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What's it really like?
Lizzie Andrew, 24, started her career as an administrator, and owes it to the position she now holds.
Having left school at 16 after not knowing what I wanted to do with my life, I joined a recruitment agency and started off with an administrator job working in the accounts department of the local County Council. I had never worked in an office before, but instantly loved the environment.
I was given a relatively large amount of experience for someone my age, having to process invoices for the Property, Business and Services department. As well as this, I was responsible for having to open and distribute all post around the office. I used to love this aspect of my day as it gave me the opportunity to take a break from my area of the department. I instantly found the job rewarding and versatile. It was up to me how I approached the tasks set for me to do as long as this was in an efficient manner. I was also able to organise parts of the office in the way I saw fit, and could see the importance of the jobs I had to do.
After working in this position for two years I wanted to progress further up the company and be given greater responsibility, which led me to take the RSA Level III award. Having completed this, I had much better computer skills and was able to touch type.
A position became available within the department for a secretary, which came with a much larger salary. I got the job, and found it more taxing but also more enjoyable. I worked in this position for another three years until I heard of an opening in another company for a PA. I knew that I was capable of doing the role with all of my past experience, and so I went for it.
I got the job, and have since learned that it is very demanding, but I love it and the pay is excellent! (I work in London and I am on £32,000). As I have only had this job for a year, I want to stay for a while as I think I have a lot to learn from it. However, I have heard of people becoming analysts and researchers having started as a PA, so this may be a path I wish to go down in years to come.
Working as an administrator was a brilliant and necessary introduction to office life. It taught me what I wanted to do, and I know I would not be in the position I am today if I had not started there. I would advise any school leavers who do not know what they want to do with their lives to take on the job of an administrator if they are offered it. Sometimes you may feel that the jobs you are doing are menial, but understand that the job is a great stepping-stone to take you on to further career opportunities, rather than necessarily being a job for life.
An administrator is responsible for the smooth and effective running of an office, which includes overseeing all paperwork entering and leaving the office and answering the telephones.
The main purpose of the job is to oversee all of the activity that goes on within an office, ensuring that everything runs smoothly. An administrator will usually report to all people within the office, and will be set a variety of tasks depending on what their other colleagues have to do.
The average starting salary for an administrator depends on the company and the area of the country, with salaries usually related to local government pay scales.
This usually falls between £13,000 and £19,000, and will increase with experience. However, salaries will not usually exceed £27,000.
If additional responsibilities are included, such as becoming the fire safety officer or taking on longer working hours, the salary will usually go up accordingly.
An administrator will usually be responsible for the post within an office, which includes opening all incoming letters and making sure that they go to the relevant people, as well as guaranteeing that the outgoing post gets sent from the office.
The department’s filing will usually be devised, organised and run by the administrator. This will include fetching the required documents and returning them to their appropriate locations after their use by a colleague. Other general office duties include photocopying and faxing.
An administrator will usually be the person responsible for the switchboard or the main phone within the department. They will then have to pass on calls to the relevant person, or take messages as necessary. Higher members of the department may require the administrator to phone other companies or departments to pass on their messages.
Some administrators will also be the first port-of-call for office emails, and they will have to distribute these to the appropriate person or department. Most departments or companies will have an address book with all details of clients or contractors recorded within it, which the administrator will be required to keep up-to-date and in a working order.
Some administrators will be required to take on more secretarial-type duties, which may include typing letters and producing documents. In general, they will not be required to audio-type.
Administrators will usually be responsible for arranging meetings for people within their department, so they will be required to book rooms and make sure that the relevant people attend. Additionally, it will usually be the job of the administrator to ensure that the meeting room is of a suitable appearance, that all documents are produced for the meeting and that the required equipment is on hand and in working order. Some administrators will also have to arrange for transport and accommodation if a member of their team is attending a meeting outside of the office, or to book their colleagues onto necessary training programmes and to confirm their attendance at business events.
All stationary for the department will usually pass through the administrator’s hands, meaning they are responsible for placing orders and ensuring that certain items are always keep in stock. Colleagues will usually tell the administrator when they need certain stationary items, and the administrator will have to guarantee that the department does not exceed their stationary budget. To coincide with this, the administrator may be given the responsibility of looking after the petty cash for the department. However, this is usually given to employees who have been with the company for a while as it can often involve a large amount of money.
Most administration jobs will require the applicant to have some GCSEs, with Maths and English being the main requisites. Otherwise, most positions will not require any further credentials, although applicants with an RSA qualification may be considered over those without.
Some recruitment companies will run spelling and grammar checks, as well as typing and maths tests. These will usually dictate the type of environment that you are put into. For example, administrators in a legal environment will need to have higher levels of English than those who are going to work in an accounts department, who will require stronger maths skills.
The hours for the job will usually coincide with the other members of the department, meaning regular office hours apply. However, this will vary according to the company and the requirements of the position.
Although not a particulary dangerous job, a good awareness of Health & Safety issues will be essential as the office can present a few hazards and annoyances.
As many administration jobs are specific to the company, previous experience will often not be required as training will happen 'on the job'. However, those who have previous experience may be considered over others, and this will often set the rate of pay.
Due to the nature of the work, virtually all firms and companies, and sometimes the departments within these companies, will have an administrator working for them. The jobs that the administrator does are common to all office environments, meaning it is one of the most widely-found jobs.
An administrator is the first level of entry into an office, and many find that they are able to work their way up within a company to become secretaries or even personal assistants. It is often possible for an administrator to continually take on new tasks under their job description, thus providing them with experience to branch off into other areas. Further qualifications may be needed to do this, such as the RSA award, but some companies will pay for their employees to do this.