My friend doesn't want to be an admin assistant anymore
December 21, 2013 1:32 PM   Subscribe

One of my good friends has been an administrative assistant for the past few years and is getting depressed and burnt out. What types of jobs can he get with his skills?

My good friend is desperately trying to get out of being an administrative assistant.

He's about 10 years out of college. He's worked various retail and customer service jobs before becoming an administrative assistant at a university.

He has some interest in grant writing. He's volunteering at some places to try and get the grant writing experience necessary to get a job in the field, but wants to find something else that pays better. Due to education cuts, the university he works at has frozen employee pay for the past 6 years. He's also had some recent expenses that have made his cash crunch even more acute.

What types of professional/office jobs might he be able to get with his experience? I just want to help him get into a better place, at least money wise.

posted by reenum to Work & Money (14 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
If he can find a job at a non-profit in their development department, that might be a good fit for him.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:36 PM on December 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

If he's working for a university, is there anything he might be interested in that he could take some classes on using a tuition benefit? I've found that doing a job you don't care for is made significantly better by making real strides towards a significant change.
posted by Sequence at 1:40 PM on December 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

If he's an admin for multiple people then project management can often be a next step. The "herdi g cats" skill is rare and sought after. Also executive assistant sounds similar but in the private sector it's a good position.
posted by headnsouth at 2:04 PM on December 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Has he owned any projects or programs relatively independently? If so, project manager could be a direction. Has he run events? Event planner.
posted by spindrifter at 2:07 PM on December 21, 2013

Nthing getting into non-profit development. Probably not as a grant writer right away.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 2:13 PM on December 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am now in a position that includes grant writing, and I began as essentially the admin assistant for the development department of a medium sized nonprofit. At first I was organizing their files, filing their expense reports, doing data entry, light editing, printing stuff, sending emails, making appointments... then as they saw that my editing skills were good, I was offered some small writing assignments, then larger ones, and by the time I left a year and a half later I was writing 15 page grant reports for million dollar grants. I then left for an organization where I also play a major role in writing grant proposals.

The early experience was invaluable, as it taught me to closely read grant contracts and understand exactly how to fulfill the terms of those contracts. Writing reports before you begin writing proposals gives you a good sense for what is feasible to put in a proposal, because you spend a lot of time going "wait, we said we'd do WHAT??"
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:27 PM on December 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Often the natural next step up is "coordinator" - maybe project coordinator or program coordinator, especially if he's in academia. In the corporate world, "coordinator" means a position that has some administrative aspects, but also is entry level for a specific department. For instance, "marketing coordinator" is an entry-level marketing position that's a step up from admin in my work-place, and would train someone for better positions in the marketing department.
posted by kythuen at 5:11 PM on December 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

What about his current job does he dislike? If it's mostly the pay, the underappreciation, and/or some specifics of the university - I agree with the others that PM experience sounds like an excellent next step. If it's the work itself, I worry that he might not love a PM position, because in my experience there will be some similar tasks/types of work. (I hope I explained this reasonably well!) He might look into Project Management courses and/or certifications if they are reasonably priced in his area.

If PM'ing might be a good next step for him, I agree with kythuen re: "Project Coordinator" positions. A good transition title I think!

Between his volunteer experience and his customer service experience, he does sound like a good entry-level or low-level hire for a development office. (As others here have noted!) If his motivations are primarily financial, though, moving into a PM or related position is probably more likely to result in a significant pay raise (in my org at least - I'm sure there is variation).
posted by schroedingersgirl at 7:54 PM on December 21, 2013

It'd be helpful to know more about his background (i.e., what he studied in college), but from what you've written here, I think he should try to build on his experience at the university and get a promotion, either by finding an existing opportunity or trying to carve out a new niche for himself. If he's been an assistant for a few years, he's built up a store of valuable institutional knowledge (how to submit expense reports, which IT guy to call, where the bursar's office is, etc.) and demonstrated his capacity to show up for work. These are exactly the employees the university is (or should be) trying to develop and retain.

If he hasn't expressed his ambition to his supervisor, he should. No one is going to be offended or surprised that he doesn't want to be an assistant his whole life, and they're in a better position to help you if they know what you're looking for. (Alternatively, he could go to someone in HR who's responsible for filling the sort of positions he's interested in.) Any research university in the U.S. has hundreds or thousands of grants in various stages of development who would probably love to give him some "free experience." (Strategically, it would be wise to get on the radar of some superstar professor with a big, convoluted research project that's bringing in lots of grant money and requires multiple levels of administration. These folks can always find money to retain good people.)

Talk to people - see if he can find opportunities to help, be enthusiastic, and make sure people who make decisions know his name. It takes a little hustling, but it can pay off.
posted by ndg at 9:36 AM on December 22, 2013

Response by poster: Hi everyone,

The thing he dislikes most about the job is dealing with the public and with entitled higher ups in his office. I suspect the problems with the entitled higher ups can be solved by him moving to another job.

He did do some filmmaking and video editing work in the past. He tried to break into that field, but was always told he didn't have enough experience. As far as he's told me, he has no interest in doing anything video related anymore.
posted by reenum at 12:31 PM on December 22, 2013

There will always be entitled higher ups, entitled other departments, entitled clients, entitled colleagues...
posted by headnsouth at 1:08 PM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

There are plenty of behind-the-scenes work in arts and events management that are in dire need of cat herders. There should be a fair bit that doesn't involve public interaction. Can't comment on the pay grade though.

(And yeah, entitlement goes across the board.)
posted by divabat at 9:38 PM on December 22, 2013

Does your friend not want to be an AA or does he not want to work for these people?

The dislikes from the uodate don't seem AA specific.

Another suggesting that he look around the organization for a lateral or upward move.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 11:01 AM on December 23, 2013

Response by poster: He's tired of being an administrative assistant, but is OK doing higher level work that uses his "cat herding" skills.
posted by reenum at 4:59 AM on December 24, 2013

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