There’s no better time for those in administrative jobs to boost their administrative skills and get them certified. Why? Because employers are getting ever more exacting in their requirements for such skills, says Susan Fenner, manager of education and professional development at the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), which offers Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) and Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) programs.
“You don’t say that you can ‘do Word,’” Fenner says. “You show that you can execute X, Y, Z functions in Microsoft Office 2007.”
To earn the IAAP’s CPS or CAP certifications, you must pass a test comprised of multiple-choice questions like this sample item from the management section:
The percentage of employees who remain in a job or leave it, or who are promoted, demoted or transferred is shown in a:
A. Markov analysis
B. relocation spreadsheet
C. predictive data base
D. placement chart.
(The answer is A.)
Adding Skills Boosts Value in the Labor Market
Wise employers and their admins understand certifications are worth more than the paper they’re printed on; they’re about an ever-changing array of skills.
“Admins must have more skills these days, because they’re going to wear different hats,” says Andrea Iadanza, director of seminar operations for the American Management Association (AMA). “The person with skills like project management and meeting planning becomes a more attractive hire. Admins often get involved with setting up conferences and large sales meetings -- that’s a specialty area.”
It’s become common for senior administrative professionals to manage junior admins, and this presents a whole new set of challenges. “We recently launched a Stepping Up to Leadership course, because nowadays admins have to build leadership skills, work within a larger part of the organization, learn how to make an impact, and coach or manage others,” says Iadanza.
Yet another professional growth area for admins is their evolving role in organizational structures. A new course from AMA is Supporting Multiple Bosses, reflecting a situation that more and more admins encounter.
Certification’s On-the-Job Benefits
Once an administrative professional certification is earned, it comes to the job with you every day.
“Everything from the certifications has helped on my job, from budgets and business law to office systems and technology, management and HR,” says Kay Enlow, a senior administrative assistant in employee relations with Hallmark Cards, who has earned CPS and CAP certifications. “And I think that my role in HR helped me pass the exam, so the job and the certification go hand in hand.”
Help Is Available on the Road to Certification
Studying for a certification can be daunting, especially if you’ve been out of school for years. But there’s assistance available from many sources.
“People need to know there are study materials out there, that certified admins love to mentor, and that admins get higher pay with a certification and sometimes a company bonus for completing it,” says Fenner.
Your fellow certification seekers may be among your best allies. “We had a study group in our IAAP chapter,” says Enlow. “I took evening courses and went through the mock exams again and again.”
Seeking Management Recognition
Most of the millions of administrative professionals in the US lack certifications, so being certified can help you stand out, if your current or prospective employer understands the value of the letters after your name.
The key is to get your company to acknowledge the ongoing value of certification, which depends on periodic recertification. “The beauty of recertification is it gets employers to buy into continuing education,” says Fenner.
Ultimately, it may be up to you to educate your boss about the value of continuing education and certification in a world where admins are called on for ever-more responsibilities. “Managers don’t have it in their heads what admins do and where the profession is going,” says Fenner. For example, managers are often not fully aware of admins’ desktop and Web publishing skills.
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