Secure your career in admin
It is time to rethink what administration can offer a career-driven professional, writes Cara Jenkin.
OFFICE work is one of the most secure employment industries, offering workers the chance to work in a high-level environment and a rare career path to work their way up the corporate ladder. Administration has grown out of its stereotype as being ‘just a job to pay the bills', full of filing and answering phones.
It offers young people and career changers the chance to do high-level work with high-powered people and progress up the corporate ladder.
More than 1.5 million people work as clerical or administration workers in Australia, of which 409,000 are male.
Apart from being a sustainable employment sector, as every other industry requires administration staff to operate, jobs growth also is forecast in the next five years.
The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations projects 18,500 new jobs for receptionists, 17,100 for project/contract/program administrators, 16,200 new office manager roles and 14,800 inquiry clerk positions to be created in the five years to November 2017.
Australian Institute of Office Professionals (note to sub: can be ‘spokeswoman' in interstate editions rather than SA president if you wish) SA president Linda Primavera says the career is often overlooked by young people and their career advisers but needs to be given greater consideration because of the advancement and opportunities it provides.
"It tends not to be a career where you leave school and say ‘I want to be in an office and be a professional'," she says.
"(But) it's a career you can start in the basics and progress. Good office administration skills are universal."
Recruiters Hays Office Support reveals the job offers excitement rather than days of only taking dictation and typing letters. It reports every department needs an administrator, every reception area requires a reliable receptionist and every office needs an office manager.
Senior regional director Lisa Morris says office support staff can climb the corporate ladder and become the right-hand of the executive or executives they support, in an inspiring environment.
Some may even stand in for their executive in some matters when they are away, she says.
"Rather than collecting dry cleaning or making coffee, a career in office support keeps you front and centre in our fast-paced business world," she says. "Depending on who you support, no two days are the same.
"You might plan meetings in different countries and time zones, organise the logistics of transporting equipment or product samples for a conference, ensure an event runs smoothly, take minutes, manage diaries, data entry, take ownership of occupational health and safety or load content on to intranet and internet sites. The only certainty is that the role is varied."
In the past 10 years, the number of people employed as a personal assistant or secretary has grown by 72 per cent, while the number of general clerical workers has increased by 20 per cent.
Most people, or 387,000, are employed as numerical clerks, followed by 289,000 as general clerical workers.
About one in 10 workers are aged 24 years or under. Many young workers start out in a temp job to earn extra cash to travel and either before leaving, or on their return to Australia, start to work their way up.
Many go straight from school to their office job, then return to vocational education to study a certificate or diploma in business administration.
Some follow pathways to a Bachelor of Business tertiary study. Primavera says common career paths are from receptionist or temp to roles such as administrative officer, personal assistant, executive assistant, then project officer.
The further up the ladder, the greater the need to develop professionally, she says. "That's why you go back to study," she says. "Be proactive about your own professional development. You can't wait for someone to offer an opportunity. Put your hand up for a project and go to other areas of the organisation and upskill."
Administration also offers flexibility, both in the hours worked and industries worked in. Staff can pick which industry they want to work in and who they want to work for. "If you really want to work at the airport (for example) - do your homework, research the employers there, as every business needs administrative workers," Primavera says.
"It's a good career for women who work and have children and need to go back to work or want to go back to a career, or go back part time."
There are key personal skills, however, that workers must hold if they are to succeed in the field.
Essential skills include being able to: multi-task, plan, be organised and have a desire to be helpful, organise people, and get their business life sorted.
Managers also need to be able to trust their administration staff and rely on them, so workers need to be confidential, be discreet, know when to talk and not to talk, and have common sense.
Still, skills such as minute taking are highly regarded, as is the ability to adapt to new technology.
Primavera, who is herself an administrative manager, says being a valued member of the team is very important to her.
"I enjoy helping people and getting them organised and being the wheels behind the person at the top making decision," she says.