Managing Appointment Schedules? What About Yours?

Administrative Professionals, I estimate, spend about 30% of their worktime invested in scheduling their supervisor(s) appointments, meetings and travel. Most of the successful executives I have worked alongside have also scheduled in or “blocked in” time for themselves to either invest in personal healthcare or attend an important event for a school-aged child.

Although some might find it abhorrent -the need to schedule time with family or a haircut, some admins believe they shouldn’t have to schedule personal time for their supervisor. Puhleeze. I have a theory about this.. and I’m about to cut it loose.

Is this a resentment because we can’t even schedule these items in for ourselves?

Now,.. please go easy on the flaming me.. for this post.. but my honest request is that you think about it..before responding.

Yes, truly, it is much easier for executives or salaried staff to pull of taking time for non-work related appointments because either they have no one to track their time away from the office OR, they do not have to use their personal leave for these appointments. That is not my point.

My point is.. if you need to take time for yourself for whatever reason, here are a few suggestions on how to approach this in a professional and appropriate manner.

  • At the beginning of the calendar/financial year or hopefully several weeks before (whichever is the kick-off for leave renewal at your office) make a list of all the doctors appts you will need to schedule that year, including those for your children or parents if you are taking them
  • If you have school-aged children, get their school calendar and make note of all the dates they have off. Remember, not all companies observe the same Federal Holidays as school systems, do and … vice-versa.
  • Holidays. Are you planning on taking time off to travel? Hate to plan that far ahead? Well, it’s easier to turn leave back in, than to never get it approved at all because you were waiting for some issue to resolve before requesting it.
  • Professional Development- Now, Of course you are going to take time for personal development.. right?! Ideally, this should not count against personal leave. But let’s face-it. Not all companies are that progressive for non-exempt and/or administrative support staff. Be practical here. My preference is to put the request in very early….. but not before I look at the company events and/or bosses’ travel schedule.

If I know that there is a major event or it is crunch for budget time, I’ll review my options carefully. Is this a must attend program for me? Is there a peer I work with that is willing or able to help me prepare meeting materials ahead? Are there any tasks I can pre-schedule and resolve before I want to be out, as to assure my manager that even if they approve the time off, everything will be covered. Use this carefully… and I’ve said this twice for a reason.

Many managers will admit to wishing they had “their” admin available the day before, day of, and days after a big company meeting. So if you know that your supervisor is a last minute, needs you nearby -type.. I’d suggest rethinking your appointment.

Taking the “tuff**** for them “- approach defeats the professionalism of our trade. Of course, communication with your supervisor is the KEY! here. And, I’m not talking email. Get up, go talk to them or get on their calendar (this covers your tail when they say they don’t remember talking about your request!).. It’s always good to check in with your supervisor to let them know.. not about your personal life, but to let them know that you are thinking ahead and planning appropriately for time off.

Of course, unscheduled time off is a topic to save for another blog. The point here is that your physical, mental and spiritual health are just as important as any supervisor.. maybe moreso.
Keeping your health appointments, your kids’ appointments will not only be good for your health, but will limit how much time you may need to take off for unscheduled illnesses.

How do you define your "Equal"- in the workforce

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.

Networking is not just for Executives

Networking is not just for Executives…

If you are in IAAP.. the first place to network is IAAP meetings.. not just your chapter.. go to other chapter functions.. even attending the International Meeting OR- writing on the message boards.. all of this counts.

Many of you already know this information and have great skills and verve. Me? Well, I’m a born schmoozer. It’s in my blood.

Seriously though, let’s take a look at how staff in administrative support positions can network better.

Here are some suggestions.

1. Sales calls. If you have time, at least trade cards even if you are not interested in making a purchase. Instead, use this opportunity to introduce the sales rep to IAAP and the benefits of what an associate membership could do for them or their company.

2. Board Meetings: This is key! Be certain if you are setting up or helping to coordinate board meetings for your company or for a group that you volunteer for- say your college, get business cards and.. THEN get the contact info on their administrative support staff.

3. Get to know your Associate members in your chapter. Learn about their business. Send business their way. Be certain that they have YOUR contact information.

Here are some contacts that I have made an effort to distribute my card to– or even email just to establish some business relationship:
-Local Temporary Firms.. all of them.. but always respect that the associate members of your chapter/Division are first and foremost.
– Local business and trade magazines.
– Local sports teams- from the Professionals to the Minor Leaguers.. it doesn’t matter… Call the main number, and ask for the assistant to the President. Go from there.
– Local restaurants- the one you are always calling in reservations for your boss. Stop by and drop off your card to the manager– NOT during lunch of course.. Take a minute to discuss IAAP. How many members your chapter has…etc. They are always on the lookout for more catering/ event or regular business. Introducing yourself can rsometimes help out the next time they are overbooked.

4. Attend social functions! Of course, you can squeeze at least ONE of these into your year. By social function, I’m not talking your sister’s baby shower.. although that’s not a bad networking opportunity either. I mean, check out a group you’d like to volunteer for or have an interest in. Do they host a gala? Or, a fundraiser? Ever consider offering administrative support on your off time… just for day or two? Longaberger parties, Tupperware.. bring your business card to all of them. These connections matter.

Lastly, I have a favorite I want to share.
Local schools.

Every year, I take something to my daughter’s school for the admin staff on Administrative Professionals Day. I wear my IAAP Pins on my suit and I make a point of acknowledging them on APW day when their school principal is in view…if I can. I email each one of them and thank them from one admin to another. Believe me, coming from a peer.. it means more than you or I realize.

Please! What tips do you have for networking? If you send them.. I will post! I promise…. .

On a personal note: Ladies and folks who have ladies in their life that they care about deeply.. Please schedule a mammogram or encourage them to schedule one…

This year alone, I have three friends and two peers that have been diagnosed with Breast Cancer. It may be uncomfortable for a few minutes.. but it can be life saving. Thanks. kf.

Sheryl Crow’s Words of Wisdom

A quick note to readers and friends tonight..
As Sheryl Crow would say…”A change would do you good.”

So I’ve updated the blog a bit.. and changed the name to reflect a kinder PPN.. instead of being a Paid, Professional, Nag.. I’ve changed it to be a Paid, Professional, Nudge. For those of you who know Yiddish.. it’s spelled Noodge.. but it means to give a small push or shove to someone or something to get it going…

Isn’t that what we all do, each and every day? Keep ’em moving: the bosses, the documents etc..

Hope you like the changes.. AND the addition of the Capital Chapter logo.

Learning New Tricks

Ever have one of those “Dawn breaks at Marblehead” moments? One of those moments where you have that internal conversation with yourself, saying.. “duh” I get it.”

Any career path has them. Perhaps it is the moment you realize your new boss is younger than you are… (always a tough first.. and I don’t believe you if you say you don’t care.. you are LYING! ) ha ha. Or, maybe it is the day you suddenly realize that you are, indeed, at a key point of your career.. either willing to learn new things to keep up or you are not.

It’s been interesting because in my current position in the IT world, the job requires not only a great grasp of technology vocabulary, but a new working-world view, big-picture view–of just how important business systems are for corporate America.

Up until 3 years ago, I was the typical employee (known in tech support world as an end-user. (Please, dont’ go there.) I really didn’t know the verbiage.. I only knew that the program I was working in.. either froze, or kicked me out or I’d get a blue screen of death message… or even more embarrassing.. forget my timesheet password and need to request a re-set.

Of course, these days.. I’m on the helpdesk side of things and I have a whole new perspective..and a customer service advantage… because I’ve been that caller who is taking heat from the boss to get their system back up and running (critical to the boss..but NOT critical to the network folks.) It means when I take a call off our line, I am now more sensitive to the payroll staffer, more empathetic to the admin who is serving as a proxy for their supervisor’s expense report, and more savvy to hardcore number crunchers and programmers.. who live to find any or all of the smallest issue they consider to be a BUG in our system. They actually spend time testing our system with plenty of test cases. And, though sometimes it can be irritating, I’ve learned that our engineering staff really loves those folks because sometimes they discover issues that would have never been found.

But career growth is what I thought I was focusing on.. how little did I realize I was dragging my feet.. metaphorically stomping my feet like a petulant 5-year old with the phrase in my head..””but I don’t wanna take on more.. ..” waaahh.

And I discovered it when my immediate supervisor asked me to take on more duties. Learn more, be more involved, take risks. All along, I thought I already had been doing these things.. and I had… but reluctantly, even grudgingly… And, why? Well, I imagine it was fear of failure or fear of looking or sounding stupid.

So my a-ha moment came… and unbeknownst to me, my supervisor was listening in on my call (yep.. they really do check calls for quality assurance..) and happened to mention it in one of our staff meetings. How I’d really picked up the pace and started to take on the more challenging calls without reverting to engineering or developer backup. I never even realized I hadn’t been trying to do that all along. I was on cruise control, I suppose.

Receiving that feedback has been crucial. It has made me look at the job description I was given when hired and honestly determine if I am taking on all the tasks I was hired to do. How sobering to come to the understanding that this company has allowed me more than a year to ride the learning curve. Pretty unheard of in the typical administrative assistant positions. Now the key is .. how far will I take it?

I hate the cliche –you can’t teach an old dog new tricks , because I’ve always felt I
a) was not an old dog and b) believed I was always willing to learn new tricks..Or in this case new skills. So I’ve decided to take an approach I learned from a Rolling Stones song… Can’t Always Get What you Want..

I’ve interpreted it to the administrative workplace- from my own wacky perspective.

Lyric (my thoughts)

You can’t always get what you want ( read: recognition, really long lunches, cushy no brainer job, big raises…super funny bosses)

but sometimes, you just might find.. You get what you need

(read: you have a job, you are learning new things (how to deal with software, people and patience with customers on the phone you can’t believe!.. and these skills provide what you need and may provide just the experience you need to move up and on.)

Could you be that person…. the one that liked things the way they were always done? the one that just wishes things could be like they used to be… Only you know the answer.

Emotional Maturity in the Workplace

Could you see this one coming? Bet, not! I’ve recently encountered two events that have changed my perspective on co-workers. Both— so jaw-dropping, that I had to stop and write about them.

The first issue involves staff that steals.. right in front of you.. unapologetically.

The second issue deals with how to confront competing directives from the senior management.

Now… so I don’t lose my job writing about this.. I want to be general about these events because I am CERTAIN that they have happened in all offices and not just mine. But the topic is emotional maturity.. and what I mean by that is.. How to take the High Road even though we want to scream about the situation the minute it occurs or at the person that plucks that last raw nerve.

Well, folks.. hate to tell you.. but it isn’t easy.. nor fun. However, it is imperative for remaining employed and having a relatively calm work environment.

So, here’s what I’ve tried to do- even though my anger was completely justified. ( was…)

Excuse myself, immediately from the room, the situation, or from being emotionally present. Take a walk, a deep breath, a daydream about where I’d rather be at that very moment. Talk to myself- (probably best done in one’s head instead of aloud…) and remind myself – How important is it really?

Once calm, either I’m able to drop the issue or ignore the person. Or, I’ve had a chance to put my comments into logical and relevant commentary which I can deliver without being an ass. It goes something like this… in my wacky head!

“Mike, I would like to know what you were searching for in my desk drawer. Can I help you locate something?”
( like your ever-lovin’ mind?) “I ask because I really consider my desk to be my private work area. “
(and if you mess with my stuff it might make me get ugly… )

So when Mike tells me he was looking for some gum he knew I had.. I politely respond…. “Mike, just ask next time. Thanks.”

See.. just have to keep the feisty part — to yourself.. while smiling and let the professional side do the speaking.

And it’s amazing..having all these people compete for my work and worktime.. so here’s how I handle being in the throws of my overwhelming competence in the midst of competing requests from Senior Management.


Syke.. just kidding.

Seriously, I confront it head on..

“Sorry, Boss #3- Boss #1 just asked me to finish this, this and this by 3pm. . Iknow your work is very important and I can understand why you want me to stop right now and take on your project. ( and here’s what slays ’em) -” I”ll just step into his office and interrupt his meeting to confirm that it’s ok for me to move your work to the top.”
(You should see serious backpeddling at this point.)

Or a better and more politically correct way to handle this is to keep a numbered list of tasks. Show them the list. Now, show them you add their item to the bottom of your list. Let them know you’ll try to move it up.. as time permits.

This, my friends, is known as being a mature worker. Not always measured by age in years… but the sheer ability to repress ones utmost anger and sarcasm so as to appear helpful and as team friendly as possible.

As Morris Day would say. “this dance ain’t for everybody.. just the sexy people.”