I started out in the field as the assistant to the Assistant City Attorney. I know, I seemed to have bypassed the starter jobs in an office, but I’ve had to take those during changes in my career. However, I came into the field having finished a college program Legal Secretarial Specialist. This was over 20 years ago and I actually checked out the college website to see if they still offer this course. They don’t.
As a business college, they offer programs that are most current with practical related courses specific to get you out there prepared (are you ever prepared for the different scenarios to come – every office is different as you will learn). Anyway, courses have evolved in the legal field to Criminal Justice and School of Business, which includes Accounting and various Business Management programs.
I also had a friend who was the Office Manager for the law firm and informed me that they may have an opening for a Legal Secretary/Assistant and would put a word in for me.
Here are my tips for getting into the field as an assistant.
Develop the Necessary Skills
Take classes. You can find so many tutorials on the sidebar of my website that there is no reason not to be learning programs and technology used in the office. There are still colleges who offer programs in the Administrative Assistant field.
If you don’t think taking a college program is your idea of breaking into the field, at least research a program, find out what courses are required for the completion of the program, and make efforts to learn those on your own. Also, many courses are provided online, so it is something you can do at your own pace at home.
Do you know someone in the position or management that would hire such a position? See if you can get some one-on-one time to pick their brain. Some rules to follow:
- You are requesting their time, a most valued resource, so be sure that it comes across as a request and not a demand or expectation.
- Come to the meeting prepared. Know your questions, names, and/or companies that you would like to get from the conversation.
- Keep it brief.
- Pay the tab. This is non-negotiable; so pick a location you afford to spring for.
- Remember all favors extended to you. If for no other reason than great stories to tell when it’s your turn to advise an aspiring young woman at the beginning of her career.
Start at the Beginning
You may have to start out as a receptionist just to get started. I found, during my job search, that there are a lot of companies that are looking for a secretary/receptionist. They don’t actually advertise that it is a receptionist position, but they are looking to fill a combined role to reduce staffing. Many small and mid-size companies will do this. It’s a start, but gets your foot in the door.
Even if you initially get in as a receptionist, find ways to be helpful to the administrative staff and the executives and they will see you as someone with initiative to take on an assistant position when one opens. It’s great when you can get into an office where the company looks within for already existing resources and personnel before posting the job outside.
Who You Know
If you aren’t networking, that is your first very big mistake in today’s technology age. You’ve heard two old adages, “It’s not what you know, but who you know” and “dress for the job you want.” In the latter, change it to “develop relationships and associations with the job and/or industry you want.”
Tell everyone you know, friends – family – network, the job you are interested in. People genuinely want to help others. Also, be someone who is reliable and knowledgeable so they feel confident in making recommendations on your behalf.
As your friends move up the ladder, it’s only natural that we want to see each other advance in our careers. The reverse applies as well. As you advance in your career, be willing to help others on their path when given the opportunity.
Those are my suggestions for breaking into the office job with style. You will be informed, prepared, and a consummate professional that anyone would consider when a position becomes available.
Two more quotes to leave you with.
“Preparation + Opportunity = Success”
“If A equals success, then the formula is A equals X plus Y and Z, with X being work, Y play, and Z keeping your mouth shut.” –Albert Einstein
Leave your thoughts and ideas, anything you would include, in the comments. I love hearing about your experiences and what your doing to be great in the office. Also, feel free to ask me questions. I will always do my best to give you an answer if I have one, from personal experience of course.
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