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.

Day 10 Why Customer Service? Countdown to Executive Secretary Live 2015

Every friend of mine has a story (or a dozen) about crappy customer service. Have you ever noticed that when the level of customer service goes above and beyond, it is news-worthy?!

You can find administrative courses on any Office product, setting up travel arrangements, creating team building projects but I’d never seen a course on customer service for administrative professionals. I’m not just referring to call center staff– they are in a very tough class of their very own. I’m talking about what are the keys to defining superb customer service from an administrative professional?

I’ll fill you in on the back story to what prompted me to develop this session when we meet on Day 2 of Executive Secretary Live. In the meantime, I hope you’ll think about how YOU define great customer service. What does it look like, to you?   

Here’s a suggested text to consider written by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval. The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness (2006). [It is one of my go-to books and I believe it’s available for Kindle and Nook.]

Days 15/14 –Countdown to Executive Secretary LIVE 2015- London

ES_LIVE2013v1

Yep. That’s me at the Executive Secretary LIVE conference in 2013.

Fast forward to March 5, 2015 and I’m prepping to return to London for this year’s conference.

I wanted to blog about the preparation to go, my thoughts about presenting and also to encourage others to pursue the things that fill them with joy.

When I attended in 2013, I was not sure what to expect. I have known Julie Perrine for some time and knew she was presenting. I had read Sue France and Bonnie Low-Kramen’s books and couldn’t wait to greet these two thought leaders.  I had been in correspondence with Susie Barron-Stubbley and Doug Dickerson through LinkedIn.

I also had some preconceived notions of what I thought London would be like and what the conference itself would be like.  Ha!  Remember that  old adage about ‘making assumptions’?  Let’s just say I was pleasantly disrupted from those perceptions.

First, I thought Washington, D.C. traffic was challenging.. until London. I am proud to say I was not impatient nor rude to the gentleman driving our transport unlike a few of the others on board. And, I learned that if I had taken the subway (or as you guys call it, the Tube) my transport might have taken less time. When I finally arrived at my hotel room, the view was

hotelview1

I had the most amazing time during my short visit. I met so many delegates/PAs from all over the world and made great friendships with PAs from Italy and Turkey, which I still celebrate today.  And one of the craziest moments was being seated next to a delegate from Pennsylvania– this was her first PA/EA conference- EVER?! We’ve also kept in touch some.

The sessions were fantastic. The social events were impressive. I must admit to feeling a bit intimidated and overwhelmed by the collective brilliance of the presenters, but in a good way. I became very quiet. For those of  you who know me, it’s hard to imagine that happening, but it did. It gave me the opportunity to just soak in the experience,to live in the moment (as Sue France strongly encouraged me to do).

So, as I prepare to return to #ExecSecLIVE, I’m remembering the joy of those few days spent with peers that inspired and motivated me to keep listening to my instinct, to continue to pursue training and speaking opportunities, to share from my experience, strength and hope as an administrative professional.

Off to grab a cup of coffee as I’m working from home today. It’s snowing–which DC has not had much of this year, but our northern states certainly have had too much of it to shovel. I raise my mug to Lucy, Matthew, Rachael, Christian and all the team members and delegates preparing for the conference.

coffee1_instagram

Lamenting the ‘Lame’ Admin

I’m a bit annoyed..perhaps even angry or perhaps frustrated is the better word.

I’ve simply heard too many stories about admins that just don’t give a crap.  These are the complaints I hear.

  • They leave right at 5 even if they know their boss is headed out on travel. 
  • They do the bare minimum to meet their job requirements because ? (100 reasons to be shared later)
  • They don’t make deadlines
  • They book their boss in an window seat when they know he is 6’7.
  • They are quick to share entirely too much personal information and/or personal drama
  • They are inconsistent in their product delivery: Super competent and helpful to those staff members they like, not so much with others.
  • They don’t plan ahead for potential issues
  • They are not respectful of their peers or their supervisor
  • They are quick to blame others or completely in denial about their role in the office
  • They don’t research solutions to a problem before bringing it to their supervisor

Of course, my theory is that these types of admins don’t really want to be admins. (*See bullet 2)  They really tick me off.  They RUIN the field for those of us that do give a crap and take pride in our work.  I’ve even heard admins say— ‘Oh, I don’t want to be an admin, but that’s all I can get.’  UGGGH! 
Get out of my chosen career field.  Leave.  Don’t look back.  You are annoying and lame.

Professional admins get it.  We show up early or close to on-time every day. We’re well aware of major projects or issues on the calendar at work and prep accordingly.  We’re helpful and resourceful.  We KNOW our role. Our role is to provide administrative support for staff and executives so that they spend more time making the company profitable (Hence, I get to keep my job and my paycheck).. and less time trying to find out why they can’t find a file.  We’re the equivalent of a keyboard shortcut.  We are the MACRO in the office workflow.

If you have an ego problem with your title and/or your role as an admin– guess what? You are the problem.  Seek the employment you truly want or change your approach to being an admin.  I’ve found that many executives and project teams would be thrilled with an admin that is competent, reliable, willing to ask questions, willing to put in a little extra time to pitch in…. Sounds to me like they are asking for a teammate, not a waterboy.

Why Every Administrative Professional Should Have a Twitter Account

I love Twitter.  As an admin… I love Twitter. As a sports fan, I love Twitter. As a news junkie, I love Twitter. I realize not everyone cares for the medium.That’s okay. Agree to disagree.

I believe that every single administrative professional should have a Twitter account. I’m not saying you need to post up your 140 character thoughts. You don’t have to. Yet, if you are looking for a streamlined resource of information from administrative professionals or folks in related-fields, then setting up a Twitter account and creating a ‘follow’ list of specific relevant organizations or persons needs to be on your to-do list.

You can set up lists that have only airline Twitter accounts or list that has all IAAP Twitter accounts, or maybe you track articles for your supervisor? Create a Twitter list for media. These are all helpful and generally super informative. You can always stop ‘Following’ any Twitter account that is not providing useful info.

Here are some of my favorites for administrative professionals — check them out.

1.  @JuliePerrine  [www.allthingsadmin.com]-  great admin peer and fellow IAAP  member
2. @MakeUseOf [www.makeuseof.com]  – software tricks/tips/ generally cool IT info
3. @DayTimerPage – [www/daytimer.com]  Some folks still love paper planners.. Don’t knock them.  Help them.! sometimes has coupons, sometimes new product info, mostly time and organizational tips
4. @LauraStack – [www.theproductivitypro.com] ]Well known productivity guru- 
5. @SocialFishFood -[www.socialfish.org] – Great resource on all things social media
6. @LinkedMediaGroup -[www.linkedmediagroup.com] – Another fabulous resource on social media and branding
7. @LucyBrazier [www.executivesecretary.com] -The London-based owner/editor of Executive Secretary Magazine
8. @Leadershipfreak [http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/]-  Dan Rockwell’s succinct and powerful leadership thoughts
9. @Dewoun – Dewoun Hayes- [http://adminhotspot.blogspot.com/] – Another fabulous IAAP member and fellow blogger for IAAP -EFAM in Montreal
10. @AvidCareerist –  [www.avidcareerist.com] Donna Svei has so much great information on resumes, job hunting, LinkedIn — I feel like I  know her!  Superb information.
and
11.  @LinkedIn – [http://blog.linkedin.com/] Great info on all things as they relate to LinkedIn®

Give it a try.. You just might like it!

Strategic Partnerships: Admins & CEOs

edited: 4:15pmEastern

Great presentation last night by Joan Burge, CEO, Office Dynamics, Inc. She is a very approachable person and clearly knows the culture of our career field. She joined the group of attendees for dinner and networking before her presentation.

She started off by mentioning how much she enjoys coming to DC.. and that one of the reasons she enjoys it so much is because DC area employees tend to still “Suit up” meaning we still- for the most part follow the traditional business attire in the workplace. She reiterated that image does matter! Joan, I have to tell you.. DC workers are often ridiculed for our stiff sense of dress. (But– please do check out one of my earlier blogs about my favorite peeve in the workplace.. Suits and flip-flops…)

Joan shared some personal insight as to why she had written her most recent book, “Underneath It All”. She provided key points from each chapter and took questions from the audience.

She also discussed three key attributes that CEOs consistently discuss with her- when they are referring to working with admins: Responsibility. Trust. Chemistry. Over and over, executives are looking for these traits. Her book goes into more detail about the importance of these three key points. She provided insight into the Admin & CEO relationship and why a strategic partnership is so vital to mutual success. Of course, she gave props to her own EA, Jasmine Freeman for running the Office Dyamics show- while Joan is out doing presentations and seminars all over the country.

The most personal piece that I took away from the presentation was a variation of –Do what you love. She shared how important it was to have work that fed one’s soul.. and I couldn’t agree more. Either you really enjoy the admin field.. or you are biding time to get to what work really brings joy to your heart. I’m very lucky. I love the admin field. I know it is a place where I feel good about myself, my contributions and my ability to help others move projects forward.

I will try to get some pictures of the event posted soon. In the meantime, be sure to check out Joan’s free webinar series: 26 Weeks to Administrative Excellence. It is a great and economical way to pursue professional development.

Thanks to Capital Chapter-IAAP (www.iaap-capital.org) and American Institute of Architects for hosting this wonderful event.