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What it takes to build a great admin career

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Julie Perrine says she’s an “accidental admin”—but once she got into it, she found she enjoyed the job and had the skills necessary to succeed at it. She’s worked in customer service, as an executive assistant and as a virtual assistant. In 2009, she launched All Things Admin and now does onsite workshops, training and speaking.

We caught up with Perrine re­­cently and talked about the changing role of admins and what it takes to get ahead in the profession now.

Admin Pro Today: What are some of the biggest challenges facing administrative professionals today?

Perrine: It’s something all employees are facing—the management of time and scheduling, and trying to do more with less. We ask everybody who comes to our website what their top two challenges are, and time management is one of the top. When companies eliminated middle management, a lot of responsibilities were shifted to the administrative staff, and even though the economy has rebounded, it’s added additional pressure.

The other is lack of training. Tech skills, leadership skills and communication skills are key. A truly effective assistant is going to require higher training beyond Word, Excel and Power­­Point. The vast majority of admins are getting less than an hour a month of training.

Admin Pro Today: What action steps can administrative professionals take to build their careers?

Perrine: When you have a career plan, it helps you make better decisions about your resources and time. It can help you put a business case together for putting more money in the budget for training when you know where you want to go.

We also talk about putting together a personal advisory board—nothing formal, but just knowing in your head who the key people are you can go to for help with challenges. These are people you trust and who you know can push you.

Admin Pro Today: How can ad­­­mins prioritize their career development when their work keeps them so busy?

Perrine: You have to make the time for it yourself. You can’t let others dictate how you use that time. You can tell people you need an hour to watch a webinar. You can also learn to leverage those tiny blocks of time that you do have, the five to 10 minutes between tasks, to keep up with what’s going on. Social media is great for that.

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