Stating the Obvious: It’s Not Always Fun to Look in the Mirror.

What prompted this blog today? I am so disheartened by the number of posts I read on LinkedIn, on the IAAP web-community and on many other social media sites by administrative professionals that have been laid-off or have been job-hunting for months, sometimes years. The field is competitive for so many reasons during this economic downturn.

Can I tell you my (career-related) fantasy?

I wish I could be in an auditorium of 10,000 HR professionals to present the case that job seekers with knowledge of Microsoft Office are not automatically qualified to be admins! The skillset and expertise of competent and dedicated administrative professionals is vast and compelling. Sometimes I even have to have this very debate with IAAP staff.

Appointment scheduling in one facet is NOT the same as the protocol of scheduling meetings on Capitol Hill. Making travel reservations for a marketing rep is NOT the same as booking international travel for a team of six -traveling to 6 countries in 12 days. Dealing with a Fortune 500 company board member – unhappy about not reaching a staff member is not the same as directing an abitrary call to a company general information line. Being aware of the news feeds regarding your employer’s industry– can lead to savvy information sharing with supervisors who might just have missed the latest RSS feed.

Yes. These are all equally important customers. Reality is.. these groups do receive differing levels of administrative support and service. Our career field ranges from the new receptionist or file clerk- all the way to the personal executive assistant for CEOs and celebrities. It covers supporting teams of five, ten or even twenty members- all getting by with one administrative support team member. And, being that one support staffer can be incredibly frustrating – managing competing egos and priorities!

For my unemployed and underemployed peers– I feel you on the employment challenges.. as I was there myself a bit more than two years ago. Unfortunate circumstances meant that my last two administrative positions were each less than two years tenure. I held my certifications and love being an admin. Why couldn’t I get my foot in the door? I was forced to look at my own shortcomings even though I have been in the field for more than twenty years. I had become complacent with my skills, but not in my networking… and that’s what I believe helped me the most in my employment search. ( I had written about this previously during my frustrating search for employment.)

So I guess this is a very wordy way to suggest that you make a list of your own strengths and weaknesses. NOW. Not later. Evaluate brutally. Could you score above 85 percentile on the computerized tests that firms commonly request? Would you have a weakness that you would be willing to discuss in an interview? And, do you have a plan to address it? Is your resume truly current? (Disclosure: mine is not.) Are you teaching yourself Office2010? Database queries? Adobe? Project management software? A new language? Know anything about Social Media? Web research? A new skill of any kind? Know admins outside your own city? Your country?  Hey.. how about outside your own company?

What about what you love doing? What kind of task assignment gets your adrenaline going? And , why? Can you pinpoint the tasks and methods that allow you to successfully complete your work? Can you identify a time when you saved your company or boss funds? Can you discuss a time when your administrative resource connections helped bring a new efficiency to a protocol?

When’s the last time you realized you were behind on skills and you were willing to admit it? Better yet, willing to do something about it? Take action. Hard to do when looking for work.. I know. I have a long list. But I know my strengths and weaknesses.  I can articulate them clearly.
Hey.. I know not everyone lives/breathes and gets jazzed about being an admin. My point is, if you are going to make this a career field- we have to keep our skills current, our networking contacts current and our outlook – facing forward.  We have to stay in shape so that when we do look in the mirror, it’s not quite as startling a view.

Author: KMK Foley

Storyteller. Wicked sense of humor. Tenacious learner, Coffee Lover, especially Dunkin' Donuts.