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Admins: MacGyvers of the modern office

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Executive assistant, administrative assistant or secretary—whatever the title, you are the ones who keep America’s offices running, even though you’ve taken on more and more work as budgets shrink.

Assistants’ workloads have in­­creased as companies cut their support staff, according to a report by the International Association of Administrative Professionals. In a survey, 52% of assistants said they supported at least three people.

Assistants these days “are expected to perform as managers,” although usually with influence, not authority, says Melba J. Duncan, a former assistant and current president of the Duncan Group, a recruiting and training firm that focuses on senior-level professional assistants.

The varied list of tasks they perform require setting priorities, making decisions, synthesizing data and reading material, Duncan says. Good assistants are reactive and adaptable. “There’s always a surprise, that can turn your day upside down.”

Assistants also tend to be among the first in a company to work with new technology—coordinating re­­mote teams, managing the company web­­site and learning cloud-based applications, says IAAP’s Ray Weikal.

“I don’t think assistants have been given the recognition and certainly not the compensation for the level of talent that they bring to this role,” Duncan says.

That compensation is a median salary of $45,000, according to responses to an IAAP survey.

— Adapted from “Assistants, Yes, but They Can Do It All,” Phyllis Korkki, The New York Times.

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