Administrative Professionals Week 2017

Dear Administrative Peers,

I hope this finds you healthy and happy. I hope your week is full of demonstrations of employer recognition that is valuable to you.

I hope that you recognize and understand your true value, not only to your company, to your co-workers, but to the overall economic good.

I hope you are able to see that people count on you, your work, your ability to communicate clearly and honestly, and to deliver on tasks. I hope you have the respect of those you work alongside.

I hope your supervisor(s), your company, your co-workers can acknowledge your continuous effort to keep all the pieces moving in the right direction.

For those of you that hate being in the administrative field, I hope you can find a different employer, or perhaps a different career field, that makes you content.

Some may say this week of recognition is nothing but a  made up holiday in order to sell more flowers or cards. Some  say this week of recognition is just a small opportunity to make others aware of the work we do.  I see it as a week of pride, almost like a homecoming celebration. One time a year, we gather as a profession to acknowledge the hard work loads and  sometime challenging personalities we encounter in our daily work. I like to think of it as one big ‘Clink’ of glass as we toast one another for a successful year.

Best wishes to each and every one of you. I am so very proud to be part of this community- For the exceptional assistant, this is not a job. It's a vocation. They've dedicated their life to it, and it compels them to greatness in the role.- - Jan Jones, the CEO's Secret Weap.

~ K.

 

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!

job-definition
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.

 

 

 

DC LAN IAAP Event- 5/24/16

Best Practices: Working with Boards and Committees

This event for DC LAN IAAP is open for members and non-IAAP members, and is an IAAP approved program for 1 re-certification point.

REGISTRATION – http://bit.ly/DCLANMay24

When: May 24, 2016 | Time: 5:30pm – 8:30pm | Where: Nixon Peabody, LLP – DC

Agenda:
5:30 to 6:15pm Networking Dinner and Program introduction
6:15 to 7:15pm Diligent presentation from Ray Judge
Quick break 7:15 to 7:30
7:30 to 8:30 pm Working with Board and Committees Overview
8:00pm to 8:30pm  Closing

Location Notes:
Intersection of 9th & H
Closest Metro Stop
Chinatown/Gallery Place — Yellow/Green/Red Lines
Easy to find garage parking/ pre-pay — Utilize parkingpanda.com

NOTE: Cancellations must be received 48 hours in advance to accommodate catering requirements. Any concerns regarding dietary restrictions, please email Kemetia.

Open to members and potential IAAP members.  For more information about IAAP visit www.iaap-hq.org

AN Director: Kemetia Foley, CAP-OM (kmkfoley@gmail.com)

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

A Salute to My Peers- Administrative Professionals Week 2015

Thank you to my peers that push me, cheer me, try my patience. Thank you for my mentors that pushed me to attain my Certified Administrative Professional certification. Thank you to the hundreds of peers that have reached out over discussion groups and social media to provide quick insight and assistance when I needed it. We’re all in this together to not only earn a living but to help the companies we support thrive.

Here’s a salute from me to you– the vital and amazing administrative professionals in the United States, and to the millions of our peers across the globe.

Get A Grip– On the Tools You’re Utilizing – a Nod to Brian Fanzo

I’ve been trying to catch up on some learning time this weekend. Mostly watching and listening to replays from some of the social leaders I follow.  Tonight, I just happened upon a rant-ish type post from @iSocialFanz aka Brian Fanzo https://youtu.be/83ySoC1MCLM addressing many issues as they relate to social media tools and best practices.  What I admire about Brian is his ability to articulate his passion for what he does in a very human and very genuine way.

But one piece of the replay caught my attention because it also applies to the administrative workplace.  Know the tools you are using. Understand their context. Mistakes happen, but they cannot all be blamed on the tools we utilize because to paraphrase Brian– the end-user is responsible for the implementation of that tool. It’s also a reminder to be deliberate as we learn. Sometimes I rush to add another social application to my phone without a)needing it  b)understanding its true function c)taking the time to learn the shortcuts and features thoroughly.

Admins use many tools to get work done, to communicate updates, to save time for their team. I’ve come to recognize (and somewhat accept) that due to the velocity of our changing field, I may have started to become a user of many tools- but master of none. Furthermore, it provoked me to think about doing some MOS (Microsoft Office Specialist) testing. How else can I demonstrate that I have a comprehension of the main tool I utilize on a daily basis.

Think about it–

As an example, many of us utilize Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint, but are you fluent, do you have a deep bench of skills or just enough to get by? Good stuff to ponder.