Office support programs prepare people to support office managers. Students learn to enter data, write letters, and keep records. They also learn to greet customers, use phone and dispatch systems, and collect fees.
Not many offices are as dramatic as the one in the opening scenes of the first "Matrix" movie, where Keanu Reeves plays a cat-and-mouse game with insidious agents. But office support workers find a lot of variety in their work, nevertheless. To do their jobs, they need to use a mix of people skills and data skills. For example, they need to be able to greet office visitors with a friendly manner and quickly identify what the visitors want. They also need some technical savvy to be able to get computers to perform routine office tasks.
You may learn many of these skills in a vocational high school program aimed at office careers, and you may be able to learn the remainder of the necessary skills on the job. But if you want more formal training, a small number of colleges offer diploma programs in office automation and receptionists' duties. Many proprietary schools also offer such programs. Another strategy is to take a few courses in a program of office technology or office automation. Or you can get training in the Job Corps, in a two-month program, for some office skills. Whatever route you pursue should take only about six months of full-time study beyond high school.
You may want to improve your keyboard skills. It is also helpful to acquire skill at entering numerical data quickly using ten-key input. You should study the most common software packages used in offices. You need to be able to meet the word-processing demands of most common office documents. And you should be able to set up a simple spreadsheet; for example, one that totals columns of sales figures. You should learn how to find information quickly on the Web. For example, you may need to be able to track a package being delivered by courier or retrieve a map that visitors can use to find their way to an address across town.
You may want to study interpersonal communications. This helps you "read" other people and understand what they want. You learn how to state what you want or how you feel in ways that don't seem pushy. And you can learn how to deal with conflicts in ways that result in everyone's satisfaction.