Coffee & Conference Prep 2016

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It’s Annual Meeting  Time!

As usual, the last days before staff leave for our annual meeting was incredibly hectic with several challenges. It started with an unexpected visitor to our office building. The person was under duress of some type, had found themselves an unlocked utility closet on our floor, and had moved in for a bit– deciding to sing while there. Once several staff members realized what the issue was, the person was escorted to our building lobby and local officers assisted this poor soul from there.

Today, like most of the east coast, our internet service was interrupted by Denial of Service attacks. Fairly tough to function fully in today’s modern office setting without internet service. Gratefully, our VOIP phone system was not impacted. Our internet service returned prior to lunchtime today.

Also, I recently turned over the responsibility of ‘holding down the fort’ to the young woman who took over my front desk position. You can only prepare new staff so much for the week prior to annual meeting. It has to be experienced to be fully appreciated. And, this being the 50th Anniversary year for the association means extra stress while staff tries to address all the last-minute adjustments or issues. I have to say, our new temporary staff assistant handled the call volume like a pro today. Oh, did I mention we also had a dozen VIP visitors to our office today for a committee meeting that lasted half a day?

And, of course being cold and flu season.. Yes, there’s a nasty cold traveling our office. Boo Hiss. Coffee can fuel you but it can’t kill a cold yet.

The amazing thing about this is that I heard no yelling, no kvetching in the kitchen. We had plenty of food and coffee to keep the staff going as well as some well-timed bowls of Halloween candy. Now going on my eighth year with the association and having worked within associations for the majority of my career, I can say I’m happy to be one of several staff members staying behind. We can troubleshoot issues from our office and via our cell phones during off hours if need be. We also have an opportunity to get our work caught up and be prepared for the post-conference return of the staff, which will be quickly followed by a full-staff debrief of the conference.

I’m grateful that I get to work with some very fun and superbly talented folks. It makes these few intense pre-conference days far more tolerable. There is a mutual recognition and respect among staff that we are all in the same tsunami of last-minute preparations.

I can’t wait to hear all about the conference when our staff returns. In the meantime, I’ll be following all the happenings via #StaffingWorld posts on Twitter.

Safe travels to my colleagues. Hoping our conference is exactly the combination of educational content, networking and expo vendors attendees want.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cocktails & Connections- DMV Style

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My banner from 2016  APW

First, let me share a quick thought here about collaboration. I utilized the banner above on almost all my tweets, posts, pictures during this week. The hashtags represent APW themes from (in order) Office Dynamics, Executive Secretary Magazine and yours truly– all set to the IAAP background green! To bring attention to our career field, we must get the word out! More importantly, we must get the word out together!

So, what does collaboration look like? It means many administrative associations working together globally to represent the purpose and professionalism of our career field.  Funneling down, it also means communicating the value we bring to our companies to the organizations, suppliers, human resource and recruiting personnel within our business networks.

 Administrative Professionals Day – DMV Style

The DC Local Area Network for IAAP (International Association of Administrative Professionals) was hosted by our local Cambria Hotels and Suites.[Disclosure: DC Cambria provided meeting space and appetizers for our event. They also provided a separate cash bar for the event.] The hotel is part of Choice International brand.Their sales/marketing staff has been savvy enough to reach out to the IAAP members in several cities because they understand administrative and executive assistants frequently fill the role of meetings/events planner for organizations. This is particularly true for our field when it comes to board and committee meetings. Many of us are frequently in search of a modern meeting room space that won’t break the budget. Would I have visited this site without being contacted by their sales/marketing staff? Not likely. After touring I was convinced that this property (because of its Metro-friendly location and board room space) would be a superb resource for local IAAP members. Thank you to Lee Callicut, Jeff McClain, Ayesha Aurora, Lois Goldring, and the entire DC Cambria staff for the wonderful customer service and fantastic event.

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Several attendees check out the roof top deck and bar at Cambria ( too cold for us to use it that day! boo hiss!)

Twenty-seven local executive suite administrative professionals and an executive assistant recruiting firm representative, representing corporate, government and non-profit organizations toured the property after a networking hour. We had two attendees join IAAP after attending. Door prizes for the event came from The Howard Theatre, ChocolateChocolate DC, and Clyde’s Restaurant. I hope you were able to catch some of my (@OfficeRenegade)periscope livestreams from the day of the event.

There’s an old proverb- Many hands make light work.  A heartfelt thank you to Joyetta Delaney, Janet Brake and Debbi Shaffer for your help during this event.

Thank you to my DMV (District|Maryland|Virginia) peers for coming into town and being part of our really fun Cocktails &Connections Event for Administrative Professionals Day.

#KeepLearningKeepGrowing

 

Issuing the Clarion Call – The Administrative Field Has a Challenge To Face

Where does the career field go from here?

I’m airing dirty laundry.. the mostly unspoken and unwritten challenges faced by the administrative profession. I’m bringing up the uncomfortable stuff,  the elephant under the rug-stuff.

The State of the Administrative Profession.


Early in my career, I was hardly aware there were  any administrative organizations, I then recognized one or two of them because I was heavily involved with the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) and my then employer would only pay for Fred Pryor Seminars.  Fast-forward these twenty years plus, and now there are individual trainers, teams of trainers, a multitude of professional organizations for administrative professionals plus the numerous conferences and publications available across the globe. It’s very exciting.

From the trainer’s perspective though, the changes in our career field are a bit more obvious. The administrative professionals that invest in professional development and continue to learn whether or not their employee emotionally or financially supports them are separating out from the rest of the crowd. Lucy Brazier, President and CEO, Marcham Publishing and Editor for Executive Secretary magazine, shared a stage with me last week at the 2nd Annual Symposium for Administrative Professionals at Delaware State University. Lucy noted the full-circle journey of the administrative support role— and how currently, she is seeing more and more businesses farm out clerical, basic administrative tasks to a pool (How quaint!?) of administrative professionals. The more career- invested, professional advanced administrative professionals are challenged with more managerial, budgetary and project driven responsibilities. The gap between the two segments has never been wider. I believe it may continue to grow.

These changes bring to mind a myriad of questions

  1. How does the profession continue to define itself for human resource and recruiting professionals?
  2. How do the leaders in our field present this career choice to students in the 14-18 year-olds, to whom our field is best represented by a character on a Netflix show or other visual media channel.
  3. How do the professional organizations representing our field see their role in this issue? Will they ever be able to work for the common cause of promoting the profession together instead of competing for members?
  4. Will the change in educational learning as it moves to more digital and less face-to-face learning, further erode the image of the profession because soft-skills (customer service, teamwork, manners, and protocols) can only be learned properly with face-to-face mentoring or on-the-job experience?
  5. What will the recruiters and human resource professionals do to fill the vacancies left as a large percentage of experienced and elite administrative professionals continue retire?  Will they even fill the job or will those positions be eliminated?
  6. How will we ever build consensus and a brilliant enough representation of our career field so that being and administrative professional is truly recognized as a career choice, as a legitimate career.

I feel these are the questions that all organizations, trainers, educational workforce programs representing the membership of the administrative profession need to face and address.  And, they need to do it through collaboration.  Energy invested in competing for members does not serve our field.  The energy invested needs to be in :

  1. Building the pipeline of competent young professionals that understand the value of our field.
  2. Establishing a long-term public relations campaign to highlight the value competent administrative professionals bring to businesses.
  3. Establish academic and data-driven research to support #2. We MUST have the data to support us –because businesses, boards and deans want research data. Prove it, we must. (Imagine Yoda as an admin!)
  4. Bringing administrative professional organizations together to agree upon the skills, titles and testing for the administrative career ladder.
  5. Establish business communications with the staff of the Bureau of Labor and Statistics in the United States – to bring the Occupational Outlook and titles up-to-date.

Mind you, I only have my perspective and it’s limited to the rather large network to which I’m connected. But I think you, my peers, will agree that time is of the essence. The sooner we work together as a field to promote our profession, the less its importance will erode within the eyes of the business and human resource communities.

As always, I appreciate the thoughtful feedback. ~ K

By the way– I’m still a member of IAAP and ASAP. I’m an instructor in  workforce development focusing on the administrative profession. I have a paid subscription to Executive Secretary, and I’ve also written for several of these organizations.

Insights from the Receptionist Desk – Part 1: Communicating by Telephone

I’ve been in the admin field for a long, long time. I’ve been at my current desk for the past six years. What I’m about to tell you is no big surprise to anyone– People do not know how to communicate by telephone.

I don’t know if phone communication challenges are driven by so many people communicating via text now, or if people calling an organization are so used to NOT having a human being answer the phone — let me just say, it’s pretty disheartening.

Rather than document the myriad of astonishing calls I’ve answered, deciphered or directed, I think I’ll just share a few suggestions for getting assistance quickly when calling into a business. These suggestions are based on many years of phone answering experience.

1. Do some research to confirm that you have the correct phone number and the correct company. If you’re not sure the number is correct, it is perfectly acceptable to say to the receptionist, “I’m not certain I have the correct number, but perhaps you can help me.”

2. Always say Hello or Good morning/Good afternoon. Then follow the next three (3) steps.

  • Give your name- full name and company if you’re calling on behalf of your company. (My name is Jeff Carambe from ABECED.)
  • Ask for the person you are trying to reach (May I speak with John Lemon, please?) Or, if  you are not sure which person you need to speak with at the company,
  • Explain quickly (and we’ll cover this later) why you are calling this company– What’s your purpose? (I’d like to speak with Mr. Lemon regarding his May congressional testimony.)

This makes it very easy to provide the caller with assistance.  Any competent receptionist is going to be so grateful that you –> YOU know how to communicate when calling into a company!

At this point, the receptionist will connect you through to the line of the person you are calling. Now, suppose you immediately get voicemail Do the right thing!  Leave the same information plus your contact phone number or email on their voicemail. REPEAT your phone number twice so they don’t have to replay the message. Follow the prompt on the voicemail! Meaning if you want to speak with someone on staff, zero out to the receptionist and ask him/her if there is anyone else on staff that might be able to address Jeff Lemon’s testimony on the Hill.  Lastly, if you are on a deadline– leave that information on the message as well as letting the receptionist know.

Other suggestions

1. Don’t belittle or insult the receptionist.Being rude is rude and will not make things move faster or better, or more to your liking.
2 Don’t call from your subway ride, the library, your first-graders playground. Make the call when it is quiet and you can focus. So if you are calling while working from home, you might just want to put Fido in another room for a few minutes until you complete your call. I know you can’t always do this–but try.
3. Don’t ask the receptionist to page a staff member unless it truly is urgent.Like crazy urgent.
4. Don’t ask the receptionist for his/her opinion on an issue you are having w/a staff member, the company website, the policies of the organization or how they like the job. It’s not the receptionist’s role to speak on behalf of the organization that responsibility belongs to the Public Relations team.
5. Never hurts to say –Thank you for your assistance. Never.
6. Remember that some worker bees prefer to chunk block their calls which is why it is always a good idea to leave your contact information. This allows the staff member to return your call when they can respond uninterrupted, and you are respecting their preferred work method without even realizing it!
7. If you are nervous or it’s a complicated issue, SCRIPT your question beforehand. I used to think this advice was complete rubbish. Now I understand and respect how having your thoughts written out ahead truly smooths the way!
8. If you have left a staff member a message but have not had a return call after twenty-four hours, you’ve got a few options to get to a resolution. A)You can email the staff member and use the subject line – Please respond to my inquiry about (Fill in the Blank). B)Call the main number and ask the receptionist if that staff member is out on extended leave or ask for the contact information for another team member in the same department. C) As a last resort, request the supervisor’s contact information to nudge the resolution along.

Not all organizations believe in having a human being answer the main company phone line, but I certainly know that navigating an auto-attendant system can sometimes be more frustrating than having a call transferred several times within a company.

–> Next blog: Insights from the Receptionist Desk Part 2: Communication Challenges – Auto-Attendant Systems and Awful Receptionists