Tools of the Trade (II)

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Ever changing technology is shaping the job of the assistant. You must pay attention to the tools of the trade and adapt as social convention and technology changes. Keeping up with the tools of the trade will allow you to become an invaluable assistant.

Phone and Voicemail Etiquette

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You are the voice of the company when you answer the phone and make calls. It is necessary to follow basic phone etiquette so that you represent yourself, your, manager, and your company well. 

  • Identify yourself when someone calls.
  • Ask before placing someone on hold.
  • Answer the phone within three rings.
  • Be friendly
  • Do not eat or chew gum on the phone.
  • Know what you are going to say before you call someone.
  • Limit personal calls.
  • Do not call people before or after business hours unless prior permission is given.

Voicemail is a useful tool. However, in a fast-paced work environment, many people do not check their voicemail as often as their email. You need to decide when a voicemail is necessary. If you have a great deal of information to impart, voicemail may not be the best option. When you do use a voicemail, follow the basic etiquette. 

  • Prepare: Know what you are going to say ahead of time. Do not ramble, or the listener might not finish listening to your message.
  • Be concise: Leave a brief message with your name, number, and the purpose of the call. 
  • Speak clearly: Speak into the phone, turn off background noise, and annunciate.

When setting up your own voicemail, avoid cute or silly outgoing messages. Be professional, and keep your outgoing messages up-to-date. 

Word Processing

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Word processing is an essential part of any business position. The word processor has replaced the typewriter for creating documents. Common business documents include reports, memos, letters, and legal documents. While most companies use Microsoft Word as the main word processing program, other options are available. For example, AbiWord is an open source application, and Google Docs is web-based. 

The word processor that you use will depend on your organization. Do not panic if you find yourself working with an unfamiliar word processor. They all have similar operations, and most offer tutorials. Word processors are more than glorified typewriters. They provide a number of tools including: spell check, grammar check, Thesaurus, Dictionary, editing, word counts, formatting, and alignment to make creating documents easier. Taking advantage of the tools available will improve your documents, making them more professional.

Business Writing

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Business writing includes emails, memos, reports, and business letters. Each one has its own formatting, but there are a few basic guidelines you can follow with all of your business writing to ensure that the message is clear and effective. 

  • Identify your goal: Determine if you need to inform, persuade, etc.
  • Understand your audience: Create your message around the expectations and interest of your readers. You audience will determine the tone that you use.
  • Stay concise: Use short, simple sentences so that you do not lose interest. You should also condense information to keep the message shorter.
  • Structure: Make sure that your topics transition easily. Use space to emphasize breaks for different topics.
  • Grammar and spelling: Check your grammar and spelling with the word processor and by proofreading.

Internet Research

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As an assistant, you will have to do a great deal of research. The Internet makes this task faster and easier. All research, however, is not created equal. Basic search engine results are based on clicks and keywords, and they will not always provide the detailed information you need. You should familiarize yourself with specialized search engines such as www.firstgov.gov. A number of databases, such as ABI/Information Research, also allow you to access information. When you find information, always determine if you have a legitimate source. A blog based on opinion with little research cited, for example, would be suspect.

Case Study

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Ken was running errands for the first part of the day, so he kept his phone close to him. He received a call while he was driving, so he let the phone go to voicemail. He arrived at his destination and listened to the voicemail. It was a caterer calling back with a quote for the next large meeting. There was so much background noise that Ken could barely hear the message. Additionally, it took forever for the caterer to get to the point. Ken was so annoyed that he erased the message and decided against using the caterer.