When Rosalind Hebert, CPS, started her first full-time administrative job in the 1980s, making coffee for her boss was her top priority every morning.
Now, as an administrative assistant at the Houston-Galveston Area Council Transportation Department, she seldom performs such tasks -- or even many traditional clerical duties, she says. Her boss writes his own email correspondence and has empowered her with managerial activities, such as planning meetings and coordinating with staff and outside agencies.
“I spend approximately 90 percent of my time working independently of my boss, and I know he feels confident leaving me in charge of just about any situation,” Hebert says.
More Responsibility, Less Supervision
The administrative profession has evolved in the past two decades to require more responsibility. One of the biggest reasons behind this trend has been a change in the role of the quintessential boss, fueled by technology and the expectation in today's marketplace for bosses to show results.
Hebert advises today's administrative support workers to expect minimal supervision from their bosses and to try to anticipate their bosses' needs.
“Admins have to be more independent and make last-minute decisions without consultation, if necessary,” Hebert says. “Making independent decisions takes confidence and an increasing knowledge of one's boss -- to the point of mind reading.”
A Revolving Door
Ten years ago, admins had plenty of time to get acquainted with their bosses, expecting to work for professionals who would carry their assistants along with them when promoted, according to Emory Mulling, president of The Mulling Group, an Atlanta-based executive recruitment company, and author of The Mulling Factor: Get Your Life Back by Taking Control of Your Career.
Today, however, many admins face the challenge of rapidly getting to know a succession of bosses. “The average tenure for a professional is approximately three years,” Mulling says. “What that means is there is more turnover in bosses than ever before, and companies are expecting immediate results from these managers.”
Audio or Visual?
So how can you get to know your boss quickly? A first step is determining whether your boss responds best to key information when it is presented verbally or in writing, advises Mulling.
One way to find out is to simply ask your boss what he prefers. You should also observe your boss's behavior carefully, since some bosses think they learn audibly when they really learn visually, or vice versa, Mulling says. Check your boss's facial expressions to see if he looks impatient when you're explaining details, for instance.
“Another real sign is if the executive writes long or short emails,” Mulling says. “People who are visual enjoy writing. People who learn audibly get on the telephone rather than send an email.”
Support your boss in this hectic work world by ensuring administrative responsibilities don't interfere with his overall productivity. “If you don't do some of that clerical work, you may not have a boss very long,” Mulling says. “If an executive is not being effective enough because he spends so much time on the computer, he's not out selling. You'll lose your job, because your boss did.”
For more information and tips to help you advance your administrative career, see all our advice for admin professionals.