Career Change from Administrative Assistant (7 Simple Steps You Can Take)

A career change can be daunting, but with the right information, it can be a success. As an administrative assistant, there are many great career options available to you. However, you may be wondering what you need to do to transition your career.

To change career from Administrative assistant, start with researching alternate careers for administrative assistants and decide on a path. Speak with other professionals with a similar background. Next, build foundational knowledge and get qualified in your newly chosen career path. Assess and package your transferable skills and evaluate your past experience. Then acquire new work experience in your newly chosen career and update your professional assets.

In this article, I further break down the simple steps you can take to transition your career from administrative assistant to a more successful and fulfilling career for you.

Let’s get started!

Step 1. Research Alternate Careers for an Administrative Assistant and Select One.

If you’ve decided that you want to change careers from being an administrative assistant, then the first thing you need to know is what other careers are available to you out there.

When looking at other career options available to you, it’s important to not only ask yourself, “what can I do next?” but also “what do I actually want to do.”

If you’re changing from one career path to another, choosing one that fits you best is critical except you plan on career hopping every few years. My best advice is to find a career that gives you some level of satisfaction and fulfillment.

According to this research, job satisfaction is driven by the nature of the work, management, social relations, pay, and benefits. But I always recommend beginning with understanding yourself and what is best for you.

Here are some questions you can begin with:

  • What excites me?
  • What do I love doing?
  • What motivates me?
  • When are my at my happiest?
  • And when are my most frustrated?

Now that you’ve asked yourself these personal questions, it’s time to ask some more career-based questions.

  • What type of work-life balance are you looking for?
  • What level of income is enough to sustain you?
  • Are you willing to relocate for a job?

Take a pen and paper or use the notes app on your phone to jot down your answers.

Now that we’ve gotten your wants and needs out of the way, the next step is researching what careers are out there for your choosing. 

If you already have a specific career in mind, then the best thing to do is see how your skills and experience working as an administrative assistant match up to this new career you’re hoping for.

This requires a lot of research on your part, and you’re going to need to look for the requirements that career requires.

 An efficient way to do this is by searching that job, for example, “data analyst” on job hosting websites like indeed, Linkedln, or monster Jobs and compiling a list of the common candidate requirements they require.

Don’t have all the skills required? Don’t fret about it; hardly anybody has every single skill their position requires, meaning a lot of employers more often than not take chances on candidates they believe will develop these skills quickly.

On the other hand, if you don’t have a specific new career in mind and are searching for any options available to you, then you need even more research.

The best place to start out is with your basic search engine; you can scour the internet for exciting new jobs for former administrative assistants and decide on one that addresses your wants and needs.

We did a little research of our own and came up with a list of common jobs that former administrative assistants have successfully pivoted to. Let’s take a look at some of them;

  • Data Entry Clerks
  • Paralegals
  • Executive Assistants
  • Marketing coordinators
  • Sales Associates
  • Customer Service Representatives
  • Human Resource Coordinators.

Step 2. Speak to other Professionals With Similar Backgrounds.

Now that you’ve possibly decided on a new career to pivot to, the next step to take is reaching out to and speaking with other professionals who have a similar background to yours.

What I mean is speaking with other previous administrative assistants who have successfully made the jump to new careers. Why is this important?

There really is a lot of truth to the common advice of “talking it out.” A career change is not an easy decision to make, and having someone you can be open with and who can possibly mentor you around any challenges you may face really makes all the difference.

Think about it; a former administrative assistant will have a more personal experience about the hardships you might face compared to a random Google search.

Additionally, someone who has successfully attempted what it is you’re trying to do will have much more knowledge on the best options to choose and the best way to go about things.

The only problem you may face following through with this tip is finding these professionals. Well, the best place to start is with any previous colleagues you may have had at one point that ended up changing careers.

If this doesn’t apply to you, you can try talking to friends and family members who may have had similar experiences. Remember, you don’t have to limit yourself to only previous administrative assistants.

Professionals from any field who previously changed careers will also have a wealth of information that can be very helpful to you, whether it’s coping mechanisms on how to deal with the stress of a major decision or it’s just motivation, their advice will also be helpful.

However, if you’d prefer to talk to previous administrative assistants, one efficient way is to find online communities to join and ask questions. Try searching for Facebook groups, discord chat rooms, or even subreddits filled with people willing to share their experiences and probably do’s and don’ts with you.

Step 3. Build Foundational Knowledge and Get Qualified

In summary, foundational knowledge is the concept, theories, principles, methods, mode of reasoning, and framework for a particular subject or skill. 

Sounds confusing, right? Well, here’s an example, if you wanted to become a cook or chef, some foundational knowledge you’ll need would be actually knowing the ingredients, cooking methods, and recipes for different dishes.

How does this apply to you and your career transition?

Once you have evaluated your personal preferences, needs,s and wants, you may decide on a career that you do not have all the required skills or technical requirements to get into. This is where building your foundational knowledge and getting qualified comes in.

Let’s look at an example in detail. Picture an administrative assistant trying to transition into a Human resource or even a project coordinator role. Apart from the useful soft skills these roles will require, they will most likely require some certifications or qualifications.

The administrative assistant can build on their foundational knowledge by researching what the requirements for these roles are (mentioned in tip 1) and setting out to achieve them. 

This may be through volunteering with or shadowing professionals in the field or by registering for courses that will award them human resource management or project management professional qualifications once completed.

I recommend starting with Udemy. It’s cheap and of good value. Bear in mind in some careers; you might require more traditional certifications or qualifications.

Getting additional degrees or qualifications may seem like an energy-consuming task. But, it may really be required to bridge your knowledge and experience gap for some career changes.

Degrees, qualifications, certifications are tested and proven ways to gain the experience you will need in almost any industry. Studying these will allow you to know the history and procedures for the industry you hope to pivot into and will definitely help in bringing you up to date for your new career.

Step 4. Identify and Package your Transferrable Skills

Before moving forward with your career change, the next helpful tip we have for you is to stop and take a moment to look back on the skills you have that allowed you to excel as an Administrative Assistant or even the skills you picked up while working as one.

Ask yourself what skills come easily and naturally to you. For example, working as an administrative assistant probably means you’re organized, detail-oriented, and great at performing more than one task at once. 

You may also have performed other minor job responsibilities like email marketing for the organization, following up with clients and customers, entering and organizing data into spreadsheets, updating content on the company’s website or blog, performing employee appraisals.

These talents and skills of yours can easily act as selling points for other careers that may require you to work on more than one job or project at a time.

Let’s look at easily transferrable skills that administrative assistants can use in other professions.

  • Communication skills: whether it’s written or verbal, communication is a skill that’s needed in every field. Being able to correspond with clients, superiors, colleagues is important.
  • Organization and Time management: These are also skills that administrative assistants possess that can be utilized in other professions.
  • Strong Software Skills: In this technological age, experience using different software is a very valuable skill for different positions.
  • Attention to detail: Part of being an administrative assistant is having a superior attention to detail as well as efficiency. A lot of employers look for applicants that will hold their job t high standards and leave no room for error.
  • Excellent filing, typing, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills are also transferrable skills that can be utilized in a lot of other professions.

Highlighting any of the transferrable skills you have in a cover letter or resume when applying for a job will help to emphasize your suitability for the job and help to hire managers see you as a strong candidate.

Step 5. Evaluate and Reframe Your Work Experience

Another helpful tip for making a career change from being an administrative assistant is evaluating and reframing your work experience. This is important because you will definitely have learned a lot from your experience working as an administrative assistant.

You need to evaluate your work experience by asking yourself how your performance at work aligns with your own personal and career goals.

Some questions to ask are what particular technical and interpersonal skills have you developed through your job? Will these skills benefit you in the new position you’re looking for?

A good way to carry out your evaluation is by identifying all your work-related strengths and weaknesses. Your strengths could be that you have a very good work ethic and are very good at networking, while your weakness may be anything from public speaking to self-criticism.

Why should you evaluate your work experience?

Evaluating your work experience helps to put in perspective what you learned on the job and how these may fit into your new career. But more importantly, it makes it easier to reframe your experience to present yourself as the perfect candidate for a job.

Chances are, you will not have all the qualifications and requirements listed on job postings. But even if you’re only a “partial” match for the listing, that doesn’t mean you should give up.

Reframing your work experience even when you do not have some of the desired requirements can help justify and amplify your skills to make you look like a good fit for the position.

For example, suppose an employer is looking for a social media marketer. In that case, you may never have worked as one, but as an Administrative Assistant, you may have had experience handling marketing emails for an organization.

You can point out how your experience handling these emails is similar to social media marketing and show how valuable this experience will be for the role.

Justifying the lack of skill or qualification may not be easy, but reframing your work experience to make up for the skill you do not directly have can easily sway an employer in your favor.

Step 6. Acquire New Work Experience.

Just like gaining new qualifications or certifications can help you in pivoting to a new career, gaining actual work experience is also very important.

Once you know what career path you want, working in that field is a good way to get your feet in the door. This doesn’t mean making an immediate career change into that field; think of it more as interning or just getting practical experience in your new field.

Some ways to acquire new work experience include;

  • Volunteering with an organization: One way to get more work experience is by volunteering for professionals in the new field you hope to work in. You can ask for permission to shadow them and help in any minor tasks they may have.

    Not only will this help you build your resume but it will help you develop your skills while building new networks.
  • Working on other company projects: Another way to gain more work experience is by volunteering to work and help out on related projects going on at your current company.

    For example, if you’re working as an administrative assistant in a media company and hope to pivot into a career in journalism, you can volunteer to take notes during the presenter’s or reporter’s meeting. You can even volunteer to chase down leads and news articles for them.
  • Work on side projects: In the evenings after work, you can spend your time working on side projects that can help you pad up your work portfolio. For example, If you’re hoping to pivot to a more tech focused role you can start coding on the side and building websites.

    You can even offer your services to small businesses that may need help in building or updating their websites.

Acquiring new work experience will not only look good on your resume but will also give you an inner look into the industry you may be working in in the future.

Step 7. Update Your Professional Brand Assets.

Changing your line of work will most likely require you to change and fine-tune the way you present yourself professionally. Reviewing your CV, personal websites, and LinkedIn profile can go a long way in making your career change experience smoother.

Personal branding is all about marketing yourself and attracting recruiters and more job opportunities for you. Some good places to start are;

  • Your CV: Highlighting your skills and experience on your resume in a way that fits the new career options you’re looking into is important. Using a functional CV that lists your relevant skills will shift the focus to what you can offer the company and what they stand to benefit from having you fill that position.

    Your CV is an effective way to show employers how you will be a great asset for the position you’re applying for.
  • Your Linkedln Profile: Linkedin has helped me land many roles. Your Linkedin profile is one of the first places that a hiring manger will check; this means it’s important to match the information on your CV to that on your Linkedln profile. As someone moving into a new career it’s also important to let recruiters know that you’re open for hiring and looking for new opportunities.

    Optimize the headline section of your profile by listing major skills that will be required in your new profession. Also optimize the summary section of your profile by highlighting your work experience, certifications, technical skills and expertise.
  • Your Personal Websites: This is a little extra but your personal websites is the best way to really stand out, tell your story and showcase your personality. It is your home online and you can make it whatever you want without sticking to strict rules like with CVs.

    Clean up your social media accounts particularly Linkedin or anyone you’ve made public. A good tip is making sure all your social media accounts show you in a professional light; if possible let your social media activity reflect your interests and activities you may have carried out in relation to your new field of work.

    Make posts on topics that you’re passionate about and connect with professionals working in your field of interest.

Bonus Tip: Take Action.

Now that you have an action plan, the only thing left is for you to actually get up and start using it. Prioritize yourself and your future by investing your time and energy into making this career change work for you.

Don’t treat your career change as an afterthought once you’ve decided on it, be committed and dedicated to turning it into a reality. Motivate yourself, and surround yourself with people who will also push you to achieve your dreams.

Even though it may be a big and scary decision to make for most people, if you’re intentional about what it is you want, and you’ve drafted out your action plan on how to achieve what you want, the only thing left to do is believe in yourself and finally put your plan into motion.

Do not hesitate, do not procrastinate; the best time you have to make this career change is now. No other time will be as good as now. Commit to putting into the work, and your efforts will definitely yield results for you.

Just think about it. What do you have to lose? In the best-case scenario, you make a successful pivot into a new career that you love and is perfect for you.

Changing careers can be difficult, but with the right tools and attitude, you can make it happen! The eight tips in this article are tested and proven when making the action plan that’ll you’ll need to make this career change a successful one for you.

Do some research into what careers best fit your experience, skills, personal needs, and wants. Network with professionals who have a similar background as you, build on your foundational knowledge by acquiring more work experience, skills, and qualifications you’ll need for your new role.

Update your professional brand assets to align with the new career you’ve decided to pursue and market yourself as a perfect candidate for roles in your new career path.

 Finally, take action and treat your career change as a job in itself. Make sure to invest your time, energy, and any other resources you require into turning this dream of yours into a whole reality.

There are many opportunities out there open to people with backgrounds in administrative assistance. The key is finding these opportunities and equipping yourself with all the experience, skills, and qualifications that are sure to make you a perfect “shoe-in” for the role.

Patrick is passionate about supporting other professionals to find success in their chosen career paths. So far, he has successfully navigated four career transitions and is currently a Product Manager Consultant helping businesses build products their customers love.