot in a new job and continue on that successful path.
The internet is an incredibly versatile and varied source of information. However, not all information that you find online is created equal. In order to do effective research online, you will need to be able to distinguish between good information and bad, and also learn to cite your online sources in such a way that they supplement your credibility when you deliver your findings.
Here are some tips for doing research online:
Use Google as a Guide, Not an Authority
When you use Google or any other search engine to do an internet search, you will get a lot of options for sources of information. Just because these webpages show up in search results does not mean that they are valid sources of information. You will have to evaluate the information and content on these sites to determine if they are a good source or not.
Check the Authors' Credentials
Just about anyone can post just about anything they please online. However, there is no certification process that marks one website as an acceptable source of information and another as a source of invalid information. For this reason, you need to identify who compiled the information before you determine if they are a good source. If they have other publications on this topic, or have a resume that indicates that they should know about the topic that their website covers, then it is probably safe to use the information.
Know When to Rely on Peer-Reviewed Publications
If you are researching information for a scientific publication, then you probably need to use data that you can verify in peer-reviewed journals. Fortunately, this is fairly easy to do (assuming that the information is, in fact accurate) by using Google Scholar to search all peer-reviewed publications online and determine if your information is accurate. You can also contact the author directly to find out how they determined the results and findings.
When you do online research, it is your responsibility to insure that your facts are straight. If you fail to do so, the only person who will suffer is you because you will lose credibility thanks to your reticence when it came to fact-checking. It is vitally important that you insure your information is good before you distribute it or hand it over to another member of your work team.
In todays highly electronic and virtual world, confidentiality is a greater concern than ever before. You need to protect more information more carefully because it is so easy to steal an identity, an idea or a concept, but you have to deal with the fact that there are more ways than ever to access information as well. If you are going to be an assistant, then you will likely have access to many pieces of confidential information including social security numbers, passwords, usernames, and credit card information.
In order to do your job as an assistant, you will likely need to use these pieces of information on a regular basis. However, simply locking up the codes in a desk drawer when you are done with them is not enough to keep this information confidential. You must also be very aggressive with virtual confidentiality so that you do not accidentally expose an employer to serious theft and other problems. Here are some ways that you can keep confidential, work-related information secure:
Never save passwords or usernames
Even if you are the only person who uses your computer, you cannot rely on internet security to block all forms of virus that could contaminate your computer and/or steal information residing in any internet-based account. The only way to keep your information fully secure is to resist the temptation to allow web browsers to save your info for faster access.
Do not email any confidential information
Even if your email is encrypted, the host of your email account can probably still read it. In addition, whoever hosts the recipient's email account will also have access. This is entirely legal, and you cannot do anything about it. Of course, in addition to this you cannot control where an email goes once it is out of your hands, so putting confidential information in an email is "begging for trouble" anyway.
Shred it all
If you have ever handled confidential documents before, then this probably is not new to you. Confidential information must be shredded. However, since it is so much easier than it used to be to steal an identity or use other confidential information maliciously, you should also dispose of the shredded papers in separate containers. This lessens the likelihood that the documents can be found and pieced back together.