Employers expect greater computer proficiency from all levels of admin pros than they did only a few years ago, staffing firm reps say.
Executive assistants who once relied primarily on "soft skills" now shoulder more computer responsibilities—such as working with budgets in Excel. Being able to chip in on assignments involving computer work offers one of the best ways for receptionists to move up.
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For most admin assistant positions today, knowing both Microsoft Word and Excel are basic requirements, and PowerPoint soon will join that list, predicts Robert Morgan, president of employment solutions for international staffing firm Spherion.
Employers also request specific advanced skills when hiring, such as the ability to run a mail merge or to link information among programs, says Jennifer Hamilton, a staffing manager at High Profile Staffing Services in Dallas.
And they're demanding proof that job candidates are as proficient with programs as they claim to be.
To prove that your skills are top-notch:
Train thyself. Organizations are less willing today than a few years ago to train their employees or hire someone who they will need to train, Morgan says.
Don't worry about knowing the latest version of a program, since most organizations use earlier versions. But do delve deeply into the advanced features of each application.
Choose carefully. Before you pay big bucks for a seminar or a college course, ensure that the class size and knowledge level match your needs. With a large, diverse group, the instructor may cover only the basics in a six-hour session, Hamilton warns. Some of your best options may cost little or nothing.
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Use it (or lose it). Ensure that you retain any training you take by seeking assignments that will put those skills to work.
Pass a test. Employers ask detailed questions about the assessments staffing firms administer to candidates, and some firms provide your scores so that you can mention them in any interviews ... even those the staffing firm didn't arrange.
While employers aren't specifically asking for the Microsoft Office Specialist certification, passing that test is another way to confirm your proficiency. Teaching a class on a computer skill also indicates your level of expertise.
Specify your accomplishments. Cite on your résumé and in interviews specific ways in which you've used software skills on projects. Example: Provide a sample of a spreadsheet or template you designed.
Be aggressive about seeking ways to hone your skills. If you lack confidence in your ability with a program, that will come through in an interview, Hamilton says, while taking the initiative to keep your skills sharp will make you shine.
With every passing month you’ll notice your tech skills multiplying. And let’s face it, in today’s workplace, those skills aren’t just appreciated — they’re expected.
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