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Retrofit Your Resume to Land an Administrative Job

Retrofit Your Resume to Land an Administrative Job

If jobs in your field are scarce and you’re considering a switch to an administrative job, you’re not alone. Grim job forecasts across multiple industries coupled with projected job growth in the administrative field are prompting many professionals to change careers. But is your resume ready? Follow these tips to make sure your resume gets noticed.

Understand the Demands of the Administrative Profession

Fans of “The Carol Burnett Show” surely remember Burnett’s portrayal of Mrs. Wiggins, the stereotypical ditzy secretary. Those days are gone. Today, administrative professionals are regarded as integral members of the organization and are typically entrusted with high-level responsibilities.

OfficeTeam, a staffing agency specializing in office and administrative support professionals, has seen not only an increase in applicants looking to change careers, but also an increase in job responsibilities for administrative professionals, says Jackie Kim, a San Francisco-based OfficeTeam branch manager. The firm’s research, conducted in 2008, revealed that “nearly 73 percent of managers polled said responsibilities for support professionals have increased in the last five years,” Kim says.

Research Your Job Target

To put yourself in line for an administrative position, Kim recommends studying administrative job listings and noting the required skills and other qualifications. “Many companies use keyword search technology to identify top resumes,” says Kim, who reviews more than 100 resumes per week. “Review the job description and make sure you use similar words in your resume. For example, if the job description lists ‘strong project management skills’ as a requirement, use the term ‘project management’ in your resume.”

Norine Dagliano, a nationally certified resume writer and president of resume-writing firm EKM Inspirations, also recommends using job ads as a starting point for customizing your resume. “By researching administrative jobs, you can identify the skills, challenges and accomplishments that you need to emphasize from your previous experiences,” Dagliano says.

Identify Transferable Skills

The next step is to figure out the skills you’ve developed in other fields that are transferable to administrative positions. “For example, applicants could mention their knowledge of computer programs, including Microsoft Word, Outlook and Excel,” says Traci Thompson, owner of Thompson, who specializes in writing resumes for administrative professionals, also advises career changers to look at skills developed outside the workforce, such as knowledge of social networking sites, accounting and bookkeeping systems.

Pick the Right Format

You might be tempted to create a functional resume, which focuses on skills while downplaying work chronology. However, overuse of this format by people trying to hide something makes it a poor choice for most professionals -- even career changers.

Dagliano endorses the use of a "combination" resume format. “Administrative-related work can be prominently presented under each position, and job seekers can readily show that they understand employer needs by emphasizing skills, tasks and accomplishments that are relevant to administrative positions,” she says.

Call Out Your Admin Skills at the Top

Placing a qualifications summary at the top of their resumes enables job seekers to emphasize their administrative skills up front and immediately show hiring managers they are qualified for this career change, Thompson says.

Dagliano recommends mentioning transferable skills in the summary section. “Skills that may have been secondary to the prior profession -- such as recordkeeping, MS Office applications and keyboarding -- should now be prominently placed in the summary,” she says.

Show Potential for Success

“Admins need to be highly organized, logical thinkers who demonstrate leadership and embrace teamwork,” says Karen Lazarou, business development executive for The Ayers Group, a career-transition management firm and a division of Kelly Services. “The ability to multitask, stay focused, be goal-oriented and have excellent communication skills are just a few of the criteria required for success.”

Kim identifies five key areas that make an admin resume stand out:

  • Initiative: Companies want administrative professionals who thrive on tackling new challenges and volunteer for tasks outside their job descriptions, so hiring managers will look for relevant examples in a candidate’s resume.
  • Technical Skills: Hiring managers seek administrative professionals who are proficient in an array of software programs. Those with advanced knowledge of Microsoft Office 2007 are in higher demand.
  • Communication Skills: Administrative professionals need to demonstrate tact and diplomacy in their interactions. Candidates who demonstrate the wide range of professionals with whom they have interacted or collaborated will be at an advantage.
  • Relevant Industry Experience: Expertise in the industry to which a candidate is applying shows the applicant will likely transition quickly.
  • Multilingual Abilities: Those who speak multiple languages are especially valuable by being able to communicate with culturally diverse customers and employees around the world.

Improve Your Skills

“Most employers test administrative applicants to evaluate job-related skills, so nonadministrative applicants should focus on improving those skills when necessary,” Thompson says.

Kim recommends joining a professional association such as the International Association of Administrative Professionals; doing so will enhance your resume, broaden your network and show that you’re serious about an administrative career.

Learn more about administrative careers.

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