Spotlight on: Working as a receptionist

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What does being a receptionist involve?

If you thought receptionists just sit at a desk picking up the phone when it rings, think again.

Although answering and forwarding incoming phone calls is a significant part of the role, being based in the ‘hub’ of an organisation means there are a host of other tasks to get stuck into.

Not only will you probably be the first person clients and visitors meet when they arrive, but as a receptionist you’ll be involved in most things happening in the building to some degree – like receiving the latest deliveries and knowing who’s booked a meeting room for example.

Other tasks might include:

  • Booking couriers
  • Issuing security passes
  • Sorting post
  • Keeping the reception desk and area tidy
  • Making refreshments for visitors
  • Arranging appointments and taking payments if you work for a medical or dental business

Depending on the size of your company, you might also need to lend a hand with other tasks or special projects as needed.

Competition can often be tight for roles, but the good news is there’s no shortage of organisations and locations needing receptionists - from offices to factories, hotels to hairdressers… the list goes on.

What traits do I need?

Dealing with clients in person, phone or email calls for a friendly, welcoming and polite manner. These things are also vital:

  • Efficiency and good organisation skills
  • Staying calm with tricky or impatient clients
  • Juggling multiple tasks at once
  • Initiative and managing your own workload
  • Great verbal and written communication skills
  • Being able to think on your feet
  • Confidence with telecommunication and computer systems, and office equipment
  • Being neat and smartly presented
  • An interest in the organisation and its work

Any entry requirements?

Previous experience in a relevant role can help, such as jobs dealing directly with the public or over the phone in a call centre.

Although formal qualifications aren’t always necessary to start working as a receptionist, it helps if you have GCSEs in English and maths. Roles in high-profile sectors like the media or the arts are more competitive so often also call for A-levels or a graduate degree.

In all receptionist roles, IT skills like Excel, word processing, email and internet research are a bonus. You could set yourself apart with a secretarial qualification or NVQ in Customer Service Levels 1- 4, or NVQ in Business and Administration Levels 1-4.

Planning to work for a company with a lot of international visitors or clients? Chances are you’ll also need to speak a foreign language.

How much can I earn?

According to the National Careers Service you can expect to earn between £14,000 and £19,000 a year as a receptionist. As a medical or dental receptionist your salary could rise to £21,000.

What about training and career progression?

You’ll normally receive on-the-job training in general reception duties, including the phone system a company uses as well as any software that’s specific to that particular industry.

Depending on the scope of your role, you may also be trained in customer service or office administration.

Get some experience and qualifications under your belt as a receptionist and your next role could involve supervising a team of receptionists, or moving sideways into HR, admin support or PA work. 

This role can also be a great stepping stone as you’ll sharpen your administration and customer service skills, plus get insider knowledge of an industry in which you might like to work in another capacity. 

You can find out more about roles as a receptionist, as well as a host of other office and professional jobs, here.

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