• Kato Murray

Admin 101

Kato Murray, LMC Admin


When I describe what being an admin is like to people, I compare it to a word problem, but you’ve only been given the answer and you have to figure out what combination of steps get you there. I was also fortunate to stumble into this career path as a teenager, so I’ve had time to learn, grow my skillset, and even make mistakes. I think people inaccurately consider administrative roles to be “entry-level” and that they therefore don’t require previous experience or expertise. This half true, because I don’t think you need any specific education to be an admin, but I do think having certain skills and tools at your disposal is a key to being successful.


Thankfully, I am here to guide those of you who might be hiding under your desk right now wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into by sharing some of the things I’ve learned along the way.


1. TaskRabbit

Contrary to popular belief, I can’t be everywhere, despite giving the regular impression that I am. Sometimes this means getting things done in different states, time zones, or coasts without booking a flight every time something needs to get done.


For everywhere I can’t physically be, thankfully I can rely on a Tasker for the assist. I especially like to rely on TaskRabbit to help manage any task that might require a pickup and delivery anywhere that a team member might be traveling. They’re also the preferred partner for IKEA assembly, which is another fun detail you can tuck in your back pocket for future reference.


2. HotelTonight

I am always surprised at how few people are aware of HotelTonight, but it’s perfect for those times when your boss is traveling last-minute and needs a hotel room booked like J. Jonah Jameson needs pictures of Spider-Man.


Some of the hotel listings on HotelTonight will even compare prices against other popular booking tools (e.g., Hotels.com, Expedia, Booking.com, etc.) so you can confirm that you’re getting the best deal on short notice.


3. Doodle


Need to coordinate the best meeting time for your team, but don’t have access to everyone’s calendars, or need to schedule a meeting for a large group of people and want something more efficient than sorting through dozens of emails? Doodle can help simplify the process of collecting what dates and times work best from a large number of people. You can also collect poll responses from a large group of people; for example, you can figure out which employees pronounce GIF as “jiff” and figure out who cannot be trusted – or you know, get a consensus of toppings for Friday’s pizza orders.


4. Yelp, TripAdvisor, TimeOut, and Eater are Your Best Friends

Speaking of Friday’s hypothetical pizza orders, in a previous job, I was tasked early in my employment to choose where we would be ordering lunch from, make sure it had gluten free options, and get it delivered in time for our afternoon meeting. I’ve lived in Southern New Hampshire for nearly my entire life and ordering a group lunch wasn’t a new concept to me, but the Boston lunchtime scene was completely new to me. I took five minutes, had a panic attack in the men’s room, but eventually figured it out using the Yelp app on my BlackBerry, an app I had only used once prior to this moment to find the best tattoo shops in New York City.


Nowadays, the requests I get are more reasonable (though usually still gluten free) and I’m more prepared to pivot on the fly, but they might mean placing lunch or dinner orders from a coast away or finding restaurant options in an area I’m unfamiliar with. Thanks to a combination of Yelp, TripAdvisor, TimeOut, and Eater, I can easily identify Instagram-worthy restaurants in Pasadena, California that have a gluten free options beyond salad, that I can order online and schedule the pickup time without ever leaving my Manchester, New Hampshire office.


5. Customer Service

This is one is potentially a no-brainer, because customer service was undoubtedly part of the job description, but instead it is about navigating customer service smarter. I have spent a lot of time on hold, enough so that I feel like I have earned the right to an opinion about hold music (and that I have had at least one nightmare set to Vivaldi’s “Concerto No. 1 in E major, Op. 8, RV 269, "Spring"”). Thankfully, more companies have started to implement chat support. For example, Delta Airlines can even provide support via text message, which means that I can reach out for assistance without being on hold for a large chunk of my day. They respond to me when someone is available, and I have found that I am able to get concerns resolved twice as fast as I could when I was relying on calling in. I also recently had similar positive experience with Vistaprint’s Live Chat function after having difficulty getting hold of someone on the phone to process a refund.


Not sure if the chat function on a website can bring you to a live person? Just ask the virtual assistant. More often than not, if it’s unclear whether chat support is available, you can ask the virtual assistant if you can speak with a live agent/representative/etc. and they’ll connect you with the live chat system. It also beats shouting at representatives on an automated phone system and being funneled through an endless phone tree.


I also recommend not relying on email for immediate assistance unless a representative has directed you to send follow-up information to a specific email address. In my experience, responses won’t come for at least 48 hours, if not longer, which won’t help you get answers about that flight that needs to be rescheduled this morning.


6. It’s Okay Not to Know

This is a departure from the tips and tools above, but it’s okay not to know things. This doesn’t mean throwing your hands up in the air and giving up the second you hit a wall, but rather accepting that everyone has been in the same boat before. Not having innate knowledge doesn’t mean you don’t know how to do your job, and it’s okay to search for things you’re unsure of. It is highly unlikely that you’re going to stumble across something that someone hasn’t had to tackle before, so here are my recommendations for that.

  • When in doubt, there’s an app for that.

  • Been assigned an unfamiliar task that you don’t know how to do? There are Internet communities that can help you in real-time. I am not saying plan a whole career around Reddit helping you, but there’s a reason why tutorials exist. I am still learning things about Photoshop, Adobe DC, and PowerPoint after years of using them.

  • Your coworkers are your team, and they want you to succeed. Unsure about something? Ask someone, they might be able to give you some guidance. I still regularly ask for the opinion of the people I work with and none of them are ready to vote me off the island (and not just because I’m our resident Fixer and Keeper of All Things).


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