I had an interesting conversation with a friend recently. She is not in the administrative profession, but works for a mid-size consulting firm. The topic came up about defining an equal. You know the expressions we’ve heard- “He’s at the same level as his peers.” or “She did not consider the data entry clerk to be her equal.”
What does it mean really? Are we trying to define a peer? Or are we referring to financial equal, status equal or seniority equal?
In terms of the administrative profession.. this can be a HUGE cowpie….because we all know.. though we may not voice it aloud.. that Temps are NOT our equal. Or, are they? What are we measuring them against?
What about the different levels of Administrative Assistants you can read about in the Sunday classified listings? What differentiates a Admin Asst. I, Admin Asst. II or Senior Admin Asst.?
When one reviews the labor department definition of administrative assistants or administrative support staff– it can cover the gamut. What do these mean to you?
My understanding is that the job titles are set to differentiate on two levels- One- skillset and Two- Experience and Education level.
Now, I could be wrong because I haven’t had time to dedicate to really research this very well… but I have found it fascinating that in a large firm, from my own experience – that there can be an organization chart (read: pecking order) within the administrative support staff, generally based on the importance and level of the person(s) or team being supported. Also, factoring in… any supervisory duties held by that admin, official or unofficial. So the unspoken rule tends to be that the Exec Asst. to the CEO ,Office Manager or Director of Administration is the lead admin whether they have official supervisory duties or not.
When I reflect about how I would define my equal- I think of years in the profession.. not necessarily title and skills. Someone who supports five physicians in a surgery department for seven years certainly has more tolerance than I would, but also has a completely different set of skills -required for a medical or hospital setting. Nonetheless, we would hope that their salary would reflect the difficulty of the position and the time logged on the job.
Whereas, we may encounter another scenario this summer. Young college graduate, knows html, knows the ins/outs of webcasts and digital media. Not a lick of experience in data entry, scheduling board member travel or supporting a CEO. Comes in as a temp– and then brought on full-time to support another team VP at 10k more a year than you make. Ouch. How do we reconcile that?
Are they a peer or an equal.?
Yes, it’s important not to define ourselves by our job title or by comparing to those around us. If we are honest, we know that we have all succumbed to stewing and reviewing this scenario at one time or another. I think this is one of the reasons why I enjoy being in IAAP so much. There, we are equals. Equal in our efforts to improve and educate ourselves about matters relevant to the administrative profession. Titles do not seem relevant there. We are all IAAP members, and some of them may be peers in supporting supervisors in the same work arena (legal, university or different locations for the same company.)
Just some food for thought.