The Administrative Assistant Career Path: Opportunities to Advance

Administrative Assistant Career Path

An Administrative Assistant career path can go in many exciting directions, with plenty of twists and turns along the way. This variable career path exists in part because of an Administrative Assistant’s extensive list of responsibilities, which can include anything and everything.

For example, just take a look at what the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook says Administrative Assistants do:

“Secretaries and administrative assistants perform a variety of clerical and administrative duties that are necessary to run an organization efficiently. They use computer software to create spreadsheets; manage databases; and prepare presentations, reports, and documents. They also may negotiate with vendors, buy supplies, and manage stockrooms or corporate libraries. Secretaries and administrative assistants also use videoconferencing, fax, and other office equipment. Specific job duties vary by experience, job title, and specialty.”

In other words, Administrative Assistants do a little bit of everything. As a result of doing it all, most Administrative Assistants have the chance to explore it all. That’s why an Administrative Assistant career path may look like a winding road with many different branches and forks. For example, some Administrative Assistants may find they have a love for budgeting and branch off the administrative path to pursue finance.

Ambitious admins will never lack opportunities to move up the ranks within their teams or even to switch departments and explore new roles. If you are (or you know) one of these ambitious Administrative Assistants, then learn all about advancing in the administrative field by exploring the tips, strategies and resources below.  

Tips and Advice

Administrative Assistant Goals

Set SMART goals.

If you want to advance in your career, then you need to set goals, and the best goals are SMART goals. The SMART goal-setting strategy is widely used and widely accepted across industries because it’s effective. Setting SMART goals helps make sure your actions align with your ambitions.

To make sure your goals are smart, you must design them to be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Sensitive

If you want to leverage your administrative experience to build a career in event planning for example, then you would take that broad goal and make it SMART.

  • Specific: Become an Associate Event Planner in your company’s Marketing and Communications department.
  • Measurable: You can measure the actions you take toward achieving your goals. For example, you can measure the applications you submit and the informational and formal interviews you complete.
  • Attainable: Numerous people within the Marketing and Communications department have encouraged you to pursue open positions, and you have at least 10 large company events in your current portfolio.
  • Relevant: Since you spend about 50% of your time planning events as is it, then this goal is certainly relevant to your experience.
  • Time-Sensitive: The Marketing and Communications team just announced an expansion that will involve bringing on 3 new Associate Event Planners. Once they post the positions online, this goal will become time sensitive.

Try everything.

Since Administrative Assistants do a little bit of everything, they have plenty of opportunities to build a range of skills and explore a wide range of interests. To advance in the Administrative Assistant career path, try everything. When someone asks you to help with a new project, go ahead and give it a try. If there’s something you really want to explore, then offer your assistance. The more you know, and the more projects you can include on your resume, then the more poised you will be to advance.

Networking

Network.

The do-it-all aspect of an Administrative Assistant’s work also involves meeting a lot of people. Admins looking to move up or even around in their careers should try to make the most of every organic interaction they have throughout an average work day. A few friendly words today could mean you’ll one day be the first to hear about a job opening.

Ask for more responsibility.

Seek out even more ways you can help, especially in the areas you’re interested in developing or advancing into. (It also helps to consider what areas offer the most benefit to your company.)

Document your progress and successes in everything you take on, and then leverage your experience to meet your career goals.

In our guide about asking for a raise, Office Manager Megan recommended “keeping a detailed list of all you do and are responsible for. Presenting those clearly will help you validate your worth.” Pull up that list when it’s time to tell leadership why you’re ready for a promotion.

Review

Constantly strive to improve.

One of the best ways to successfully navigate and move up through an administrative career is simply to cultivate and improve on existing skills and reach your highest potential. You can work with your manager to help you pinpoint:

  • Areas of improvement
  • Areas where you already excel and have potential to master

After you pinpoint these areas, you can work with your manager to establish a personal development plan that outlines focus areas and specific steps you can take to improve and refine your skills.

Resources and Tools

International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) – Career Resources Center

The International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) advocates for every person employed in an administrative profession. The organization provides resources that help professionals deepen their value to their companies and the field as a whole. Their career resources center makes a great home base for any professional navigating an Administrative Assistant career path. Their career resources include advice on all aspects of career development, from resume building to interviewing.

Administrative Assistant Events

The Office Ninjas Adminingling Events Series

According to the event series home page, the “OfficeNinjas’ Admingling events arm Ninjas with the power of collective intelligence through networking with local admins in a lively environment while sharing challenges, brainstorming new ideas, and swapping solutions.”

These casual networking events promote career development by bringing admins together to exchange ideas and stories. A conversation at one of these events could lead to your next career move.

Sample Goals and Strategies

Setting strategies

Goal: Go from Administrative Assistant to Executive Assistant

The Strategy:

  • Use your weekly meetings with high-level office leadership to learn about current unmet needs.
  • Take initiative and work tending those needs into your existing duties. (This is an especially good strategy if the executive or manager you’re working with does not already have an Executive Assistant. In this case, you can begin to take on aspects of an Executive Assistant role as you continue with your current responsibilities.)
  • Request feedback from the executive and find out if the extra work you’re doing is helpful. After you’re certain you’ve demonstrated unquestionable value, then schedule a meeting. Discuss your goals and learn what else you would need to do to become an Executive Assistant.

Goal: Go from Administrative Assistant to Office Manager

The Strategy:

  • Take some time to observe operations around the office.
    • If your company already has an Office Manager, then observe the kinds of things the person in that position takes care of.
    • If your company lacks an Office Manager, then make note of important to-dos that might be falling through the cracks.
  • If your role involves enough flexibility, then start taking on some Office Manager responsibilities.
    • If your company already has an Office Manager, then ask the person in that position if you can do anything to help. Explain that you’re interesting in becoming an Office Manager one day and find out if the current Office Manager has specific career goals. By giving you some tasks to help you learn, the current Office Manager could also free up time to pursue career-development interests.
    • If your company lacks an Office Manager, then simply get started on areas that are of the most interest to you. Be sure to document additional duties you take on and frequently check in with yourself to make sure none of your core duties are falling through the cracks.

Goal: Go from Administrative Assistant to Human Resources specialist

The Strategy:

  • Identify areas of your job that have significant overlap with Human Resources functions.
  • Brainstorm ways you might improve those job areas, and even consider additional duties you could take on to increase the percentage of time you spend on Human Resources functions.
  • Tell your supervisor about your interests, and share the ideas you brainstormed. Make sure your supervisor approves your plans and displays a willingness to help document your progress and successes in Human Resources areas.
  • Set up informational interviews with the current Human Resources team. Before your meeting, identify a specific role you might like to pursue. During the meeting, share what you’ve been doing in your current role and find out what other experience you might need to be considered for your target position.
  • Collate the advice you received from Human Resources and your supervisor to create a step-by-step action plan that has you completing all the recommended actions and applying to your target position before your next annual review.

Do you have experience navigating the Administrative Assistant career path? We’d love to hear what you’ve learned along the way. Share your knowledge in the comments below.