What are the best tech tools, software and skills for an administrative assistant? This list breaks down our top choices.
If you're an administrative assistant, you're pretty much the Swiss army knife of your workplace. Odds are people expect you to take flawless minutes during meetings, schedule and plan events, stay on top of hundreds of emails, share information with the office, and generally keep a million details in your mind at any given moment. All of those skills, among others, fall within the top skills an administrative assistant needs. When skills can only take you so far, enlist the help of administrative assistant software. Read on for the skills every admin assistant needs, along with the tech tools that would be helpful to use (all of which are budget friendly).
Top skills an administrative assistant needs
Organization Administrative assistants often work directly for busy executives with a lot of needs. Every great administrative assistant needs to be highly organized, keeping travel schedules, meetings and office supply orders in check.
Attention to detail
Executive assistants may serve as backup for the marketing team and company partners, proofreading their work and fine-tuning event details. Therefore, being detail-oriented and able to notice things most people wouldn't – such as a missing comma or number on a report – is key.
Being an excellent problem-solver can make a big impression on executives who may not have time to figure out every single problem. Administrative assistants should be able to zoom right in and put the pieces of a broken puzzle together. For example, if an executive's flight is canceled at the last minute, an administrative assistant should be able to put together a backup plan quickly. If the conference room is booked but two meetings need to be held at the same time on the same day, an administrative assistant should be able to step in and determine an alternative meeting place.
If you can't handle working on more than one task at one time, you should not be an administrative assistant. While many articles have been written about the drawbacks of multitasking, this is an ability that every administrative assistant needs to master, since they typically work for multiple people who may all need something at the same time. We don't mean you should be physically working on two or more tasks at the same time, but you should be able to flip-flop between multiple tasks with ease.
Between answering phones, taking messages and putting together reports, you must have the skill of excellent communication, which goes hand in hand with attention to detail. A message that does not translate correctly could create problems with customers, and reports that don't communicate information properly can affect company growth.
7 tech tools every administrative assistant should use
Manage social media: Hootsuite
These days, many administrative assistants, especially those employed in SMBs, are responsible for maintaining social media accounts. Of course, doing that on top of all the other organizational tasks can be daunting, with small businesses' social media often suffering as a result. Enter Hootsuite, a social media management platform that allows you to create and save social media posts, and then set them on a timer.
Within Hootsuite, you can manage your company's Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts without toggling back and forth between your personal account and the corporate account, which is a recipe for disaster.
Hootsuite has built-in analytics, so you can track how successful your campaigns have been and measure customer engagement. Hootsuite offers a free trial, but even the Pro subscription is affordable ($29 a month with support for 10 social profiles).
Get meeting availability: WhenIsGood
WhenIsGood has been a mainstay of assistants for some time now, and even though the design leaves a lot to be desired, it gets the job done. Planning a meeting with dozens of executives and board members can be nearly impossible when you don't have access to everyone's availability.
With WhenIsGood, you create a free account and then select potential meeting times that work for your executive; you can choose as many or as few as you need. Then, you email a link from WhenIsGood to all invitees. When they click the link, they'll see the availability you've selected and click on the times and days that work for them. Once everyone has responded (which you can easily track), you can visit your results page to see which times work for the most people.
WhenIsGood is a major timesaver and stress-reliever when it comes to scheduling meetings with busy professionals, and it's totally free.
Share travel itineraries and directions: TripIt
If you're tasked with managing travel for one or more executives, you know how complicated it is to share updates on itineraries and keep everyone on the same page. TripIt is a free app that's compatible with all mobile devices and does all the difficult communication for you.
Once you make accommodations, TripIt automatically creates a mobile itinerary for the individual, and you can maintain multiple itineraries for different people at the same time. If you forward all of the travel confirmation emails (hotel, car, flight) to the TripIt app, it automatically organizes them in one place, which means you and the person you're planning the trip for have easy access to all the travel information.
You can even add directions to a TripIt itinerary, so the exec you're planning for can open TripIt and see not only all their flight and hotel info, but also directions from the airport to the hotel, from the hotel to the conference center, etc.
You can sign up for TripIt for free, but more advanced paid versions are also available.
Manage your emails: Followup
Staying on top of the avalanche of emails you receive daily is much easier when you use Followup. This incredible timesaving extension integrates with your inbox and makes it possible to set timed reminders on each email.
You can add an automatic follow-up email, send emails at a specified date and time, track emails, receive live notifications when emails have been opened, and set follow-up times for future dates and times.
With Followup, an email thread will never slip through the cracks again; in fact, this tool is great for PR reps, salespeople, event coordinators and any other professional who conducts lots of business via email. Followup is $18 a month for its starter subscription, but you can try it for free.
Take notes and record audio: AudioNote 2
If you're the minutes master of your office but you're tired of your wrists cramping during marathon meetings, give AudioNote 2 a try. This free app is used by professionals and students alike, and it's fantastic for capturing rapid-fire conversations during meetings.
AudioNote 2 allows you to take notes the way you usually do, and then link them with recorded audio clips. This app automatically cuts out long pauses when no one is talking, reduces atmospheric noise, and makes it easy to pause or stop recording. You can take notes with a keypad or stylus and even integrate PDF slides directly into your notes.
You can export your notes (complete with embedded media) to a file-sharing platform like Dropbox or iCloud, or you can email them. AudioNote 2 is free to download.
Share files: Dropbox
Dropbox is a great file-sharing option for administrative assistants at SMBs and startups because there's a free version, it works across all operating systems, and it's reliable.
If you frequently have to share files with people outside your company, like clients or contract workers, Dropbox is a good option, because odds are the individuals you're sharing with already know how it works.
There is a free version of Dropbox (called Dropbox Basic), but if your company starts to outgrow Basic, you can always upgrade to Standard ($12.50 a month per user) or Advanced ($20 a month per user).
Manage contacts: Zoho CRM
If part of your job is managing client contacts, now is the time to ditch your Excel spreadsheet and upgrade to a product that's intended for tracking leads and storing customer information.
Zoho CRM is built for teams, and it seamlessly integrates with other commonly used products, such as Google apps, WordPress, Mailchimp and, of course, the entire Zoho suite. Zoho CRM works across all mobile devices and makes updating client information, tracking sales and communicating easier. You can even message other Zoho CRM users within the app.
There is a free version of Zoho CRM for up to 10 users, which is great if you're in the position of convincing others at your company that a CRM will save time and reduce confusion, but there's also a paid version with more functionality. A subscription starts at $12 per user per month. [If price is a concern, you can also check out our review of the most affordable CRM.]
Mona Bushnell contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.