Keeping up with certifications and training in the administrative field can pay off for career admins. Just ask Karen Kohn.
Kohn, a 35-year veteran of the same company, has earned both the Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) and Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) credentials. She says certification helped get her promoted from secretary to her current position, supervisor of administrative services. “When the opportunity arose for this position, my executive specifically referenced the leadership training [I] received through IAAP [the International Association of Administrative Professionals] as a factor in my promotion,” she says.
In today’s corporate world with ever-changing technology and business needs, it’s important for longtime administrative/support workers to demonstrate they can compete. For some career admins, like Kohn, certifications and continuing education are proof that not only can they do the job, but that they are also committed to the work and excel in it. These career admins find continued education validates the work they do.
“As our jobs have expanded, so has the need for our education on so many issues our employers face,” Kohn says. “While education is a critical component in everyone’s proverbial toolbox, certification is the mark of excellence for a specific profession.”
Laurie Boehm, CPS, CAP, is an executive secretary at Walt Disney World, where she has worked the past 29 years. She says her administrative certifications and training verify her expertise and give her confidence.
“I believe [my certifications have] helped me achieve my current role,” Boehm says. “I was actually supporting my boss in a temporary capacity while she searched for a new assistant. It was a very stressful position to be in, but I kept everything very positive with her and everyone around me. We talked about the position just one time, and I told her I was very interested in the role. And I got the promotion.”
Boehm also believes the fact she pursues certification and training is a powerful testament to her becoming a leader. “It shows that I am serious about my profession and that I am willing to do what it takes to excel in it,” she says. Boehm also serves as Florida division president for IAAP and has served on the IAAP board for four years.
Kristi Rotvold, CPS, CAP, who has been an admin since 1986 and currently works as an executive vice president administrative coordinator, also sees the benefits of certification. “It helps provide a confidence in myself and my abilities when I am marketing myself to others,” Rotvold says. “I’ve also always had the support of my employer in both my belonging to IAAP and throughout the certification process.”
Studying for the certification exam isn’t the end of training for CAPs and CPSs like Rotvold. Every five years, they need to complete 90 hours of education, experience and leadership through IAAP chapter meetings, conferences and courses to maintain their designations. “By continually learning and attending seminars, I expand my knowledge and keep up with trends of what is happening that will affect our profession,” Rotvold says.
Promote Your Certifications and Continuing Education
As for Kohn, she originally pursued certification for her own satisfaction. “Each year, I watched [IAAP] members being recognized for this achievement,” she says. “I decided I wanted those coveted initials after my own name. In the time since attaining both certifications, I have come to realize what an invaluable investment it has been, both for me and my employer.”
Kohn always keeps her resume updated with her most recent training and skills. “I ensured my online resume included my volunteer activities with IAAP,” Kohn says. “I believe those extra training opportunities -- over and above what I had available through my regular work responsibilities -- were a definite marketing plus on my resume.” Kohn also serves on a local college’s Office Administration Advisory Board.
Additionally, Kohn keeps her supervisors up-to-date on her training activities, such as conferences, workshops, seminars and webinars, not only through IAAP but also through professional training companies like Fred Pryor Seminars and CareerTrack.
Rotvold uses her certification in the job search process by highlighting the areas tested on for certification, such as organizational planning and office systems and administration. “People are generally surprised that there is a four-part test for administrative professionals and the depth of the questions and testing that is completed,” she says.
Certified Admins’ Advice for You
Are you thinking about pursuing your own certification and continuing education in the administrative support field? These three administrative professionals certainly think it would be worth your while. “Learn everything you can,” says Boehm. “Be willing to do what it takes to get the job done.”
Kohn advises admins to commit to their careers “and then have a plan in place to move yourself forward. Key elements to include in your plan: education, certification, training and, of course, networking.”
Rotvold tells other admins to always be learning and growing. “By just sitting still, you may miss out on the best opportunities,” she says. “Explore options and then give your answer, especially when it comes to taking on new items in your role at work.”