Careers advice

Key skills for jobs in the office and administration sector

What will employers be looking for?

The office and administration sector is truly vast, and encompasses all manner of roles, from personal assistants to receptionists to data entry positions.

A feature of this sector that marks it out from many others is that a wide array of different companies or organisations have a need for professionals with office and administration skills. For example, a receptionist role fits just as neatly into the tourism sector as it does a hospital, and a scientific research organisation has exactly the same need for people who know how to enter data as does a car dealership.

So, what are the core skills for administrative jobs that could unlock all of these exciting fields for you?

Skills for administrative jobs

1. Digital know-how

The good news is that the days in which secretaries, receptionists, PAs and almost everyone else in this sector needed to record all information by hand are over.

However, this means you need to have first rate computer skills if you want to further a career in office or administration. Among the things we’d recommend getting familiar with are suites of programs like Microsoft Office or the Google Suite, most businesses will use one (or both) of these, so being able to include these on your CV will look good.

Of course, different businesses will likely use other more specific software packages depending on what sector they’re in, but you generally won’t be expected to have experience with these ahead of time. Learning how to use the software will form part of your training period. That said, if you have exposure to a given industry-specific software bundle, and you’re applying for jobs in that field, it’s well worth mentioning that on your CV and in the interview. Even if the company doesn’t use the same one, this will show you’re able to pick these skills up on the fly.

Another core competency is touch-typing – this is because an important element of many office and administration jobs is to be able to enter information quickly and efficiently. Especially if you’re hoping to land a role as an executive assistant (EA) or personal assistant (PA) you may have to take down notes verbatim as they are read to you. There are plenty of online tools that can help get your typing, literally, up to speed.

Being tech-savvy is a core attribute required in modern office and administration jobs.

2. Communication skills, verbal and written

One of the reasons why office and administration personnel are so crucial to businesses is that they often act as bridges between different departments and employees, and allow them to do their work.

However, for you to be able to do this effectively, you’ll need top notch verbal and written communication skills. In terms of written communication, this will be used in tasks such as:

  • Sending emails, including to large groups of people.
  • Writing invoices to customers.
  • Taking meeting minutes.

3. Organisational skills

This comes back to the idea of office and administration employees being the glue binding many different elements of a business together. This, of course, means that you yourself need to be organised.

Back in the day, this might have meant a decent filing system. Today, it’s more likely to involve setting up and managing digital ecosystems for your organisation – a good example being Google Drive. Having a clean and functional system of folders, and ensuring that everyone in the office knows how this works, will make the day-to-day running of the business so much smoother.

Of course, for roles such as EA or PA, you’ll also be directly responsible for organising someone else. This could involve everything from booking travel to setting up meetings, and will involve great attention to detail to ensure the person you’re assisting is able to make all of their commitments.

Luckily organisation doesn't look like this anymore.

4. Problem solving

If you’re writing a CV for an administration job, being able to demonstrate the ability to think critically and solve problems will really stand out to employers.

Often, you’ll be the other employees’ first port of call if something goes wrong, so being able to think on your feet and respond to the unexpected is a great trait to have. There’s a chance that, in your job interview, you might be asked a behavioural question along the lines of ‘What would you do in the event that X happened?’. While these can be scary in prospect, it’s important to remember that the interviewer mainly wants to see how you’d approach the problem, rather than looking for a specific answer.

5. Networking ability

While there are heaps of benefits to professional networking for your own career development, what we’re talking about is being a network hub within the organisation.

Another way of saying this is that you need to have really good oversight of what is happening in different areas of the business so that you can facilitate productive interactions between people in these spaces. Often, this comes down to being good at building relationships with different people and being able to retain relevant information so that it’s always top of mind when required.

On the flipside, you also need to be good at negotiating and managing expectations. You’ll probably find lots of people making demands on your time, it’s simply part of the role. However, you’re only human, so you’ll need to be able to politely, but firmly, push back if unrealistic deadlines are being proposed.

6. Attention to detail

We mentioned this briefly under point 3, but it’s deserving of its own spotlight. Whether you’re drawing up contracts with new clients, writing an email on behalf of a senior executive or enrolling a new patient or member, you’ll need to be able to keep things accurate at all times. The key here, paradoxically, isn’t putting pressure on yourself – a cool head and process driven approach will be your best friends when making sure every i is dotted and every t is crossed.

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