I have never traveled internationally before. After working on the Chapter 15 Plan Ahead project, I realized how difficult planning a trip abroad for both personal travel and business travel could be. For me, the most challenging part of international travel is coordinating all of the accommodations and aligning the time frames in which to travel in. There are so many different factors at work when planning and coordinating a trip aboard. You have to prepare flight tickets, hotel accommodations, meal reservations (or research where you would want to go so you have a good idea before you get there), transportation accommodations and reservations for when you arrive in the foreign country, and ensure that you have all the contact information necessary in case you have any questions or need assistance once you arrive. At the same time, you have to work with a different time zone and other arriving and departing times if using transportation outside of a taxi service.

I can completely understand how things can go wrong or become out of one’s control when traveling abroad. I believe the most important thing to remember is to prepare in advance as best as possible and to be flexible once you get there. 

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This chapter has helped me recognize that I can strengthen my written communication by simplifying the language I use and writing more concisely. I tend to be a very descriptive writer to ensure every detail is expressed but it is too much for the recipient to read through and understand the message I’m conveying. If I used more simplified, but still formal, language, I could get my message across more effectively to the recipient. This would help increase both my productivity and the recipient’s because the recipient would not have to waste time deciphering the meaning of my message.

The chapter also helped me strengthen my written communication through the tone in which I write. I find I can convey a more positive tone just by choosing certain words that come across as polite and cooperating. This is an important element in written communication because you are not face to face with the recipient of the message so you cannot express any body language or facial expressions to emphasis the message.

For a little over ten years, I have been a part of customer service in different industries. Though the industries were very different from each other, customer service, at the end of the day, was very much the same. The goal was to identify the customers’ needs in a timely manner and address those needs to my best capability as possible. With this very basic fundamental of customer service, you are able to apply customer service to any part of your work life or personal life to build lasting relationships with people you will interact with on a regular basis. I believe customer service skills are important for me to have as an administrative professional for the following reasons, and here is how I can demonstrate this importance to customers:

1. As an administrative professional, generally I will be the first contact a customer has with a supervisor or firm I work for. It’s important to greet the customer with a positive, friendly greeting so that the customer understands that I’m there to help them with whatever they need.

2. Problems that arise with customers are opportunities to work on human relation skills by listening to the customers’ perspective of what happened and by working cooperatively and positively with the customer to show the customer that they are cared for and that whatever situation that has occurred is able to be addressed and resolved to the best resolution.

3. I feel the most important skill an administrative professional should have is the ability to actively listen. Because the administrative professional is generally the first contact a customer may have, it is up to the administrative professional to filter any issues, concerns, or compliments a customer may have. The only way to do this effectively, though, is to listen actively to what the customer is saying so you know exactly what needs to be address and who you will have to work with in order to address the situation promptly. Knowing how to listen actively also allows an administrative professional to pick up on non verbal cues from the customer as well as asking additional questions to obtain more information to better solve the problem. If an administrative assistant can address and solve a situation promptly, a customer is more willing and more comfortable to work with you and the firm in the future.

4. Like the golden rule says, treat others how you would like to be treated. This is a very basic human relation skill. It is important that an administrative assistant exudes this skill with courtesy and respect for the customer because it will show the customer that they are an important asset to the firm and that they will be taken care of. It also provides a pleasant foundation for a relationship that you expect to build over time based on mutual respect for one another. This is helpful for when situations do arise, you can calmly and professionally work together to resolve the problem.

In conclusion, the best way to approach a customer is to step into their shoes and figure out how you would want to be treated in the same situation that they are in. This helps level the playing field and gives you the perspective of both the customer’s situation and how you are going to address and resolve the issue as an administrative professional. 

Because I was a more virtual administrative assistant when I worked for Northwestern Mutual, the meetings with business colleagues and clients were very few and far between. However, when I did attend conferences and company meetings, I always questioned myself if I were making a confident first impression when introduced to financial representatives, more senior staff people, and the president of the firm. In hindsight, I know I always smiled when I approached or was approached by another individual because that is just my personality. However, I’m not sure I was confident in my introduction or just casual conversation that comes after that initial introduction. This chapter has helped me recognize that I need to strengthen the following personal and work characteristics so that I portray a positive professional image:

1. I’m never too busy to properly introduce myself, my title, and who I work for. That email or return phone call can wait an extra minute or two so that I can make sure the individual I’m being introduced to knows I’m interested, open, and confident.

2. To know more about the people I will be surrounded by, at least at the very minimum so that any conversation that follows the introduction, I will be prepared to ask any questions or make comments that shows my interest in the individuals.

3. Take time to review any notes or tasks before I need to make phone calls. Though I’m not working right now, I have introduced this concept for personal calls and calls to contractors. I feel much more organized and that the phone conversations are more efficient and to the point.

Luckily the business attire was formal so I was in neutral colored clothing and skirt or dress suits the majority of the time. It definitely took away the headache of piecing together outfits every day. However, because of being a part of an environment like this, I have incorporated the “dress to impress” mind set into my casual day clothes whether I’m out running errands or just out with my daughter for the day. You never know who you will meet, and having a clean dress and a pleasant smile will go a long way for that first impression. 

I’ve been a career student for sometime now, pushing close to a decade taking college courses and narrowing my focus to what I love to do and how to optimize that in a career field. I had the opportunity to work as an associate financial representative for a few financial representatives where I performed clerical and administrative support duties on a daily basis. I thoroughly enjoyed working with clients through the whole sales cycle process, and being able to support them in their decision making on the products that would secure their families. I left the position to pursue my degree in what I’ve narrowed to an A.A.S in Business Management in a specialization of Administrative Support Technology. I decided to take AST 243 this spring semester so that I could get a solid introduction into the field of office management and administrative support. The education so far that the book and the course provides is an excellent manual on how to properly become an administrative support person. During my reading I have already noted several instances where I could have improved my position better and my client relations. I hope to learn much more on how to become a more effective, support administrative team member, and understand how to best use the skills I already have and improve upon them so that they are as versatile as the business world is.