I’m a few months into my new job as an administrative assistant. This company is techy and operates at a faster pace than my previous job, which was where I first got into the admin world. At this point, I’ve had about three years of total experience as an admin assistant. My problem seems to be that I’m not learning things quickly enough. The executive admin who’s training me is transitioning into a new role, so lots of things are being thrown in my direction. I’m told that I’m not asking the right questions or at a high enough level. I’ve been stressed every day because I feel that whatever I do or whatever questions I’m asking, I’m doing it wrong. How do I go about gaining the confidence I need to succeed in this new job and train myself to learn quick enough?
– Slow & Steady, San Jose, CA
You’re right. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you don’t have the stamina to keep up with a new team—and, left unchecked, the stress could impact different areas of your work as well. But in your situation, there’s a bit of silver lining.
You mention being a relatively new admin, especially within the fast-paced technology scene. Yet, you were chosen to fill this role—so your potential likely outweighs your inexperience. That’s where you should draw confidence from. When it comes to your other concerns, consider the approaches below to help you get through the training period more successfully and a bit faster.
Navigating New Technologies
Whenever you’re tasked with taking on a new form of technology, you can’t just rely on your in-office training time. Think of this like being a band member instead of an admin. If you’re taking over as lead drummer, you have to learn to play the band’s set before you show up to the first practice.
If your team is running on an enterprise software plan and you don’t have access outside the office, read support tutorials or demo a free version at home. As you do this, make a running list of questions. Then, before automatically pitching those inquiries to the admin conducting training, try to look up the answers yourself.
Extracurricular learning like this accomplishes two things. It gets you to dig through the features and capabilities of a tool and solo problem-solving weeds out some of the more basic questions you’d ask. When it comes to the level of your questions, work backward:
- Can you identify the goal of what you’re doing?
- Do you see how your duties support the organization or move a strategy forward?
- Do you know who’s depending on a specific task and why?
If not, scheduling a meeting to understand the big picture could be necessary. When you know what you’re working toward, the steps in between are much easier to take.
Keeping up with the Learning Curve
Learning curves are rough like you say, but you should also note that each wrong turn or missed attempt is ultimately refocusing you in the right direction. It may be frustrating for the admin training you, so try to consider that person’s pressure to take on a new role while preparing the old one to be filled. Apologizing and moving forward goes a long way—especially if your team is as fast-paced as you say!
Remember that it’s OK to ask questions, as long as you’re not repeating them. Plus, diligently recording responses gives you a jumpstart on making your own procedure binder to pass on if you leave the position.
Perhaps the training wasn’t properly planned beforehand. If this is the case, take notes on the technicalities so you internalize what you’re learning. Return to the initial job description, make a list of good and bad ways to approach tasks and try to scope out everything that’s expected of someone in your role. It’s ideal to have a few months to ramp up, but if the other admin is headed out, you may need a few late nights to squeeze in all the information yourself. Aside from looking up searchable questions on your own time, use the last few minutes of every training session to check your understanding while the executive admin is still around.
Take Training Beyond the Office
Running through a post-training spiel will help you clarify points, but all your training doesn’t have to come from the one person tasked with bringing you up to speed. Combining your training with internal networking is a smart way to keep the conversation going without piling on your questions.
Schedule a lunch date or casual walking meeting with other team members or admins. This gives you a set time to sneak in a few more Qs—while building relationships with people you’ll probably be emailing on a regular basis.
Stress Isn’t Always Bad
Though it doesn’t feel great to think you’re slipping behind or disappointing the team, the pressure you feel can be used in your favor. There are ways to refocus your stress and use it as productivity fuel. And in your case, you should also try not to take the challenges personally. Easier said than done—but tackling something as big as a new job with half your regular confidence will make conquering the role twice as hard.
Don’t worry—you’re a Ninja, and you’re definitely not the first admin to be tossed in the deep end. Once you master trial and error (or “the oops method” as one Ninja calls it), you’ll be able to rely on those skills again and again, no matter how fast-paced job training is.