Pondering about the economy

Fortunately or unfortunately, I’m old enough to have been through several up and down rides of the US economy.

No matter the terminology used to describe losing work, it is still hard to get through and harder to get through when no paycheck is forthcoming. No doubt we’ve all read articles, heard stories and have ourselves or family members giving first hand accounts of how tough the job market really is … It can be emotionally and physically draining.

What evades discussion is the fact that even if a person did know their employer was in financial straits and jumped ship, there is no guarantee that the next company would be a safer bet. Or, if a staff member sticks it out until the company shuts down, then what? Rarely is there a bonus involved with that option.

I guess what I am trying to share is that — there is no set of directions for job seekers in this economy. There is no “Correct answer” . Job seekers try to steer away from the not on the up and up- type placement firms, but still need cashflow. If they take time off to interview for a full-time slot, then it can jeopardize the hourly/weekly rate that may be guaranteed for that week. Switching temporary firms to keep cashflow can be perceived incorrectly by recruiters.
If long term options come along, there is a pressure to “settle” for any job that comes along because Lord knows.. there may not be another opportunity out there. Of course, there are career coaches and talented recruiters out there to help steer folks but I suspect they are overwhelmed at this juncture.

I must admit to flailing like a fish out of water on the deck of the boat when my last company moved away. The economy wasn’t even this bad yet… but I was not focused on what I wanted and where I wanted to be– and it cost me. There is a silver lining though… all of my IAAP contacts, networking and speaking allowed me to continue to find work, both short and long term temporary assignments. It also allowed me to focus on what is next for my career…and set a plan in place to get there.

It is a frightening time for many workers in our country. I am grateful for my career choice as an administrative professional, now more than ever. Perhaps when the economy returns a bit, there will be less apathy and cynicism in the workplace and more gratitude and patience.

One can hope, right?

Administrative Professionals Week 2009

Happy APW 2009!

It’s hard to believe that I started this blog almost four years ago. Since then, I have earned my Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) rating and my Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) rating. I have had the opportunity to serve in several leadership roles for my local IAAP chapter. I have also traveled to regional and national conferences related to the profession.

In more than one posting I have mentioned how important I believe our profession is to the success of firms all over the world. We take on the bulk of the hand-offs, unwanted phone calls and other time-consuming minutiae that eats away at the productivity of the management team. [Sometimes, the management team does it to themselves…but that’s another blog.] I have also written about the many challenges of the admin-executive partnership -as Joan Burge calls it.

Today, I write as one of many administrative professionals- working in the temporary employment field. I am in the midst of learning a tough lesson about longevity. My last employer down-sized and then moved out of town. Prior to that, I had a great position working a few days from home and a couple days in the office. But then I experienced the death of a parent and continued to struggle with the fact that the work was not traditional administrative support, so I decided to move back to a job downtown.

During my interviews, I have been honest about the reasons for my change in companies, but it has definitely impacted whether I even get considered- certifications or not. There is not a right or wrong answer. It just is. Our economy is in tough shape and I have to be willing to tough it out.

I am extremely grateful that I have continued to receive temporary assignments daily. I know that the key to success for me is to be able to get my foot in the door and demonstrate what a great administrative professional can do for a company. I am also thankful to my friends and peers that have continued to forward company contacts and job-postings that they think will work for me. They know me and my personality. It is just a matter of time before the tide turns in my favor.

In the meantime, I wish all administrative professionals the very best during “our” week. Enjoy the recognition. If you are not working full-time or working temporary assignments as I am doing, keep the faith. The most professional and positive among us will be the first to benefit when the economy picks back up.

Volunteering– part II

Back to reviewing the issue of volunteering- this time in the workplace.
I’ve visited this issue before– knowing when to take initiative vs. being taken advantage of.. but I’d like to ponder on it some more.

Ever been asked to help out on a new project team? How were you approached? Was it actually a directive and not an option?

What happens when you volunteer and the workload shifts?

I know that one of the academic institutions I worked for .. “highly encouraged” its administrative staff to be team leaders for a fundraising charity the organization supported.. probably because admins know pretty much everyone in the organization… at least by name if not personally.

Have you ever run into a situation when volunteering- you are asked to ask others to donate their time? Ask superiors to donate money or time? It can be quite awkward.

I think there are some great ideas out there in different workplaces that allow staff to take time to volunteer for an organization the company supports– if the person wants to.. but it is not mandated.

What pro-bono projects does your company support? Are you required to show participation as part of your annual review? As CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) takes hold in corporate America as a best practice- it will be interesting to see if it is impacted by the financial challenges of our current economy. Will these programs be eliminated because they do not support the bottom line? Will companies turn their CSR internally to help their own employees that struggle with financial issues or healthcare costs?

Just some food for thought.