10 Smart Best Practices for the New (and seasoned) Administrative Professional

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Right out of the gate, the smart, new administrative professional recognizes the implicit choice to either follow the crowd or to be a pacesetter.

Here are 10 ways new administrative professionals can strengthen and capitalize on their abilities, get noticed, and stay competitive in this ever-evolving field.

Be very careful about the professional brand that you are developing. You’re judged daily not only by the quality of your work, but also by what you say, how you act, and how you dress for the professional office environment. Be professional, even in the little things including the state of your desk, avoiding office politics and keeping up a positive attitude around the office. Professionals admit their errors with grace and learn from mistakes.

Also, learn early on to keep your work and your playtime separate and keep your personal life to yourself.

Know your stuff. Get really good at what you do. Get in the habit of doing more than expected, and find ways to expand beyond the bullet points of your job description. Deepen and broaden your existing skills, and continue to build your strengths inventory. You can do this by maximizing the full power of your current software programs by learning something new every day. Go beyond that by developing a specialty skill.

Be a lifelong learner. Embrace continuing education and professional development. To stay current, you must constantly upgrade your skills. You can demonstrate your passion to learn by earning a professional certification, such as IAAP’s Certified Administrative Professional® designation. Explore what options may be available through your employer. If your company is unable to pay for training, don’t let that stop you. Take advantage of free educational webinars such as those advertised on LinkedIn Events or the ones offered by the AMA. Explore your library resources, arrange for lunch-and-learn presentations, and initiate peer visit opportunities to learn from other administrative professionals.

Read. And keep reading.  Keep abreast of current trends in the industry by sourcing books, articles, websites, e‑newsletters, blogs, RSS feeds, and other social media. Ask your colleagues for their reading recommendations. Your newfound knowledge will not only help you in your work, but will also provide interesting conversation topics as you network with others.

Join a professional association early in your career. Professional membership organizations such as IAAP® and Toastmasters® are excellent ways to grow your network, learn new skills, strengthen your leadership capacity, and build your confidence. It also signals that you are taking your professional development seriously.

Get connected. Build and nurture your professional network. Take the initiative to reach out to other admins doing similar work. Attend networking events and don’t be shy about introducing yourself.  Find ways to regularly interact with your network of colleagues (e.g., share articles and website links, plan a lunch or an activity, seek advice). Join LinkedIn, as it’s a great way to augment your networking activities. 

Discover the power of a mentor relationship. MENTORnetwork founder Jeremy O’Krafka (Toronto) promotes the benefits of building multiple mentor relationships. He recommends charting a mentorship roadmap by determining what attributes you want in your mentors, brainstorming about how and where you can connect with them, and developing guidelines for effective mentor interaction.

Learn more about human behaviour in a team environment. Being able to accurately recognize, interpret and act upon the different and sometimes difficult personality traits of your own and others in a positive, non-threatening way will be critical to your success in being able to understand and effectively work with others throughout your career. 

Document your progress. Build and maintain a professional skills portfolio. You can do this by keeping track of your key accomplishments, skills, workshops attended, courses taken, presentations given, and any letters of commendation/appreciation. It’s not only a chronicle of your journey, but it’s helpful at performance appraisal time and in updating your resume and LinkedIn profile. 

Be intentional about learning, growing, networking, getting visible. Think “career” rather than “job” and never close the door on a learning opportunity. If you map out a career plan and maintain a sense of urgency about ongoing learning, with a focus on achieving your potential, you’ll succeed. The journey and the destination are equally important.

(This post originally appeared as an article in the March/April 2012 issue of OfficePro magazine. Anne Lupkoski, CAP-OM, CCP lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. As a long-time executive assistant for Hamilton Community Foundation and a lifelong learner, she wholeheartedly believes in capitalizing on professional growth opportunities.)

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