Important Soft Skills for Administrative Professionals
Administrative professionals today need to have a wide range of skills and competencies to excel in their jobs. CareerBuilder points to the following as being “the most important”:
- Efficient typing skills.
- Strong software competency skills.
- Organizational and time-management skills.
- Filing skills.
- Excellent interpersonal skills.
- Superior attention to detail.
While all are obviously important, fifth on the list – “excellent interpersonal skills” – is arguably the most important. In fact, more broadly, “soft skills” are a core element of any administrative professional’s competencies for achieving success in their role.
Administrative professionals work with a wide range of people both within and outside of their organizations. They work with the managers and leaders they support, of course, but they also work with others inside the organization—from fellow admin support professionals to colleagues in IT, HR, finance, operations and more. They may also have contact with vendors, customers, and community members.
These interactions require strong communication skills, the ability to be open and flexible, a good attitude, reliability, trustworthiness, and the ability to build and maintain strong relationships.
In addition to working well with others, administrative professionals need to be efficient and effective in getting their work done. This requires additional soft skills including patience, the ability to juggle multiple tasks and respond to impromptu requests that may arise, the ability to work under pressure, and the ability to respond effectively to feedback—both positive and constructive.
Getting things done, and getting things done effectively, is the hallmark of an exceptional administrative professional.
The work world is constantly evolving and quickly changing. We are continuously seeing shifts in things like where and how work is done due to the pandemic, as well as rapid advances in tools and technology used in the workplace. Administrative professionals need to be open-minded, willing to learn, and open to change. Rigidity doesn’t work in today’s work environments.
Today’s administrative professionals need to be confident in their capabilities and the work that they do. They need to exude an aura of efficiency and support, be able to make decisions on their own, and demonstrate that they are adept at all that they do.
When seeking a new job, or hoping to rise to higher levels of responsibility in their organizations, it’s important for administrative professionals be able to clearly convey that they possess these soft skills.
Back in the 1990s, Petr Salovey and John D. Mayer introduced the concept of emotional intelligence which was later popularized more broadly by Daniel Goleman. Goleman has become known for the concept which is also referred to as EQ.
The five qualities of emotional intelligence, or EQ, are:
- Self-awareness. Clearly understanding your own strengths and weaknesses, and being attuned to your moods and emotions.
- Self-regulation. The ability to manage your emotions.
- Empathy. The ability to understand others’ emotions and motivations.
- Motivation. The ability to take action and to encourage and support others in taking action.
- Social skills. Broadly, the ability to get along and communicate effectively with others.
These are all skills that would fall under the category of “soft skills” and, according to much research, the hallmarks of successful businesspeople in a wide range of roles—including administrative professionals.
As we’ve seen, soft skills are critically important to those in administrative roles as they interact with and serve a wide range of people.
Putting Your Best Foot Forward
In an interview setting, administrative professionals convey their soft skills in two ways: through the way they present themselves throughout the interview, and by sharing examples that demonstrate how they’ve used various soft skills in their work.
During the interview, it’s important to convey both confidence and camaraderie. HR, the hiring managers, and others involved in the interview will be paying attention to how friendly candidates are, how well they make and maintain eye contact, and how well they listen to others and respond to questions. While interviewers may be asking questions about hard skills like “what software programs are you proficient with?”—they are, at the same time, assessing soft skills based on candidates’ responses, both verbal and nonverbal.
Candidates can also convey their soft skill competencies by sharing examples. For instance, sharing examples of how they:
- Handled conflicting requests from two or more superiors.
- Dealt with an angry colleague or customer.
- Successfully met a tight deadline through solid time management and organizational skills.
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