Updated December 2023
There is no doubt that office administrators are the backbone of every business, not-for-profit, government office, and corporation. From answering phones to managing projects to processing payroll, administrative professionals make sure the operation runs smoothly. No organization could survive without their skills.
This is why business administration training covers so many topics. Students learn about customer service, accounting and payroll, sales and marketing, project management, supervising staff, and much more.
The goal of any good business admin diploma? To ensure students graduate with a solid set of practical skills they can use immediately, in any organizational environment.
A quality program is based on the business administration skills employers need and want most right now. Courses are designed around those needs, so students leave with the most up-to-date training and a competitive advantage when applying for jobs.
So what are the most in-demand business administration skills?
Here are four key skills employers are always looking for in new admin hires. And they're not easy to find all in one candidate. Highlight these abilities on your resume and in interviews and you'll be a step ahead of the competition.
1. Technology: Business Software & Related Applications
All modern offices run on digital technology. The larger and more complex the company, the more applications and systems you'll need to know. But as a baseline, Microsoft Office is an absolute must. This includes Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint.
However, it's a good idea to add to these skills with other commonly used applications, like Google Docs. Knowledge of accounting software, like QuickBooks, will also be considered a tremendous asset, and will help you qualify for a wider range of office positions.
In addition, you may need to update a company website (with a tool like WordPress), deal with inquiries through online chat, and work with a project management system like Basecamp, Teamwork, or Slack.
Every office will have its own systems and tools, and you can't expect to learn each and every one in business administration training—what's key is getting comfortable with technology and embracing the challenge of quickly learning new platforms and applications.
As a member of the administrative team, almost every task you do will touch technology in some way. From ordering office supplies to updating a schedule to reporting your progress on an assignment—it's all digitized. Prove your strengths in this area, and you will definitely be considered an asset to any office.
2. Communication: Professional, Polite & Friendly
Office administration is, fundamentally, a communications role. You're helping to coordinate daily operations, connecting with clients, dealing with suppliers, and providing support to other team members.
Administrative assistants absolutely need above-average communication skills to handle all the inquiries, demands, and last-minute requests that come their way.
Whether you're seeking an executive assistant position, a general receptionist role, or a more targeted position—like an accounting/payroll clerk—you'll need to work well with others to excel. Employers need office staff who can get along with everyone and represent the company well. They're looking for candidates who come across as mature, polite, articulate, and friendly.
Your resume and cover letter is the first piece of evidence an employer will analyze, to ensure you write well and express ideas clearly. Next, it's the interview, where they'll assess your poise, spoken language skills, and overall self-presentation.
Remember: Reputation matters more than ever in business. If they're treated poorly, customers have the power to seriously damage a company's reputation by posting negative reviews online.
Smart companies understand this trend. They're looking for staff who will treat customers with respect, handle conflicts diplomatically, and be a positive face for the company.
In business, a good communicator is an extremely valuable brand ambassador.
3. Organization & Problem Solving: Staying Cool Under Pressure
Anything can happen on any given day at the office. The printer can jam just as you're getting papers ready for an important meeting. Your boss will need a last-minute flight booked just as your computer freezes and you lose internet access. You're working reception, and the phone's ringing non-stop while you're juggling email requests and incoming guests.
Working in administration means always being ready to handle the unexpected. Of course, you'll need to be as organized as possible—but because you're dealing with so many variables (other people, technology, changing schedules, last-minute emergencies), you'll need to be flexible, too.
Employers want administrative staff who can handle surprises, solve problems on their own, and stay cool under pressure.
You'll want to highlight your ability to organize information, keep track of deadlines, and manage projects independently—but also your talent for thinking on your feet and remaining calm when things go wrong.
Information moves quickly, and the pace of work at a busy office can be extremely fast. Administrators need to keep up, adapt quickly, and roll with the punches.
4. Taking the Initiative: Finding Ways to Do Your Job Better
Have you ever had a job where you were trained to complete tasks in a certain way, but over time, realized those tasks could be done much more efficiently? Did you think about saying something, or trying out a new method, but in the end decided to keep those ideas to yourself?
It's true that not all supervisors welcome new ideas. And not all work environments support employees who speak up with creative suggestions. However, if you're aiming for an administrative role in a forward-thinking company, your ability to take initiative and suggest positive changes will be very highly valued.
For example, just think about all the new office technologies and tools out there. Each year brings a new set of computer programs and mobile apps for organizing information, managing projects, staying connected to team members, etc.
Employers want office team members who are on top of these developments—who actively seek out ways to apply new tools and systems to run the operation better. Because when the office runs more smoothly, tasks get done faster, clients receive better service, the company makes more money, and the boss is happier.
If you are willing to continue learning new skills, bring helpful new ideas to the table, and are always looking for ways to do your job better, you will be highly prized by your employer. Your boss will be looking for staff who do more than the bare minimum. Show that you can take initiative and you'll earn respect as an office administrator.
Solid business administration training will give you the technical foundation and confidence you need to break into this career. How far you progress will depend on your willingness to keep building your skills, so you become absolutely invaluable to your employer.
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