So you're looking for a new job and you've come across advertisements for clerical work. What exactly is clerical work, and are you cut out for it?
Here's everything you need to know about clerical work, including the skills you'll need, the jobs you may be doing and the money you'll make doing them.
Clerical work is rather general. It typically involves day-to-day office tasks like answering phones and entering data into spreadsheets. Other job responsibilities generally associated with clerical work include word processing and typing, sorting and filing, photocopying and collating, record keeping, appointment scheduling, and minor bookkeeping, according to Learn.org.
That said, the aforementioned duties have also changed significantly with developments in technology, such as the operation of evermore sophisticated computer software systems, printers and copiers, as well as other technologies that can affect clerical work. So, clerks need to be familiar with evolving equipment and software used in offices.
Additionally, clerical work might look different depending on the company, or even the department.
"There are a variety of clerical roles available in a multitude of business settings, and specific duties vary by company and department," Learn.org reports. "Payroll clerks, for example, verify and process employees' paychecks, while shipping and receiving clerks process paperwork for ingoing and outgoing orders. Other positions include mail, file, billing and stock clerks. The business sector also offers many opportunities for general office clerks and secretaries."
Because of the generality of this role, most companies have clerks working for them. Clerks are employed across a wide range of industries, and their organizational and office skills meet the needs of employers of both big and small businesses — whether they're helping to run the front desk of a major corporation or they're helping out with busy tasks for a small startup.
For example, banking and financial institutions employ a large number of clerks like brokerage clerks who work with investments and securities, often writing and processing stock and bond orders, keeping financial transaction records, or tracking loans or claims. Meanwhile the government also employs general clerks who may spend their days preparing dockets and performing tasks for judges, lawyers and witnesses, or attends city council meetings.
Because of the variety in clerical work, a clerk's salary is contingent upon his or her field, company, department and overall duties.
That said, general office clerks made average wages of $28,920 per year, which amounts to $13.90 per hour, as of May 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The lowest-earning clerk received $17,740, or $8.53 per hour, while the highest-paid clerk earned $43,390, or $20.86 per hour.
According to the same data, clerks' biggest employer was local government, which boasted almost seven percent of the 2,828,140 positions that year. The mean wage among local government clerks was $31,960, or $15.37 per hour. And, among those clerks, the highest-paid were those who worked for the Postal Service, earning an average of $53,170, or $25.56 per hour.
Clerks might need specific skills depending on the industry in which they work. But, generally speaking, clerks don't need specific skills because they're not taking on managerial responsibilities like administrative assistants, for example, with whom many people confuse clerks.
"While some people use these job titles interchangeably, office clerks and secretaries are different from administrative assistants — administrative assistants often need a college degree and are given more responsibilities, including spearheading projects and sometimes even managing teams," according to The Balance. "In contrast, clerks and secretaries typically do not need extensive education beyond a high school degree (although there are higher education programs that focus on clerical and secretarial work). They manage the daily operations of an office, but generally, do not have managerial responsibilities."
Despite this, clerks still need to have certain skills that make them well-equipped professionals across a variety of workspaces and among a variety of different types of workers. On top of general soft skills, here are some of the top skills employers look for when hiring clerks, according to The Balance:
Clerks need to have strong attention to detail to handle day-to-day office tasks like answering and keeping track of emails, managing calendars and tracking appointments, and more. They'll need to know how to make travel plans and prioritize meetings, for examples.
Clerical workers also need to have strong written and oral communication skills, since they'll often be in charge of working with a number of different people both within and outside of the company. They'll typically answer phones, write emails, greet customers and clients and write memos, for examples. In other words, they need to be able to communicate clearly and to a variety of people.
Computer skills are key for clerk. They spend a lot of their time typing up memos, entering data into spreadsheets and using other data-entry software. They should, therefore, be familiar with Microsoft Office software such as Word and Excel, as well as any other specific software unique to the company for which they work.
Because clerks work a lot with spreadsheets and often do a lot of bookkeeping, they'll need to be able to calculate numbers efficiently and accurately. Of course, this skill might be more necessary for some clerks over others (like clerks working for financial institutions, for example), but all companies need numbers crunched.
They're in charge of making sure things run smoothly around the office, so clerks must be organized.
If you're wondering, what are some clerical jobs and where can you find them, there are tons of clerical job ads online. Again, most companies look to hire clerks in some capacity, so your chances of finding a clerical job are high. And your chances of landing one will be even higher if you boast the aforementioned skills!
Here are three job boards where you can find clerical jobs.
Check out Fairygodboss for companies hiring right now!
Browse on LinkedIn for job ads by searching for "clerical work" or "clerk." You can also post on LinkedIn that you're looking for clerical work, so those in your network will think of you if anything comes up.
You can search Indeed for clerical work near you.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.
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