How to break into administration without previous experience
First, there are online business courses you can take that will grab the interest of any employer looking for an administrator:
- A typing proficiency course
- A course on bookkeeping.
Now, when we say typing, we don’t mean the days of old when you could find your way around a typewriter. In today’s office, you need to confidently know your way around the productivity and service software on a computer. You should perfect your knowledge of Excel and Word as a basis for your CV. However, speed typing will set you aside, and although most jobs don’t specify how fast you should type anymore, most would expect you to bang out a decent 60 words per minute with 100% accuracy. To put this into perspective, the global average typing speed is about 39 – 40 words a minute.
A bookkeeping course will set you apart. You can get an entry-level position with a temp agency using these strong typing skills. However, you can land yourself a decent starting position with a bookkeeping qualification. This is no longer done by hand, and you will need to develop confidence in packages such Sage, Quickbooks or Xero. Proficiency in these will be a glowing highlight of your CV, so well worth investing in a course.
Once you are desirable as an employee, with some stand out features on your CV, it is time to search for a job. Here are some suggestions on how to do this:
- Take a part-time job. Even if the job is not in the area that you see yourself, any form of work experience on your CV will be reassuring to a future employer. It means they have somewhere to go to ask about your skills and qualities.
- List all your skills – even the softer ones. Employers are looking for people who can do more than one thing. Therefore, list all skills you have developed, including the people skills that don’t necessarily come with a certificate from a college.
- Network in your chosen sector. It would be best if you started making contacts with people who might be able to introduce you to your position. Use your contacts from college and keep yourself up to date on LinkedIn and similar sites. Hone your profile and your ideas for where you would like to work.
Tips for writing an admin cover letter with no experience
Before writing your admin cover letter, you need to be confident of the skills that the employer will be looking for. You will then be able to write a letter geared towards these skills, highlighting how you have developed these abilities and proven successful in the past.
To be a successful admin assistant, you will need:
- Attention to detail. You need to spot errors before they get out into the world. You need to see what needs reordering in an office before it becomes an issue for a colleague. You need to be able to show that you can organise events without missing one element. Make sure your cover letter and CV are professionally structured and completely typo-free!
- Self-sufficiency. It is one thing to be reliable, which is an essential quality in admin. However, you need to be reliably self-sufficient. In other words, you do not need to be managed in every aspect of your role. You can see what needs doing in a day and you make sure you prioritise the order of your work. You will show this in your letter by exploring how you have gotten this far by using your initiative.
- Communication skills. You will be the conduit through which most communication flows. Therefore, it is not enough to be a team player; you need to be an excellent front person. You need to be the face of the company; welcoming whilst protecting managers and other essential workers from unnecessary distraction. Your speaking and writing skills need to be stellar. Make sure you hone that cover letter until it is 100% accurate in spelling and grammar and you show some expertise in executing the composition of a letter.
- To be a completer. It would help if you felt a sense of urgency to get tasks complete without any hiccups. You don’t want to be laid back and say “I’ll get it done tomorrow” to any job that needs completing today. Demonstrate those times in your letter when you have been put under pressure and succeeded in delivering all goals. You should emphasise how you did this on time!
Look to your time in education and any part-time or work experience you have completed. Search for evidence of the qualities that an employer would need from you. Then, spend time shaping this into a letter. Remember, part of your role will be letter writing, so you need to look online and follow all the conventions expected of a formal letter writer. This will be your first impact on your future boss – you should make it a perfect impression.
How to get experience
If you want to get experience before applying for the perfect job, you might want to start at the bottom of the ladder or work for free for a period. You can begin to build a catalogue of evidence for your perfect role by:
Signing up with a temporary agency – Temporary employment might not sound appealing, but it will give you a chance to show what you can do in the office. You will also gain an all-important reference for a more permanent position.
Taking an entry level position – Although such a job in an office might be well below your skill level, it is a foot in the door. If you are the person filing, delivering sandwiches, or taking calls in the call centre, you are ready to step up when an opportunity arises. The barrier to entry into a receptionist’s role is also a little lower than a full-time admin assistant. Therefore, this could also be an excellent steppingstone to the career you want.
Taking an internship – Internships are unpaid positions people take on when still in university or just out of university. Although the idea of an unpaid position doesn’t sound appealing, it will fast forward your career to a high paid first job, so it is good to see it as an investment. Internships are hard to get, proving they are a highly successful entryway to some of the best jobs.
Volunteering – Becoming an admin assistant for a charity is an excellent way to prove your personal qualities and gain the skills you need to succeed in a company. You are doing good for others while also gathering that all-important evidence for your CV and cover letter that you have the skills and character for your dream role.