Updated December 2022
Don't think administrative assistants need specific training to do their jobs well? Think again! This role is increasingly important—and increasingly complex.
Admin assistants are needed in businesses and organizations of every stripe and size, from non-profits to start-ups to multinational corporations. No professional team can survive without skilled administrators keeping the wheels turning.
So it's no surprise that trained, talented assistants are highly sought after. In Winnipeg, the Government of Canada Job Bank is predicting good demand for office administrators through 2024.
What exactly will you need to take advantage of those job opportunities and build a successful career as an office assistant?
Start with the top five skills taught in quality office assistant training. These are the competencies absolutely every employer is looking for.
1. Office Software
Confidence using common office software is one of the most important skills for administrative assistants. You'll find this ability featured on almost every office skills list out there (including these ones, here, here, and here).
Quality office assistant training will focus heavily on technology, specifically Microsoft Office programs like Word, Excel, and Access.
Be prepared to dive deep into creating and formatting documents, using spreadsheets, working with databases—and in general, learning how to create all kinds of graphics, forms, worksheets, and reports.
Haven't spent much time using these programs? Don't worry—a good program will include several courses in office software. You'll get hands-on training both during class and while on internship.
By the time you're done your diploma, you'll be ready to tackle any kind of computer-related task your employer will throw at you. And if you can't remember the right steps for a particular task, you'll have the research skills needed to look it up online and get it done right.
2. Professional Communication Techniques
Professional written communication is just as important as knowing your way around office software. Assistants are usually front-line staff who deal directly will customers as well as colleagues. They are the communications hub of every office.
Not only will you be expected to communicate professionally with clients, you'll also need to coordinate schedules and projects between team members and for your supervisor.
You will need very sharp writing skills, and the ability to present information clearly through email, using inter-office communication systems, and potentially online—where you may need to follow up with clients via a website or social media.
Administrative assistants represent their companies, departments, and employers. That means you need perfect spelling and grammar, and the ability to format different kinds of communications documents correctly.
Administrative assistant training includes specific assignments devoted to writing memos, emails, reports, and letters, including how to edit and proofread these documents for your employer.
Whether you're ordering office supplies, scheduling appointments with clients, responding to questions online, or organizing a meeting—professional communication is what will set you apart as a fully qualified administrative assistant.
Several experts, such as global staffing firm Randstad and employment site ZipRecruiter, actually rank "communication" as the #1 most important skill for office administrators.
3. How to Work the Reception Desk
This is very closely tied to communication skills, but requires an additional layer of expertise. Reception might seem easy, but it can be an extremely challenging role for the untrained administrative assistant.
Just imagine: several phone lines are ringing at once. You've got tons of new emails coming in. Your boss approaches the front desk asking you to make photocopies just as clients walk through the door for a meeting.
Working the reception is all about keeping cool under pressure, prioritizing tasks, and juggling requests like a pro. You need a clear of set of procedures to fall back on—guidelines for what to do first and how to make sure no task falls through the cracks.
You can definitely expect your administrative assistant courses to include detailed reception desk procedures and strategies—as well as general office operations.
You'll learn how offices are organized, how information flows from one team member to another, and your specific role in maintaining organization and efficiency.
You'll learn precisely how you contribute to the smooth running of any office, and why admins are the backbone of every business and organization.
4. Managing Time, Tasks & Information
Admin assistants always have numerous tasks and requests to deal with. A big part of this job is knowing what to do first, and how to keep track of important information. You definitely need some kind of system to stay on top of it all.
Administrative assistant training helps you develop techniques for organizing what you need to do and managing your time well. A big part of this skill involves knowing how to properly record and store information.
When someone asks you for a file, you need to know exactly where it is. And it's important that the file be up to date and complete.
Updating records, storing them both online and in hard copy, and keeping track of deadlines are just some of the topics you'll cover in class.
Well-organized office staff are much better at getting things done with less stress—so this is a key skill to work on both in training and throughout your career.
5. Human Relations
Offices are notorious for politics, gossip, and behind-the-scenes drama. Rule #1 is to stay above it all by resisting talking behind people's backs, and always maintaining your professionalism.
The human relations part of your administrative assistant training will focus on how to connect with others at work. You'll learn how to function as a team and form positive relationships, as well as how to deliver excellent customer service.
Your courses will touch on conflict resolution, dealing with client complaints, managing stress, and responding positively to criticism.
Remember, you'll be the communications hub of the office, so learning how to work well with your colleagues (and respond politely to clients) is especially important for you.
The bottom line: In order to succeed, office assistants need a special blend of technical ability, common sense, grace under pressure, and people skills.
Sound like you? Think you've got the ideal profile to work in office administration? We'd love to hear from you.
Chat live with an admissions advisor right now to get more information. Or, click below to explore the Administrative Assistant program in greater detail. We're here to help!