What will 2008 hold for administrative professionals? With so many forces roiling the labor market -- the trend toward just-in-time hiring, an economy squeezed by a credit crunch, technology that both destroys and creates jobs -- it’s hard to say. But this perennial truth will hold: Great admins are hard to find, and they will be in great demand.
“During times of uncertainty, contingent business goes up,” meaning more temporary hiring of admins, says Dan Glazier, chief operating officer of Snelling Staffing Services in Dallas. “But 2007 has been fairly uncertain, and there’s been a lot of direct-hiring of permanent employees, so that’s countercyclical.”
Why is this happening? Companies are somewhat low on headcount overall, so that makes them more likely to hire full-time, says Glazier. Employers may also convert a temporary administrative position to full-time sooner rather than later, to avoid losing a top admin to the competition.
And administrative professionals can find themselves buffeted by short-lived but strong currents in local labor markets. “You can have microburst of demand for administrative work, then an overabundance of admins -- things can change very quickly,” says Glazier. “Merger or acquisition could cause the elimination or creation of a position overnight.”
What Hiring Managers Want
As important as technology will be in admins’ workdays in 2008, there’s a growing acknowledgement of the primacy of soft skills in these people-intensive jobs.
Two-thirds of human resources managers said they would hire a candidate with strong soft skills and weak technical ability, according to a survey sponsored in part by the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) and HR.com. But only 9 percent of these managers said they would hire someone who was strong on tech and weak with people.
In addition, hiring managers are increasingly looking for admins with industry-specific experience, says the IAAP study.
More and more employers are creating multiskill positions that put a high value on flexibility, says Glazier. In 2008, an admin may find herself answering the phone and stuffing envelopes in the morning, writing the boss’s PowerPoint and putting together a five-country road show itinerary in the afternoon, and then calling the boss at home at 9 p.m. to remind him to dial in to a conference call.
Admin Pay Is More Stratified Than Ever
When it comes to pay, all admins are not created equal. And in 2008, experience, location and the boss’s position will make even more of a difference.
Entry-level administrative assistants earn about $34,000 on average as of December 2007, according to Salary.com, which powers Monster’s Salary Wizard. Executive assistants average $46,000, though when they report to a C-level executive in a big-city office, these key employees can pull down $70,000 to $100,000 or more, according to industry observers.
Higher-level administrative professionals don’t just earn more, they’ll get higher percentage raises in 2008, according to another survey. While the average administrative assistant’s salary will increase a slim 2.1 percent in 2008, an executive assistant is likely to get a 3.2 percent bump, and a senior executive assistant 3.7 percent.
Virtual Assistants Are on the Rise
Another key trend is the substantial increase in administrative business outsourced to virtual assistants. These entrepreneurs may serve a handful of clients -- usually small businesses -- or oversee a stable of freelance admins.
When you’re on your own, both software skills and up-to-the-minute office technology savvy are critical.
“The collaboration software is really where it’s at,” says Jennifer Goodwin, principal of InternetGirlFriday.com. “We stay on top of products and services such as Groove, Yugma, WebEx, Microsoft OfficeLive and HyperOffice. When I’m working with my client’s team of five, to be able to take my client’s files and store them in my own online area has been wonderful.”
Taking the trend to the next logical step, Goodwin has begun to selectively subcontract administrative work overseas. This strategy has worked, but strict quality control is a necessity. “You have this idea that you’re going to hire someone at $3 an hour and they’re going to do it just like a genie -- that doesn’t happen,” says Goodwin. “You have to scout, interview, train and test, just as you would with a local hire.”