10 Must-Have Strengths of an Administrative Assistant

Reviewed by Melina Theodorou

Illustration of a woman wearing a headset and sitting in front of a white laptop

An administrative assistant role can introduce you to a multitude of different industries. Indeed, if you’re unsure what is the right career for you, an administrative position is the perfect way to get your foot in the door. Entry-level positions often require little hands-on experience but will expose you to a wide range of responsibilities that will help you develop your professional skills.

Sounds great, right? Of course, there’s a downside. Administrative assistant positions are quite competitive, and companies often see an influx of CVs for a single role. Standing out in the application process can be difficult, so showcasing key strengths will help you land the role, as well as succeed within it after you’re hired – and we’re here to help.

We’ve compiled a list of all the must-have skills you need as an administrative assistant – perfect to use before your interview or to help you thrive and develop within your role.

Here are our top 10 strengths needed to be a successful administrative assistant.

1. Communication

Effective communication, both written and verbal, is a critical professional skill needed for an administrative assistant role. Your duties may include greeting visitors, answering phone calls, liaising between teams, and making arrangements and bookings.

When communicating with your team or stakeholders internally, active listening and concise communication are essential – you need to be aware of the needs of those around you and manage their expectations.

But that’s not all. You also need to be aware of the appropriate etiquette when representing the company externally. For many organisations, administrative assistants act as the first point of contact. Therefore, it’s critical to develop a strong, confident communication style that you can use to persuade and liaise with others.

Miscommunication can only lead to delays, unmet expectations, and even conflict.

 2. Organisation

Strong organisation skills are a key requirement for an administrative assistant position. Your role is there to lighten the load of your upline, and you may be required to manage calendars, schedule meetings, prepare minutes and more. All these duties require effective organisation and time management.

Knowing how to manage your workload daily and make long-term plans is a strength that every administrative assistant needs to succeed.

3. Foresight and planning

As an administrative assistant, your organisation skills need to be combined with another key strength – foresight and planning.

Foresight and planning usually lead to considering and being prepared for what-if scenarios. Having the ability to anticipate problems will mitigate risk and prevent delays, while effective planning provides you with the resources to deal with any issues that may occur.

Administrative assistants often operate within a fast-paced environment, and something will inevitably go wrong at some point. The ability to prevent these problems through careful planning and be prepared to effectively handle them should they occur is vital for ensuring you stand out in your position.

4. Resourcefulness

Speaker and author Sherrie Campbell claims that ‘There is not a more useful or important trait to possess than resourcefulness in the pursuit of success.’

For administrative assistants, having a can-do attitude when it comes to their work is essential. Confidence, proactiveness and open-mindedness are all characteristics of a resourceful employee in the workplace. 

For this career, this means having the ability to think on your feet, improvise and handle any situation when it arises.

5. Teamwork

Teamwork not only improves morale but also increases productivity in the workplace.

Administrative assistants usually work as part of a larger team, so having the ability to work well with others is an important strength to have. To be a team player, you will need to be encouraging to others, share the workload, knowing when to compromise and have the ability to bring new ideas to the table.

Developing your skills and building interpersonal relationships will establish trust and dependability, which, in turn, will improve your work performance.

6. Work ethic

Good work ethic doesn’t mean working to the point that you cause yourself to burn out. Instead, it means holding your work to a high standard, developing your skills and going the extra mile.

This role will require you to be a dependable person that takes their work seriously. Though the work may sometimes be challenging, having a strong work ethic will help you stand out and progress your career further.

This may come naturally to you if you are passionate about what you do, but you can still work on refining your work ethic.

7. Adaptability

As with every role, your responsibilities may vary from one job to the next, and you might find yourself out of your comfort zone from time to time. 

This will mean something different for everyone – perhaps you’ve been requested to book an international flight, or a company acquisition has led to a change in management.

The ability to adapt to any situation will demonstrate to your employer that you can effectively handle adversity and embrace change.

To be more adaptable, you need to be able to find the positives in every situation, learn from previous mistakes, and effectively manage stress. As with anything, the more experience you gain, the more resource you have going forward.

8. Computer literacy

Computer literacy is a strength that is vital in nearly every role today. Being tech-savvy allows you to quickly adapt to existing and new systems, which is essential for an assistant expected to hit the ground running. Depending on the organisation and industry, you’ll need to possess different levels of computer literacy. 

Most commonly, you’ll need to be familiar with Microsoft Office as well as Google Workspace tools. At the very least, you will need to know your way around the calendar and mail function – but if your role includes invoicing, stock levels or bookkeeping, you may be required to have strong Microsoft Excel skills, too. 

 9. Attention to detail 

As part of your role, you will be required to undertake a multitude of tasks – all completed to a high standard with little-to-no errors. To be successful, you will need to have sharp attention to detail skills which include in-depth analysis, observation and active listening.

In any workplace, developing your attention to detail skills is essential for being successful in your role.

Some of your duties that will require high accuracy will include completing numerical tasks, drafting reports, proofreading documents and coordinating executive schedules. 

By being more detailed-orientated, you’ll find that your work is of a higher standard, and you will be able to boost your productivity and, perhaps more importantly, your confidence.

 10. Multitasking 

Speaking of productivity, an administrative assistant needs to be a skilled multitasker. Not only will it drastically improve your work performance, but you’ll also gain an important professional skill that is transferable across many different disciplines and industries.

In addition to being an organised person, administrative assistants need to know how to prioritise their workloads and undertake related tasks. That said, this should not come at the expense of the quality of your work, so you will need to maintain a fine balance. 

Avoiding common distractions and creating an optimal space for working will allow you to be quick and efficient at what you do.

So, these are the 10 most important strengths that every administrative assistant should have. Some of these may be second nature to you, while others can be developed by dedicating enough time to learn and improve your skillset. 

And if you are unsure which of these strengths you do possess, then why not test them out? Our career assessment platform, CareerHunter, can help you identify both your strengths and weaknesses while also offering advice on how to improve further. 

What other skill would you include on this list? Let us know in the comments section below!

This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 23 January 2015.