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
- How does the profession continue to define itself for human resource and recruiting professionals?
- 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.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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 :
- Building the pipeline of competent young professionals that understand the value of our field.
- Establishing a long-term public relations campaign to highlight the value competent administrative professionals bring to businesses.
- 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!)
- Bringing administrative professional organizations together to agree upon the skills, titles and testing for the administrative career ladder.
- 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.