Text? Call? Email?

Ponder this.

If an admin successfully completes a task using a completely different approach than yours, is it wrong?

If an employee brand new to the workforce delivers a message to a senior executive via text rather than email, is it wrong? Why is it wrong? The message is delivered, right?  How would the new employee know that it is or isn’t acceptable to text instead of emailing co-workers unless it was pointed out to them their first day? Perhaps the executive prefers text? No way for you to know unless you have worked for this executive or have first-hand knowledge of his or her preferred method of communication.

Customer service taught me (and my many years in this career) that others just might not see things from the same perspective that I do. They may not have learned how to respond to events in the same way.  This employee perceived it as the fastest way to get a message to another staff member. This person thought they were awesome! to be so speedy to get the message out. It did not occur to this employee to actually call the executive because that is not the primary means of communication for this person. They text their family. They text their friends. Why wouldn’t they text their coworkers, too?

The staff member receiving the message was taken aback because the complete content and intent of the message did not get conveyed in that format. Miscommunications ensued. Disdain made a grand entrance.

I suspect this exact kind of scenario is why communication and business writing are two major segments of the Certified Administrative Professional® certification exam offered through the International Association of Administrative Professionals.

I encourage more experienced workforce peers to keep this in mind and to try to remember how long it took you to learn something so well, you did not have to think about how you did it. It comes to you automatically, almost as if you are on auto-pilot.  Think how much the workplace has changed. When I joined the workforce I had a lengthy orientation, not just about the organization but also on how to do my job!

These new-to-the-workforce employees are not only learning their job, they are learning what it means to work in an office culture, one that may be far more formal than they understand. Do not let them make awful get-shown-the-door mistakes if you can see it coming.  Do not demean these coworkers over their lack of experience.  Share the stories of mistakes you have made. In my opinion, empathy is the best way to engage and teach the newest members of the administrative professional workforce.




Five Things Learned from My Mentors

There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm. ~Willa Cather

I’m admittedly slow to pick up social cues, and sometimes slow to pick up on workplace politics.  I had the opportunity earlier this summer to talk about mentoring and it gave me the chance to reflect on the peers and supervisors in the workplace that have changed my approach to work and workplace shenanigans.  Many other career coaches will have undoubtedly already covered this topic… but here’s my take.

1. You don’t have to like or be friends with the people you work alongside… but you do need to be civil and respectful.

Early on in my career and sometimes now when I’m very tired and/or hungry, I’ll allow my disdain for someone else’s work style to show through in my interactions with them. Not cool.  Not professional.  I do not have all the answers to the problems of the world, and frankly aren’t we all just trying to get through the day without a major hassle?  Why make someone else feel less than.. just because I’m feeling less than..

2. Get plenty of sleep.

Having enough sleep allows me to be able to think clearly, calmly and not feel that every challenge is a crisis.

3. Appearance does matter.

Whether we like it or not.. it’s true. The more professional and business-like your wardrobe for work, the more people treat you in a more professional and business-like manner.

4. Don’t take yourself so seriously.

I’ve seen this comment traveling the twitterverse and blogsphere a great deal lately. It’s great advice.  Take the tasks and the deadlines seriously and set your self-importance to the side. You’ll get the job done faster and build better work relations.

5. Don’t make the mistake of caring (too much).

One of my supervisors once told me, ‘Foley, You made the mistake of caring.’  It wasn’t that I shouldn’t be invested in what I was doing but that I needed to put the situation, the work task and the challenge into perspective.  It wasn’t all about me.

It also follows that lovely quote about not ever seeing the quote ‘I wish I had spent more time at work’ on a gravestone epitaph.

Keep it in perspective.  How important really? Have I completed the tasks? Communicated to the rest of my department where I stand on my projects?  Then, I am good to move on to the next task, the next project or better yet, good to head home for the day.

Seems simple enough, right? For me, it’s always great to remind myself to go back to the beginning.

Mentoring Programs – Some thoughts

I was wondering around in my head (my play on wandering..)- debating why firms do or do not provide a mentoring program for their administrative staff. Part of that internal conversation pondered whether some of the ‘super’ skills admins have- can only be obtained through years of work experience..

This topic has been around the block on many admin discussion boards- IAAP, OfficeArrow, ASAP, AdminSecret etc. In my personal experience, I know that many IAAP chapters sponsor a mentor program, that ASAP offers a mentoring match up and one of the major companies I worked for (Booz Allen Hamilton) also establishes a peer mentor program for admins when a new admin is hired.

What are the benefits to having a mentor?

Here’s what I think are the three best benefits from working with a mentor:
1) Saves you from recreating the wheel at work
2)The mentor can share some life/work experiences that you may not anticipate ever having to deal with in your job
3) Can be a great source for networking with other admins and supervisors

Mentoring is not the same as supervising. Mentoring can be beneficial to you at any age or at any point of your professional career if you are willing to listen and learn.
Sometimes mentorships don’t work out. Many new admins mistakenly can believe that their mentor should be their best friend…. Uh, not the same thing.

Mentors can best be described as a teacher who helps lessen the gradient of a learning curve.

Here are some web links as they relate to different types of mentoring and mentoring programs.

1.Michelle Obama announces White House mentoring program for girls

2. American Society of Adminsitrative Professionals

3. OfficeArrow.com
http://www.officearrow.com/forums then, type mentoring in search box
You have to be a registered member (free) to access this discussion board

4. American Business Women’s Association. http://www.abwa.org/

You can also reach out to your local chamber of commerce.

There are plenty of opportunities out there.

Now, have you considered being a mentor? You can reach out to a local Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) group or Boys/Girls Clubs..many public school systems are looking for partners or business folks to work with their students in middle-school or junior high about the skills needed in the workplace. I believe D.C. Public Schools may still have this program (though it may have been subjected to budget cuts.)

I’m sorry my thoughts on this are not more organized. I really wanted to get this blog out and share it. I’ll probably do a Part II- when I’ve time to gather and share more detailed information. For now.. I guess it’s just another career topic to ponder!
On a special note: I want to acknowledge all the clerks and adminstrative support staff that support the United States Armed Forces on this Veteran’s Day. You are unheralded, but your work is IMMENSELY important. Thank you for your service to our country. From one admin to another.. I say, Thank you. I appreciate your hard work.