Assistants Are Marines

April 15, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Posted in Business Ops, Tools | 1 Comment
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I’ve finished my first week of my new job.  It feels so good to commute.  I never thought I would say that!  This past Monday was my third ‘first day’ in 25 years.  It had been 7 years since my last one and I was a bit out of practice.  My office is very small and does not interact with clients or the public.  If you read my earlier post on being hired there’s no question that the office is very laid back.
All of this has reminded me that assistants are Marines.  We have to adapt, improvise, and overcome.

I’m an assistant in a new world.  I’m still a great worker and always have been, that doesn’t change.  I’m in a new situation and new situations always cause me to take inventory of my surroundings and myself.  Here are some of my insights and conclusions from my first week in the workforce again.
I seem to have come full circle in a couple of ways.  I’m working in market research again.  I have 18 years experience in this industry on many levels.  I’m working for a for-profit company again after spending 6 years at a non-profit.  This was the first part of my adaptation.  My current company is small, but is taking advantage of technical advances that either weren’t around when I was previously in market research, or couldn’t be offered at a non-profit.  Communication and the sharing of information is a valued asset.  We use Messenger ; Evernote ; DropBox ; Wunderlist and GoToMeeting.  Most every employee has not only a desktop computer, but also a laptop that is connected at the same time. Weekly staff meetings are small at our site.  Most employees are teleconferenced in. Most every staffer in the meeting is using their laptops to communicate via email and chat with co-workers.  I’m sure they all consider this routine, but for me it’s exciting, new and I adapt quickly to new software and technology.

The second adaptation is being a simple assistant, not an administrative one. I’m a general assistant in the Operations department.  Some duties are more tedious than I’m used to, but that doesn’t mean they are less important.  This is the most mindful change/adaptation.  I can’t offer to change or create procedures or reports.  I don’t have the responsibility of running a busy office.  I don’t even answer the phone, something I don’t miss at all.  I am lowest on the totem pole.

Finally, my last adaptation, at least for now, is the ‘vibe’ of the office.  Working for a non-profit that offers social services was actually more hard-lined than my for-profit company.  Every day of the week is ‘dress down’, even for the president.  I wore plain dress pants and a white shirt on my first day of work and I was extremely overdressed.  People joke around a lot and are very friendly.  Even though the atmosphere is relaxed, work is still important and is done by 5:00pm.
As a Marine, my first task is to adapt.  The task of improvising may end up being a slight need.  I will overcome!

Now for the definitions of the day

1. make fit for, or change to suit a new purpose
2. adapt or conform oneself to new or different conditions

1. perform without preparation
2. manage in a makeshift way; do with whatever is at hand

1. win a victory over
2. get on top of; deal with successfully

Favorite Tools #1 – Macros

March 2, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Posted in Tips and Tricks, Tools | Leave a comment
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Nothing helps an Admin like streamlining regular repetitive or tedious tasks.  Macros in Word and Excel are necessary tools to cut your time in half using automation.
The most effective macros are well planned,  You may want to start by writing down the sequence of steps and commands you want the macro to perform.  You may even want to ‘practice’ before actually recording it to be sure your keystrokes, clicks, and commands produce the desired results.
Recording macros is easier than coding VBA from scratch and it works just as well and has the added benefit of saving time. I look at it as a way to create my own tools.  Here are some that I’ve used that worked for me.
I am assuming here that you are familiar with the Macro menu interface for recording and using them.  If not, check out the resources at the end of the article.

1. It seems inevitable that when you’re entering data into a spreadsheet that the rows and columns don’t fir the data correctly.  This macro quickly corrects that problem and gives the spreadsheet a cleaner look.
Start out with a spreadsheet that has rows and columns are too narrow or too wide.  If you don’t have one already, just purposely make one.  Here’s an example of what I used

  •   Select the cornerstone on the worksheet to select all cells (or Ctrl+A twice). Be sure that all cells remain selected.
  •   Double-click between two column headers. Be sure your cursor is positioned between the two letters and appears as a horizontal double arrow.
  •  Finally, double-click between two row headers. Be sure your cursor is positioned between the two numbers and appears as a vertical double arrow.
  • I like to finish up my Excel macros with Ctrl+Home this places your cursor in cell A1. This step is optional, but it’s always good to know where your cursor is going to end up when your macro completes. Then stop recording.

2. Another common task/problem I have in Excel is getting the spreadsheet to print out just the way I want it, usually to have it fit on one page and centered.  So I used the following macro to help me out.

  • Click on File in the Menu Bar, click on Page Setup.
  • Click on the Page tab at the top of the Page Setup window and select the orientation (portrait or landscape)
  • Click on the Margins tab at the top of the Page Setup window and set the margins (I have mine set to horizontal and center page)
  • Optional: Click on the Header/Footer tab at the top of the Page Setup window and select a header and a footer from the drop down lists
  • Click on the Sheet tab at the top of the Page Setup window. If you would like the top row of the spreadsheet to repeat on every printed page, click once in the “Rows to repeat at top” box and type $1:$1 If you prefer to have the grid lines showing, click once to place a check in the grid lines box
  • Click on OK.

Again, if you choose, click Ctrl+Home to move the cursor to A1, then stop recording.

3.  As the person who writes the most business correspondence, the name and address of the company was something written often. This macro inserts that information at the cursor position. It’s the best example of the simplest macro, typing and formatting four or five lines of text with a keystroke or a punch of a button.

  • Open a blank document using the normal template.
  • Set any formatting options you want such as font color or highlighting.
  • Type out the address as you want to appear in all documents
  • Now stop recording

Those are just a couple of examples of what I use.  I’m sure that every reader has a task that needs automation, just write down the steps, record a macro, and save time!

Now for the definitions of the day

1. device for doing work
2. means to an end

[ símpla fi ]
transitive verb
1. make something easier
2. reduce expressions to simpler terms

[ i físh’nt ]
1. well-organized
2. able to function without waste

Other Resources

  1. Basics of recording  macros in Excel or Word
  2. Video from the ‘For Dummies” series
  3. Microsoft’s Macro Info Page

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