Administrative roles are key to the successful operation of any business entity. Administraive jobs might be a good way for individulals to gain business experience before applying to an MBA program. Here are some potential entry-level administrative careers that might help you learn about business and gain the experience that is sometimes valued by MBA admissions committees.
Administrative assistants are the people who make businesses run seamlessly. They bear the grunt work of organizations so that executives can focus on what they do best. This means heavy scheduling, filing and answering phones. Administrative assistants should be goal-oriented and organized with an analytical mind. Important skills to possess include computer ability, a good sense of grammar and strong interpersonal skills. Hours are typically 9-to-5 and the workday is largely structured with set tasks to accomplish. As such, the job is quite stable with few surprises, though there is some amount of problem-solving as issues arise.
A data entry job entails just what the title states: entering in fields of data to help keep things organized. Depending on the job field in which data entry employees work, job duties can vary from updating client lists to helping the accounting department with expense records. Because the job involves dealing with numbers, work can be tedious and the ability to stay focused is important. Computer skills are also a requisite when working with programs like Excel. Occasionally, data entry can be done from home, depending on the employer and the involvement of the task.
An office manager wears many hats, working to ensure that an office runs as smoothly and efficiently as possibly. This means that one minute you can be ordering office supplies, and the next you might be setting up the conference room for a company meeting. Office management also involves a lot of problem solving—if something breaks, it's the manager's job to make sure it gets fixed! Often, the Office Manager is also the designated Fire Warden. An office manager typically possesses a high school diploma or higher.
A receptionist is often considered the unofficial face of a company—greeting guests, clients and anyone else who walks into the office. Besides operating the company switchboard and directing incoming calls, receptionists will occasionally sign for packages and maintain the company guest sign-in sheet. Because of the visible nature of the job and the necessity of people interaction, a positive disposition is essential. Depending on the size of the company, a receptionist’s duties may sometimes overlap with those of an administrative assistant or office manager—serving as the company’s point person for travel arrangements and supply ordering.
The administrative role of an executive assistant entails working closely with a company executive, keeping her organized and facilitating her schedule. Executive assistants generally handle email and telephone correspondence, as well as book travel and other necessary arrangements. In addition, they are often the gate keepers to and protectors of the executive, as most everyone must go through the executive assistant to reach the top dog. An executive assistant usually has several years of training as an administrative assistant before being placed in the more demanding position of handling the affairs of a CEO or other high-level executive. A patient and positive attitude is required for the interaction-intensive days.
Account managers, also sometimes called account executives or AEs, bring business clients to the advertising agency and then act as liaisons between the two parties. They keep track of which rival ad houses hold which clients, which firms are merging or working on new products, which are growing and which are considering new agencies. After securing a client, the AE is responsible for servicing and maintaining the account. The AE finds out what his or her client wants in an ad campaign and brings that information to the agency account team, which develops marketing strategy and creative concepts. Perhaps the AE’s most important job, however, lies in keeping the client satisfied while making sure everything falls within budget and the agency maintains its credibility. On the other side of the fence, negotiations with the creative department frequently require a great deal of diplomacy. Creatives and clients live in a perpetual state of mutual suspicion, and it’s up to the AE to balance the tension between the creative department’s integrity and the client’s goals. These days, potential hires with experience in internet advertising or e-commerce are highly sought after. AEs live in a fast-paced and intense world of frequent travel, 50-hour work weeks and encroaching deadlines.
Account planning, an import from British advertising agencies, is a relatively new discipline in the United States. Most of the larger agencies and many of the smaller ones have embraced it. Account planning uses qualitative research to determine why consumers behave the way they do.
Planners function as the voice of the consumer within the agency, and their main goal is to gain a deeper understanding of the way consumers react to their clients’ product or service. Planners burrow into the consumer’s mind, plumbing for insights about the product, its position and competition, and research is their tool. They live with the brand and its consumers. The insights they gain are considered the target market’s psychographics—their attitudes, opinions and values. These consumer psychographics help copywriters and art directors create more effective advertising.
To obtain their insights, account planners visit with customers, conduct focus groups and telephone interviews and observe current and potential customers interacting with the clients’ product or service. A love of ads, determination, curiosity and a continuing desire to challenge conventional wisdom are the requisites for the job.
The flip side of account planning is quantitative research. In the larger agencies, the administrative role of account planning and quantitative research are divided. In many agencies, however, account planning incorporates both qualitative and quantitative research. The goal of quantitative research is to determine the “facts” of consumers and their behavior. Using sophisticated techniques, researchers determine demographics (such things as age, gender, occupation, education), purchase and usage patterns, brand and advertising awareness and other issues that are crucial to understanding the consumer and making ads. Strong analytical skills are a plus for a researcher. Successful account planners and researchers possess not only a love of advertising, but also inquisitiveness and a somewhat “cynical” eye towards what they see. Put more simply, they aren’t so quick to take what they see at face value—their curiosity about human nature motivates them to look deeper. Researchers and planners are able to step outside of their own skin to get a better understanding of the clients’ target market, and understand how advertising can really work to influence their attitudes and behavior.