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9 Outdated Office Tasks You Need to Know

Look at you! Your resume is full of great achievements and skills like "Proficient in all basic computer skills" and "Doubled Startup X's Likes through better audience engagement tactics." Through those, you've landed a great job that has the promise of turning into a wonderful career. You sit down at your desk, looking over the file folders, office stationery and phone — noting that these are old-fashioned office things you'll probably never use — and get to work. 

Then, the phone rings. And rings. You stare at it, brain racing as you try to recall how to answer in a polite, professional manner. Then it stops. Good, the call has gone to voicemail, but now you need to remember how to check your messages...

Sound like a nightmare scenario? For many workers, it's the reality of being comfortable saving a file to a flash drive but completely flummoxed when asked to file a document. Basic office skills are frequently thought of as things of the past, but most workplaces rely on them to function. Here are our top nine "old-fashioned" office skills you definitely need to know: 

Phone Skills

It comes down to the difference between a casual "Hello!" and an office-appropriate "Company Y, Firstname Lastname speaking." Likely, you will be asked to answer the phone a certain way by your employer. If not, be sure to ask your boss. Also, make sure you understand how to check your voicemail, transfer a call to someone else, and dial in- and out-of-office numbers before you make or take any calls. 


Just like the save button, the icon for folders on your computer is taken from its IRL counterpart. Sometimes things just have to be done on paper, and the best way to organize them is through filing. Most of the time you can expect filing to be done alphabetically, though ask your employer about your company's filing specifics.

Taking Minutes

Even been in a meeting where someone asks what happened in the last meeting and no one knew the answer? That's because no one took minutes. Different from notes, minutes are a record of what exactly happened at the meeting and include information like who was there (and who didn't make it), where the meeting was held, what was discussed, if votes were taken what the results were and how long the meeting lasted.

Letter Writing

Whether it's a cover letter, letter to a potential client or an offer letter to a new hire, the art of professional letter-writing is far from dead. Professional writing skills include a high standard of grammar, spelling, well-organized thoughts and conciseness.

Screening Calls/Visitors

If you're working in an administrative assistant-type position, you'll likely be asked to help screen calls and/or visitors. The trick is managing how to tell someone they cannot talk to or see your supervisor without offending them. Learning who to put through immediately, and who can wait, is essential to this skill. Check with your supervisor about their preferences. 

Managing a Calendar

This could mean managing your own work calendar or managing the calendar for your boss or a number of people in your office. Most importantly, you must make sure the calendar is up to date with meetings, vacations, retreats, etc. This will prevent anyone from being double booked, or scheduled for a meeting on their day off. 

Initiating Projects

Sometimes you'll be asked to initiate projects, and that means doing a little legwork. Project initiation can include research (show off those Google skills!), getting names and contact information for others involved in the project, creating outlines and compiling a list of goals and objectives.

Face-to-Face Conversations

Not all interaction can take place via text, phone call or email. Sometimes, you're going to have to be in the same room as someone to accomplish work tasks. When those situations arise, make sure you're prepared by having a way to take notes and a clear idea of what you are going to say. When typing, you can always send a clarification. When talking in-person, it's better to be completely "typo" free. 

Customer Service Skills

I worked for five years in the concession stand of a water park. There, I learned many things I'll never use again (like how to appropriately tell visitors to take cover because a cougar escaped from the neighboring zoo). However, I also learned one thing that has mattered at every job I've had since — good customer service. No matter what you do, the ability to interact with those you serve in a positive manner is priceless.

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Proper Behavior at Work Functions

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Jobs, Workforce

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Portrait of Liz Simmons