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Cashing in on Clerical Skills


By Janice Kelley

When you begin a job search with a variety of clerical skills to offer, every accomplishment is an asset. Reviewing the classified ads in any newspaper will reveal some of the skills that employers are looking for: word processing, data entry, project management, ability to work with a team, and excellent interpersonal and communication skills. These are transferable skills you may want to list at the top of your resume so they stand out to a prospective employer.

Every Skill Counts

List the responsibilities of each job you have held (or volunteer position) and then list the skills and accomplishments for each one. "Even by managing a home and raising a family, an individual has developed skills such as time management and multi-tasking," attests Robin Wortley Hammond, director of career services for California Job Journal.

Working in either a retail or warehouse environment presents you with a number of opportunities to develop and refine skills that transfer easily to office positions. Sales and customer service skills are vital to every job, because today everyone is involved in "customer relationship management," whether you are out on the sales floor or selling tickets to an organization's fundraising event. Your conflict resolution skills to satisfy an unhappy customer can also help settle disputes among co-workers.

"Even activities such as training or supervision, providing instructions to co-workers, or interpreting policy performed informally between co-workers, are skills that should not be underestimated," Wortley Hammond counsels.

Bookkeeping experience, counting cash, and verifying information on invoices and purchase orders demonstrates your attention to detail. Scheduling and prioritizing tasks and following them through to completion shows off your project management skills.

Hire Qualities

Prospective employers are always looking for candidates who demonstrate their initiative and problem-solving skills. For example, if you have established a new procedure and trained staff on its implementation, be sure to refer to it in your resume.

Don't overlook the value of being flexible, enthusiastic, energetic and eager to learn. These personality traits are part of you no matter what your position.

You can probably identify a number of other skills and related accomplishments by working through each job you have held and its responsibilities. Listed below are just a few examples of skills you might want to add to your list to give you a jump-start:

* ability to give clear instructions or explanations of policy
* ability to make sound decisions and use good judgment
* able to work independently
* accounting
* bookkeeping
* attention to detail
* conflict resolution
* doing research
* share information/instruct
* follow through
* effective listening
* interpersonal skills
* multi-line switchboard
* multi-tasking
* organizational skills
* project management
* software expertise - such as word processing, database, presentation software (like Power Point), and e-mail
* supervising, coaching or mentoring
* team player
* time management
* verifying data on invoices or purchase orders
* writing

Once you have finished the list, go back and review each one and jot down tasks or accomplishments related to that skill. This information will demonstrate to the prospective employer how your clerical skills pave the way to a higher-level position.

A Success Story

Rebecca Jones received numerous calls for interviews within weeks after picking up her new resume, which emphasized a broad range of skills cultivated while working in the retail industry for more than 10 years. While her experience is in retail, many of the skills she has learned were of a clerical nature, and are enhancing her new career goals.

She explored opportunities to work in an office environment, and prospective employers have been particularly impressed with her leadership, supervisory and project management skills. Jones' resume also demonstrates her initiative outside the office as a volunteer for community organizations.

"Employers have said they can tell by her resume that she is well suited for an administrative position, although she has never worked in an office before," explains Wortley Hammond, who applied many of the techniques described above in crafting a resume that stresses Jones' clerical as well as office skills.

Jones used the traditional job search methods of responding to classified ads, a lot of networking, applying to employment agencies and reading the newspaper to find out what businesses are doing and how she may be able to assist them.

Prospective employers were especially impressed with her extensive experience in customer service and in managing projects. As a result, she has been sought for jobs with some administrative management responsibilities.

"I put a lot of effort into being a supervisor. I am proud of what I bring to an employer and the responses have been very favorable. It has been very exciting," Jones confides. After participating in numerous job interviews - Jones wanted to take her time to find the right match for her skills and interests - she has accepted an administrative position with a well-established healthcare organization. Brand new in the job, she's already being groomed for promotion - where she can take her clerical skills to the next level.




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