A Tsunami of Learning…and Love.

 

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I don’t know about you, but this past weekend’s #WebathonWeekend was astonishing. [WebathonWeekend, a fundraising effort to provide financial support to the most amazing Microsoft trainer and presenter, entrepreneur, single mom, and fierce cancer warrior, Vickie Sokol Evans. I can’t wait to see the final dollars and data from Lucy Brazier.  This was a fine tsunami of love if you ask me.

The quality of the educational content was impressive! I highly encourage you to get a sense of the event by reading the Storify transcript provided by Matthew Want, PA to Lucy Brazier, CEO Marcham Publishing.  Lucy was the driving force behind #webathonweekend, which featured administrative educational content and interviews with over 50 speakers.

If you would like to donate to help provide financial support for Vickie, please visit the donation link on Debbi Shaffer’s Audacious Divas page.

PS.

Kudos also to Diana Brandl for creating the #WeAreinThisTogether hashtag and her blog which provides a continuous storyline reflecting on administrative professionals.

Defining ‘Administrative Professional’

For those of us in the administrative field, there are few things that can get us as fired-up as trying to define and explain the ‘career administrative professional’.  Let’s start with some  frequently asked questions about the profession.

  1. What is an administrative professional?
  2. Why is the title ‘Secretary’ insulting to some, but not to others?
  3. Why are there so many different titles?  (Hint: This is worthy of  a Ph.D. dissertation.)
  4. How can someone make a living in this career field?
  5. What skills are a must?
  6. What tests must be passed to be considered competent?
  7. Why do many employers require administrative professionals to be university-educated?

1.The term ‘Administrative Professional’ is a catch-all for the many different administrative roles. A sampling of titles would include:  Receptionist,  Director of First Impressions, Administrative Assistant, Chief Administrative Officer, Facilities and Procurement Manager,  File Clerk, Registrar, Secretary, Secretary to the Board, Private Secretary, Coordinator, Executive Assistant, Chief Executive Assistant, Personal Assistant, Office Manager, and probably more than 100 additional titles.

2. The issue with the title ‘Secretary’ is two-fold. One, it does not accurately encompass the  advanced customer service and project management skills that are required for success as an administrative professional today.  Two, it has a history of being used in a derogatory fashion in the workplace. He’s just a secretary! Or, she can’t do that, she’s just Al’s secretary.  Or, You don’t know anything, you’re just a secretary.  [Tell that to Ms. Moneypenny.]

3. In the United States, the Administrative Professional field gets sliced and diced by the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS.gov). [See my blog post from March 20, 2010 – What Makes An Executive Assistant?  Are  you a 43-6011?]  Under the BLS, the majority of positions come under the category of Office and Administrative Support Occupations.  There are more than forty categorizations under this grouping. No wonder it’s hard to define our field! Trust me, one day I’m going to visit the BLS and meet the team that covers our field. But that’s a task for another day!

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https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes436011.htm

4.  See Number 3 above. If you visit the Occupational Statistics portion, you can search for the salary data. Mind you, it’s a year behind or so but, it is still valuable information to have in hand when making a case about salary.

5. Skills. Ah, yes. Skills. What skills are a must for the job? Well, that depends on a combination of job requirements, job description, company culture, individual supervisor preferences, Microsoft Office Suite testing, educational background and the unseen assumptions of the recruiter/human resource contact. It really can be that arbitrary. But, if you ask my opinion about basics, I’d say for a mid-level assistant you’d need to rate Intermediate to Advanced on the Office skills testing, pass any alternate test the potential employer requires (grammar, typing (no! Seriously, they still test on that nonsense!). And, if I had my say I’d require each and every candidate to answer phones for a day in my office for observation. How do they handle the call(s)? Are they polite? Do they know how to handle a challenging client? Do they know how to navigate a call that requires additional research before providing a response?

6.  See number 5 above: Microsoft Office Suite (Outlook, PowerPoint, Word, Excel)in the most current version. And again, admins are up against varying definitions of ‘competent’.  Next time you’re in an interview situation ask, “How do you define competent?” That’s going to provide some serious insight into what is needed to get the position.

7. If you want to start a serious, hot-pepper, fiery and emotionally charged discussion, bring up the topic of Degree vs. Non-Degree requirements for administrative positions. Experience is incredibly valuable. Experience in only office/company for the last twenty years, not-so-much. And before you torch me, let me explain. If an administrative professional has not changed jobs or companies, it limits the understanding of the business world around them. It can limit understanding the scope of skill changes in the field. It does NOT mean they cannot learn new skills or quickly grasp a company’s requirements. It does NOT mean they will not thrive and soar in the position. It means it will take them much longer to adjust and read the culture of the organization, especially if the majority of the administrative staff does hold at least an Associate degree. Often the requirement of a bachelor’s degree by a company is a cultural issue. It’s important to those in charge, those in the C-Suite or staff in Human Resources for a particular reason only they know.

I used to believe administrative professionals were at a distinct disadvantage without any college coursework on their resume. I’m not certain that is an accurate assumption. I suspect it may put them at a disadvantage when it comes to earnings. Mind you, I know many C-Suite Executive Assistants that have thrived and made bank without holding a college degree. I just know that I see that requirement in job postings more than not. I’m not sure what the answer is.

I believe Nick Fewings, founder of Ngagementworks, framed this debate  in the best way possible, focusing on the value of assistants.[Full article from Nick Fewings]assistant-value-ngagementworks-nick-fewings

When people ask me what my job was, I’d tell them:

My job is to get my executive where he/she needs to be, when he/she needs to be there, with a complete set of detailed background materials for whatever the day requires, in the most cost-effective and time-efficient manner possible.

My guess is there will never be an exact, accurate, complete definition of administrative professional but, you’ll recognize one when you work with one.

 

 

 

Time to Focus

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Reporting in!

I am startled at how fast the days fly by  in my new job. Today, my co-worker pointed out that I’ve been in my new role for several months! It’s been an onslaught of new vocabulary, new team dynamics, new everything. It’s all a blur. Now, it’s time to focus.

The picture above is a coloring book picture which resides on my cubicle wall. (Yes, I colored it!) It reminds me to focus on where I am. It prods me,  Put your efforts into learning and mastering as much about your new job responsibilities as possible, and you’ll be successful.

Although I have a million things running through my mind most of the day, I’ve really tried to use my own best practices to focus. I rely on these methods to reel me back in when my day starts to unravel.

  1. Reconfirm task due dates. My new position has SO many projects with start and end dates. Mind-boggling. Reconfirming dates allows me to better budget and manage my time.
  2. Headphones with NO music. Basically, ear plugs. They help ward off distraction.Keep me on task.
  3. Headphones with music on – so I can remain energized when working on repetitive tasks I’ve got to get done.
  4. An organized desk. An absolute. When I leave at night, my to-do list and calendar for the next day are right in front. They jolt me into action before the caffeine kicks in. Also, having (paper and digital) folders, utilizing consistent file naming conventions. My desk is a mess during the day. It’s lovely first thing in the morning and when I head home for the night.
  5. Jot down questions in a notebook. Many times a day I’ll have a light bulb moment. I must write it down but, not be distracted by it. Writing it in my notebook daily allows me to remember it. [You know, I NEVER remember something if I tell myself, ” Oh, I’ll remember this. I don’t need to write it down.” WRONG!]  I love this because I can pull the notebook with me into any team meeting or 1-on-1 with my new supervisor, get answers and lessen the odds of repeating mistakes.
  6. OneNote. Keeping OneNote open with my annual review tab. When I learn something new or take on a new task, into the notebook it goes. Again. Not having to remember these things six months after the fact and once it is there, it is off the train track in my head. I also use it to document the steps I take for certain tasks. Brilliant start to a procedures manual. (That’s another blog post for another day.)
  7. Take my lunch break. So much easier to focus when I get away from my desk to eat or go out for fresh air. Vital.
  8. Limit surf time (Squirrel!). It’s too easy to go from article to article, site to site. Next thing you  know, you’ve lost 30 minutes.
  9. Recognizing when my brain is done for the day and make the switch to getting myself ready for the next day.

Stay rooted. Stay focused. Bloom where you are planted.

Be True To You, No Matter Where You Are

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Dunkin’ Donuts at Dubai Ice Rink,  Dubai Mall, Dubai UAE

Just a week ago I was on a 14 hour flight home from ExecSecLIVE Dubai. Here I am sitting on the couch, trying to be succinct about what I saw, what I learned, who I met, what I ate. Or maybe that isn’t so important.

Okay, maybe it is.

Here’s what I really took away from my experience.

  1. Be you. Be yourself. Don’t worry about comparisons
  2. Know your stuff (content)
  3. Learn from the attendees. At the Q& A, be open to learning from attendee questioning and feedback
  4. Honor the jet lag. Each of us had jet lag in varying degrees
  5. Always keep an open mind. I particularly appreciated hearing the message about completely mastering our core job duties before taking on more. So true
  6. Try new things! I went ice-skating in Dubai. Try new foods. I tried some very interesting stuffed dates and figs
  7. Be courteous in your host country. (Well, you should be courteous all the time but that’s another blog post.)
  8. Stop and listen. When meeting other attendees, listen more than you talk
  9. Our perceptions are not always accurate. I’m honestly not sure what I thought Dubai would be like, but I know that I found it to be a wonderful mix of modern and ancient.
  10. Our preconceived notions and stereotypes can and should be shoved aside– meet people where they are, as they are
  11. The weekend in Dubai is Friday and Saturday.
  12. It was obvious that the hotel was well-prepared for guests arriving all day and all night from all over the world. Many options were offered to help guests until rooms became available at check-in, including resting in the hotel spa at no charge.

I didn’t take my laptop to this conference. I took my Kindle. I had my phone. My goal was to not take so many pictures that I missed out on experiences. I also wanted to listen to the other presenters. I know if I had my laptop with me, I may not have been as attentive. That’s just the truth.

One last thought. I used to show the speaker picture (see below) to my friends and say, “One of these things is not like the other.” This was my way of saying I felt like I was not like the other speakers and did not belong there.

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Dubai 2016 Executive Secretary Live – Speaker Team

I will no longer utter those words. After a bit of research last week, I determined that I’ve delivered more than 100 presentations, taught more than 20 classes and have presented at the four major administrative conferences. Of course I belong up on that stage. And, I know now, more than ever, that there is no better way for me to be true to myself than sharing my administrative professional career experiences and life lessons with others. That’s why my motto is #KeepLearningKeepGrowing !

PS. I was so happy to find a Dunkin’ Donuts in Dubai!

 

 

 

 

 

The Start of the Journey

Good morning from SFO (San Francisco, CA).

I’m constantly reminded on my travels of the diversity and cultural differences across this wide country of ours.  This morning was NO different.

For example, DC folks– well, we tend to dress up a bit more when we are headed out on business travel and look terribly out of place when arriving in a very casual Cali atmosphere. I can see just from the few minutes in the cafe line that SFO takes sustainability WAY seriously and it’s no joke. At Tyler Florence’s section of Napa Farms Market in the airport, I had entirely too many choices when it came to a yogurt parfait. My East Coast tendencies were showing. I did not want greek yogurt, fresh honey nor fresh fruit compote. I just wanted the damn granola, strawberries  and yogurt. The I hastily realized why they had offered the honey. It had no sugar.  It was pricey and yummy..but I will wish it had been sweeter.

Oh.. and there is a serious massage storefront w/ tables.. so if you don’t care who sees you on the tables getting a clothed massage at the airport. Go for it.

Secondly, I got the evil eye from no less than 3 people at the computer desks here at the terminal– (I don’t have an iMAC pro… I don’t have a MAC..) Oh, well. My daughter does though.  It’s no surprise that this airport is built for working on your device (phone, laptop, tablet). There are charging stations, tables for plugging in and working and free Wi-Fi.

Hats are VERY big here. as in large and popular. They follow this trend of very large brims and being over-sized. (Here’s a great site with examples.)

img_20161007_103416018I decided to book with Virgin America for my trip. This airline has been a favorite of mine , along with Virgin Atlantic for the last ten years. Virgin America was recently sold off to Alaska Air, which also has a very strong customer service reputation. I’ll transfer flights here and head to Las Vegas where the adventure will continue. It’s been a long time since I have blogged daily. Let’s see how I do during this adventure to the Office Dynamics Conference for Administrative Excellence.  #adminconf  #KeepLearningKeepGrowing

Work Your Package 2016

I’ve heard a great deal about this  women’s conference but had family schedule conflicts that kept me from attending. That’s about to change. Not only will I be at the Work Your Package Conference at the end of September, I’ll also be presenting a session titled,  Social Ain’t for Everybody, Just the Sexy People.

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#WYP2016

I’m always trying to push myself to meet new people, learn about different perspectives and help others. I’m very much looking forward to this conference. Check out the agenda. Single Day registrations are available and registration is open for twenty more days.

Here’s the link for more information!

 

 

 

 

 

Where we go.. we are the same..via Practical PA

I’m just back from a week in the UK where we held the first of our regional events in Edinburgh and Leeds. The PA Big Questions took place at The George in Edinburgh and Horizon in Leeds. I was really pleased that we had 50 assistants at the events, all there to discuss the issues…

via So the Big Questions happened… — Practically Perfect PA