Note: This relates to the Washington DC Metro area.
One view of the Washington Post classifieds on-line for admin positions would imply a wealth of job opportunities for administrative positions in the Washington DC Metro area. There are probably 50 listings per day for an agency or company searching for administrative staff… many of them read * Admin needed for immediate start **. After discussing this with several peers in search of new positions.. the gaps in understanding between recruiters and experienced admins became quite clear.
Let’s start with the recruiting firms.. and there are several types. Temp-to perm agencies, permanent placement firms, elite (executive support level) search firms.
Experience has it.. that temp to perm agencies run the gamut between finding a warm body to answer a phone and an agency that has systems in place to work on proper placement of applicants. Of course, they are working up against a deadline. Most of these firms receive a 8am call clamoring for immediate personnel. And, of course these agencies have to work with a budget of the client. Agencies tend to charge 4-7 dollars more and hour, than they are paying the employee. That means if you are hoping to make $22/hr- the agency has to find a firm that is willing to really pay upwards of $30/hr- just to get an applicant a spot. And again, the economics are complicated by recent college grads– just looking for any employment to shut mom/dad up. These college grads are super tech savvy but lack sometimes the more polished and soft skills needed to professionally represent the profession and the company they are assigned to… Nonetheless, their rate is going to be considerably lower than say, an admin that has supported executives for 5-7 years.
Permanent Placement agencies get a percentage of the salary you are hired at (generally). So if you are lucky enough to get $50/k- and stay on for a minimum amount of time (which varies by contract)- that recruiter will most likely get 3-5k/ for getting you in there.
And there are elite recruiters.. word of mouth that only work with CEOs and super important types. They tend to work through other admins that they place.. and send out a line of requests for help. They do use classifieds..but rarely from what I understand.
But here is where I believe the disconnect really occurs. Do these agencies.. all of them.. really KNOW and UNDERSTAND the varying degrees of administrative professionals in the workforce? Do they care to understand? Or is the pressure to place too high for them to get it right?
Sometimes the recruiters are new to the field..so they are lacking training and experience to know what to measure outside of typing speed, proficiency in Word, Excel and Powerpoint. A recent issue in placement for executives has become the administrative professional’s ability to navigate commercial and charter travel, as well as the Visa requirements for foreign governments. I promise you.. these are not topics covered at your annual IAAP convention.. though.. hopefully we can take them there!
Now to the applicants- the admins. What are they looking for? A quick fix.. a quick jump in salary? Do they know the software but have serious hardware issues.. with their mouth? Are they unable to understand the various expectations of the profession? Is is possible to find a recent college graduate in the administrative field.. by default.. that isn’t resentful?
While I hate to stereotype– I do think there are some generalizations about varying levels of admins that apply- but * caveat here* as always there will be exceptions AND variance based on the professionalism and maturity of the administrative employee.
Receptionist- First line of fire. Should be trained well and want to be upfront. If you are seeking a receptionist with the appropriate aplomb.. then you darn well better be Explicit in your detail when you put in the order with the agency. Often times other admins are just as equally disdainful of the receptionist. This is a no-no. Key talent: The ability to tell someone nothing-about nothing- In other words, can politely decline any b.s. sales offers over the phone and cover their company’s tush while making everyone sound fabulously busy. Is detailed and IS NOT afraid to ask the caller to repeat and/or Spell their name!
Administrative Assistant: Good general clerical skills- knows Word, Excel, Powerpoint.. and can manage a calendar. Usually a rookie up to two years experience. Will decide whether to pursue this as a career or just until they find something else. Supports more than one person.. usually a team. Does a lot of communication. Filing is key. Some travel sometimes… sometimes billing/invoicing work. Depending on the company this title really covers alot of territory. I usually define the difference between this position and the Executive Assistant as
Admin Assistants support staff; mid-level management: Executive Assistants support upper level management -Senior management and Boards.
Administrative Coordinator: This is a key title in DC. It basically is Administrative Assistant + Meetings Assistant+ Project Assistant. Should pay the same as Executive Assistant given the volume of work and responsibilities.. but usually doesn’t.
Executive Assistant- level 1
Executive Assistant/Personal Assistant -level 2
I break these out for several reasons. 1) The type of Assistant (Is is more a personal Assistant (level 2) or not? 2) Does the position support VPs, EVPs or the CEO/CFO/CIO/COO level?
3)How involved is the position with the strategic planning, budgeting and board work?
Executive Assistant -Level 1- have more than 5 years experience; may or may not have pursued certification; has supported management or high-level project team in previous position. Can also be a personal assistant at a less-demanding level. Schedules oodles of travel for supervisor and knows how to diplomatically handle schedule conflicts or flight delays. May or may not be required to carry blackberry device and almost always has control of supervisor’s calendar. Privy to many inside company details and must have absolute ability to remain mum on e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.
Executive Assistant -Level 2- Ah… probably reserved for uber famous and jet-setting CEOs or multi-millionaires/billionaires. Travels with boss everywhere .. May or may not have a personal life. Knows all the editors from the major publications and has a contact list that rivals Perez Hilton’s. Super under the radar personality unless already booked on a Reality show for their boss: (See Kathy Griffin: Life on the D List) and Food Network’s -Ace of Cakes show. Only one I’ve really read about: Rosanne Badowski- former Executive Assistant to Jack Welch at General Electric. I believe she may still serve as a personal assistant. Has written her own book about her career supporting Jack Welch. I’m certain that the DC equivalent has to be the personal scheduler for the White House, Senior members of Congress and the major Development fund companies here in town. Could also work for a major arts supporter.
So– this is my take on it.. but I’d love to hear from others…