Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Answering Reader Mail: Re-Entering the Admin Field

"Hello. Thank you so much for taking up this blog. I'm getting a lot from it and appreciate your candid advice, detailed responses, and very approachable personality.  

My question regards the difficulty I am having in reentering the admin support field despite the fact that I have ten years of office management and administrative support experience. Six of these years were at a small, personal services start up, that I sold profitably, and the remaining four years were as admin support at two small businesses. I thoroughly enjoy the diversity of these positions, the project management, and the role of admin support. This experience spanned from 1997 to 2010. During the last six years I have earned two degrees, and finishing with a teaching credential two years ago. Since that time I've been substitute teaching, in several school districts, as a means of positioning myself for a faculty opening. Concomitantly, over the last three years I've served as a committee member and conference organizer with an educational nonprofit. Well, the educational field is dismal and I've given up on the teaching career. In reviving my former admin support career, I find that my current employment, "Substitute Teacher" isn't getting me any offers. I have joined several LinkedIn groups that are in the Admin Support and Executive Support field, seeking to discover further insight, or garner advice, from these accomplished people. Can you make any suggestions that may assist me in successfully reentering the admin field? Thank you in advance for your response."

Dear LM,
I am so happy you like my blog! You are obviously very accomplished so I'm not sure I can offer you advice you haven't already discovered for yourself or maybe heard from others on LinkedIn, but I will try. And reading my other posts will be helpful if you haven't already. I've been blogging for about 4 years now so that's a lot of material!

1. Temp, volunteer, apply for PT work and list that as your present role.

While your ultimate goal is FT job in admin, the only thing that will get you there is recent experience in admin - the good ol' fashioned catch-22. So, it's best to search for temporary, short-term admin work via temping, volunteering, applying for part time work so you have something to put on your resume. Even if you only get one temp gig in September, you can keep in on your resume indefinitely by writing "September to Present" as temp work is by nature, on call, and therefore has no end date. Through volunteering, you can network and keep your pulse on the industry of your choosing. And applying for part time work allows you to use the other 20 hours to find a full time job and make the leap when you get an offer. Just do something and start somewhere is the key.

2. Call your old contacts, do informational interviews, network twice removed.

Whenever I look for a job, I send out over 200 individual emails telling people what I've been up to. I also do this around the holidays or when I read or see something pertaining to them so it's not uncommon for people to hear from me at least once or twice a year to say hi and update them for fun. So when they get that job hunting email, it's just a typical update. I can see that you are already doing the informational interviews, even if only online. A tip I keep coming across in the business and start up world is this: If you want money/a job ask for advice or information. If you want advice/information, ask for money/job. The message isn't the point, it's the conduit and how you get your audience that lets the information unfold. When you ask for a mtg it's always implied you want something and it's up to your audience to give you whatever they feel comfortable with. Regardless of the outcome, you will come out richer for the experience because of insight, a connection made, or just even practice. It's also known that the people that can help you the most are not your direct contacts (cause they are too similar to you), but more often the people THEY know. It also goes without saying that networking is a two-way street, you are looking for a mutually-beneficial relationship. You should also pass along the random act of kindness when someone wants your advice, time, or help whether with a specific individual or people at large.

3. Look for jobs under various titles - admin asst, personal assistant, estate manager, house manager, executive assistant, coordinator, project manager, director, etc.

You are obviously well rounded so don't short change yourself in applying for jobs with only a specific title or industry. Cast a wider net and be flexible. High net worth individual also have private staff to help them manager their lives/homes. It might be worth it for you to look into that as well. Most jobs have an organization/admin element to it although it may not seem so at first, so try exploring other areas besides corporate/business.

4. Craft your resume based on experience and skill set, not chronologically - and tell a different story.

I think this tip bears no real explanation as by Googling different resume types you'll get the gist. The point is to sell yourself and spin a different story. If you can, perhaps don't even list all the degrees you have. I almost wonder if you may be coming across as overqualified and over experienced. While you don't want to outright lie, you do want your resume to get you an interview and you only have to tell the story of your career as it pertains to the specific job you are applying to. Just like they say have 3-4 different resumes for certain roles, your career history should be edited to get to the heart of your skills not the timeline of it.

5. Get into social media for your skill set and self branding.

Social media is big right now, both for companies and individuals. If you don't know how to use LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, a blog, about.me, TweetMyResume, or Klout, experiment. Yes, it's nice to have your own page, but that costs money so the previously mentioned sites are all free and wide spread. Get a basic understanding and learn how to promote yourself or your future employer so you can network better. This also includes using career websites like Monster or Career Builder cause you never know who you might hear from by putting up your resume.

(Don't forget I also write at jobstr under Hollywood Executive Assistant. As always, I usually tweet any new posts I have. And anyone can email me questions and I respond only via this blog, not to your personal address. It usually takes me 2-3 days to answer.)


  1. Thank you for your detailed and lengthy response. I so appreciate you weighing in on this.This is all very helpful and hopeful. Thank you for your time and attention. LM

    1. The Muser at Musings of A High Level Executive AssistantAugust 29, 2012 at 11:32 AM

      LM - Glad I could be of help! :)