The Add Value Assistant

January 9, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Posted in Business Ops, Opinions, Position Description, Work Scenerios | 3 Comments
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Ever since my first-long term job I’ve considered ‘add-value’ an important skill.  So decide what you can do to use all your talents and enhance the company productivity.  I’ll give two examples here.

The first company I worked with was in market research.  I was there for 18 years.  As a clerk I decided my add value would be as an aid to my manager.  It was a building block of my work ethic as an assistant.  I believe it was the primary reason I was promoted to Lead Clerk.  The responsibilities of this position were close to being an Assistant Manager.  Because our department was small that title was not available, but it isn’t a title that makes you a worthwhile employee is it?

My last job was very different from the first because I was working for a non-profit in an office that was just starting a ramp-up process.  This increased a comfort level and gave me a chance to get to know my Program Manager well.  There was only one other employee for a while.  My add values included rules that kept the Manager well-informed.  I started out with keeping track of the staff schedules via our web app.  Then moved to document creation that tracked and presented a variety of information, including: client’s current status, credit card and petty cash spending, monthly reports of staff hours in the field, sick days, off days, and training days to name a few.  These became increasingly useful and necessary as the staff and client load grew.

I don’t believe that add value exists without going above and beyond the call of duty.  Talking on other tasks and responsibilities is a must.  Although this can be tricky, you don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, in the long run it’s a win-win situation.  Go ahead feel confident and present an idea for consideration.  Don’t insist or demand a change, but treat it as a dialogue.  When you see that a team member or a supervisor has a burden that is keeping them from performing their primary duties effectively, this is the time to step in.  The word ‘assistant’ is one that I take very seriously.  I know if I can offer to share the responsibility or give a suggestion to make the task more efficient, or to take on the task effectively, I jump at it! That’s add-value, you don’t take the place of the people you support, you enhance them.  This is where I came up with my motto, ‘I’m the little guy that makes the big guy look good.’

Here’s my most recent example of support to enhance a team member’s ability to get things done:

By the end of the month all electronic notes had to be complete and have the correct visit length entered.  With the majority of the staff spending most of their time out in the field  it was becoming increasingly difficult for staff to keep up.  Starting around the 7th workday of the month I checked this information, made entries into a custom spreadsheet, then created hard copy lists that were tailored to the needs of each staff member. In the simplest form possible it laid out the problem(s) with the electronic note, the type of correction needed and a deadline for completion.  This way people could budget their time to complete the task.  You’re a valuable member of a team and once you start smoothing the road for your teammates they’ll know it!

So now for definitions of the day

1. a person who assists  or gives aid and support; helper.
2. something that aids and supplements another.

1. advantageous to both sides, as in a negotiation.

1. relative worth, merit, or importance.
verb (used with object)
2. to consider with respect to worth, excellence, usefulness, or importance.
3. to regard or esteem highly


But, What Do You Really Do?

August 30, 2011 at 11:54 am | Posted in Interviewing, Position Description, Resume | Leave a comment
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I think when it gets down to it; an Administrative Assistant is the person in the office that is truly a “jack of all trades” and maybe even a master of few.  It’s a different kind of challenge to meet when I’m asked about my job duties during an interview.  I want to be brief and stay within the constraint resumes and cover letters afford.
The shorter more formal explanation of these duties on my Resume/Skills page.

So if I had the chance to tell a prospective employer I would tell them “what I really did”  Some, maybe most, will sound like small or trivial things, but if you work in an office, think about those small things you couldn’t do without, your administrative assistant does.
Additional duties as needed:

  • Team cheerleader.
  • Surprise breakfast or lunch provider.
  • Coverage for co-workers so they can talk to mom, spouse, or kids on the phone.
  • Offer shoulder to cry on.
  • Provide pillow to bitch in to.
  • Live and interactive business calendar and task list
  • Holiday decoration specialist
  • General understudy/pinch-hitter/relief-pitcher
  • Staff early warning system
  • Wheel re-greaser

I was able to roll all these skills into one, making me the  ever-present and always ready assistant.

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Work Scenario #5 – Entitlement Checks

August 1, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Posted in Position Description, Work Scenerios | Leave a comment
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Disclaimer: So that some work scenarios make more sense, I’d like to describe the organization I worked with. A mobile mental health team served severe and persistent mentally ill people in a county in Maryland. Some descriptions may seem vague or cryptic; it is to preserve the identity of clients, organization, and co-workers. Some documents are redacted via pixilation. My specific duties will always remain intact.

Nothing needs more attention to detail and protocol than handling money.  This and the next work scenario will be addressing those responsibilities.  Our organization was often the representative-payee for clients receiving Social Security checks for disability.  The government has several laws and rules about this distribution.  I attended a one-day seminar given by the regional Social Security Office before I starting the duties as described below.

I was given the responsibility of the distribution for the clients in our office.  Approximately 30 of our clients needed us to take care of their money.  Although how monies were allocated were decided by their primary contact, I had to know the client’s needs just as well so I could be an asset to a co-worker that may be struggling with this decision.  From start to successful completion was the following three-step process.

Step One:

For me, creating a spreadsheet and importing or entering data was always a good start and it wasn’t any different with this task.  My spreadsheet tracked the funds for a year, with a worksheet for each month.  The most relevant information about a client were included, names, amounts of checks, what each cut would be, and a reconciliation of funds for the end of the month.  My data came from the office manager, that received the physical checks, and my co-workers requests.  My office manager, who trained me five years ago, already had a plan that worked well on getting me the information I needed.  It was up to me to make it all work in our office.

By exchanging details via forms I created, letters from the Social Security Administration, and the previous month’s data we could all do our jobs more satisfactorily.  By knowing this information, I could send out a team-wide email listing the money expected for the month for each client, any loans from us that had to be paid back, and any notes that would help on the decisions to spend money.  When my co-workers read the email, they knew to fill out the request forms for me.  Those requests were sent to me to, reconciled against the money available, returned for corrections as needed, finally, requests were sent to the office manager.  The deadline to get all this done was around the second Monday of the month.  The process then was out of my hands until the checks were sent to me at the beginning of the following month.  Then the second part of the plan of action began.

Step Two:

Checks got to our office a day or two before the distribution date.  Once I had them, checks were copied, attached to my copies of the requests after making sure that the checks were cut correctly, and alphabetized.  If there were any problems in how a check was written, I voided them, put in a correction request, and returned them to the accounting department.  I removed all checks for payments for rent, our pharmacy, and any other bills I had to mail out for the client.  Rent checks were addressed and mailed that same day.  This entire process was time-consuming; in any given month, there could be as many 120 checks.  It was always one of my better-planned days of the month.

Step Three:

The product of this preparation was an ability to give out the checks to clients in a smooth and seamless way.  ‘Check Day’ was always very busy and we all still had our daily responsibilities to regard.  Clients could come into the office to pick up their checks or they could be delivered.  For the ones that came to the office I had a sign out sheet, answered any questions, and made small talk, that’s the easiest part of the job.

Once I put this plan into place ‘check day’ ran smoothly and any problems that arose could be easily handled.  Information on hand and a good rapport with the Social Security offices in the county helped me do my job.

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Work Scenario #2 – Meetings

June 20, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Posted in Position Description, Work Scenerios | Leave a comment
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Disclaimer: So that some work scenarios make more sense, I’d like to describe the organization I worked for. A mobile mental health team served severe and persistent mentally ill people in a county in Maryland. Some descriptions may seem vague or cryptic, it is to preserve the identity of clients, organization, and co-workers. Some documents are redacted via pixelation. My specific duties will always remain intact.

As part of my daily routine, I directed the morning team meetings.  These meetings included the full staff of our office.  I believe these meetings transmitted some of the most important information of the day.
The information for each client, usually around 100 individuals, that was disseminated included: appointments, medication distribution, mental status, transportation needs, and housing needs, to name a few.
I helped to develop a way to keep this information clear, concise, and complete (my three C’s)
Clients had a monthly calendar I created with their name on it.  I went through the book of these calendars and recorded all pertinent information.  This included appointment times and who was seeing them, days medication was distributed or needed to be, reports of a change in mental status, any hospitalizations, and pertinent somatic information, substance abuse problems and on call events, and precautions the staff needs to take, just to name a few.  There were aspects of the information that needed to be included in monthly outcomes and yearly audits.  My contributions in these will be described in separate work scenario posts.
I was consistently able to keep the meeting moving to fit into our scheduled one-hour sessions and keep the information that inevitably would be needed that day, most times by me, to handle phone calls and questions.  I was able to quickly record all the particulars, no editing was necessary, and all information was available on all clients immediately after the meeting.
This meticulous recording was an asset to the team and the upper management that I had to report to monthly.

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Work Scenario #1 – Parkinson’s Law

June 6, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Posted in Position Description, Work Scenerios | Leave a comment
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At the beginning of my most recent job, one thing I learned reminded me of the best way to do my job.  It is Parkinson’s Law, which states:

Work expands to the amount of time provided for its accomplishment.

This brief, and true, statement helped me to create a more productive environment and therefore become a better Admin.
This law is aimed towards procrastination.  Procrastination makes you look and feel bad and there are plenty of reasons for it, fear of failure, and fear of success, not wanting to ask for clarification because information about the task is too vague, or you just don’t know where to start.

The best example was when I was asked to be responsible for the Quality and Assurance aspect of our patient’s files.  I could tell that my procrastination was beginning and that it was a fear of failure.  I had never been asked to do this kind of task and I had no training for it.  As everyone feels at sometime at work, I felt I had more than enough responsibilities at that moment.  Soon I realized I had a new assignment and that’s when I got down to work.

The first step I decided to take was creating a protocol for the filing and how the patient’s caseworkers would help.  This included a checklist of all items that should be included in the chart and what section they belong in, then a binder to keep this information so it could be referenced when needed, and a place for the case workers to describe how they would get any information missing from the chart.
Whenever new protocols are implemented, it always becomes a work in progress and nothing was different with this one.  This is where your team can be very helpful, sometimes with out even knowing it.  We started to have a problem with information and papers just being dropped into a chart without it being placed in the correct section.  I solved this by making clasp envelopes with the patient’s names on them and placing them inside the chart.  That way if the case worker did not have time the papers could be put in the envelope.  It kept things neater and was a reminder that there was still filing to do.

Finally, at least for a while, I changed my schedule to four 10-hour days.  That way I would not be interrupted by walk-ins or phone calls and it gave me a chance to audit the files for an extra 2 hours each day I worked.

As an email from the Kudos folder I keep shows below, it all worked out well.

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