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Office work

Office jobs are found in all areas of work from your local town hall to film or recording companies. There are many different jobs, needing different skills and abilities.

All sorts of different people work in offices such as:

  • accountants

  • advertising executives

  • bankers

  • civil servants

  • local government officers

  • customer service staff

  • computer programmers

  • lawyers

All organisations need people with office skills to provide reliable backup services. Some offices are very modern, informal and open plan; others may be more traditional and enclosed spaces.

Office work is constantly being affected by developments in technology. For example most jobs now require ICT skills and email has replaced many of the letters and telephone calls that used to pass between organisations. Opportunities for part-time and flexi time offer hours to suit all. Large multi national companies may work shifts to make office support available longer, from 7am to 10pm, for instance.

For most jobs you will need to be:

  • a methodical, quick and accurate worker

  • helpful and responsible

  • of smart appearance

  • good at working in a team

  • willing to learn

  • able to show some initiative

Word processing and typing

All kinds of accurate and well presented documents have to be produced. Word processing packages have many features and allow you to amend and save documents easily. Word processor operators and typists receive their work in various formats. They may work from handwritten to typed drafts (copy typists) from notes taken down in shorthand, or from listening to recorded dictation – this is called audio typing.

Before you apply for jobs, you need to learn how to use a keyboard so that you can type quickly and accurately. Few firms will train you from scratch, although an office junior could perhaps train on day release or at evening school. The college offers a range of relevant full and part-time courses. Other staff including secretaries, receptionists and clerical assistants may also be asked to do some word processing or typing alongside other tasks.

Secretarial work

True secretarial work involves much more than just wordprocessing or typing. A secretary is a personal assistant to someone (or perhaps to more than one person) and assists them to organise their work effectively and knows when to make decisions on their behalf. A secretary therefore has a demanding and responsible job. Plenty of initiative and commonsense are very important. To become a secretary, you are likely to need good GCSEs at grades A* to C especially in English. Some secretaries have A levels or higher qualifications. Training is usually by a course at college.

Clerical or administrative work

There are many people employed in offices as general clerks and clerical administrative assistants. These are difficult jobs to generalise about because the duties can vary a lot from organisation to another. An administrative or clerical assistant may do a variety of tasks including:

  • word processing

  • answering the phone

  • filing

  • dealing with the post

  • using computer packages, for example databases

  • invoicing/financial record keeping

  • statistical work or other paperwork

  • reception work

Posts can arise for either junior or experienced administrative staff. Some people choose this type of work because they like the variety, and most need to have a range of office skills.


Reception work is popular because it offers contact with the public. Many organisations prefer someone older than a school or college leaver because the first contact with a client or customer is very important. The receptionist is the firm’s representative. Besides reception work you may also do other routine office tasks.

Telephone and contact centre or call centre work

Like a receptionist the person who deals with incoming calls is often responsible for the first impression that a client or customer receives. You need to be courteous and helpful, able to deal with simple enquiries and efficient in putting people through to the correct people within the organisation. Many jobs are in customer services or call centres, answering telephone help lines. You need to use information on computer databases to deal with customer enquiries. It is vital to be quick, efficient and unflustered, particularly at busy times.

Financial clerical work

You may see posts advertised for invoice clerks, accounts clerks, bookkeepers, payroll or wages clerks, as well as jobs for cashiers or customer service assistants in building societies, banks, insurance companies and large shops where you deal with money and financial transactions. These posts require competence in maths and often GCSE in maths at grades A* to C is requested. The majority of employers now have computerised systems to work out wages, bills etc, but for some jobs you may need to do the number work using calculators or other equipment.

For further information:

Council for Administration
6 Graphite Square
Vauxhall Walk
London SE11 5EE
Telephone:+44 20 709109620

There are several local employment agencies who specialise in placing people into temporary and permanent positions, and you can find them in yellow pages or get a list including websites from the Careers Service.

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