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Career Story: Administrative Assistant To The Head Of A Medical Research Lab

Administrative Assistant To The Head Of A Medical Research Lab

Job Title: Administrative Assistant

Type of Company: I work for a basic research lab at a non-profit hospital, affiliated with a medical school. One of our labs is also sponsored by a national medical institute.

Education: BA, Cinematography, Certificate in Television Broadcasting

Previous Experience: I did a Summer job clerking in a family practice medical office. Later, I temped with a temping agency, and they happened to place me in a hospital. I have been there ever since.

Job Tasks: I am secretary to the Division Chief who oversees the lab, which is staffed by about fifteen post-doctoral fellows, plus junior faculty, technicians, and students. I schedule his meetings, arrange travel for him, coordinate training grant information, answer phones and emails, retrieve articles and maintain a clipping file. He also chairs several committees, which I serve as administrative coordinator. I am also the administrative coordinator of a monthly seminar series, obtaining and making arrangements with guest speakers, coordinating schedules and creating agendas, booking catering and conference rooms, arranging hotel and taxi, and reimbursements, and advertising.

I coordinate the incoming fellows' applications to both the hospital and the medical school, and in some cases, the national institute; help acquire any necessary visas, as we have many foreign scholars; help personnel with building access, keys, orientation, supplies, engineering and phone requests, general benefits...

I sometimes also have to cover for the other administrative assistant who does more on the clerical side of things; I can cover for the lab tech when it comes to receiving and distributing orders, and I can cover some of what the lab manager does (keeping track of funding, approving orders, and handling personnel matters). I also put together work parties to celebrate accomplishments and boost morale.

In all cases, I am a liaison between many different departments, learning much about how each operates.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is that I work independently, which I prefer. No one's looking over my shoulder, and the boss trusts that what needs to be done gets done. We're down-to-earth people here for the most part, so it's a good group to work with. It's a lot of juggling, but it's gratifying to know I can handle it.

Worst part is there is so much for me to do and I feel I do a lot of triaging, but then some projects get neglected and it's hard to catch up. Also, the fact that I can cover for so many people, I end up having a lot to do if the others don't happen to be around.

Job Tips: Acquire computer skills. Learning useful features of applications and knowing how to search for information is a plus. Try to understand the how and why; then you are able to approach problems from many different angles which makes coming up with the solution(s) much more likely. Be professional and respectful; working well with others is a must - or at least can make work life easier.

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