Complacency Can Lead to Administrative Career Extinction

Sep 3, 2010 | Career Development, Technology

Whether you’re actively looking for a job or not, complacency is a career killer. No matter how indispensable you make yourself in your administrative career, there are no guarantees. Companies get bought and sold. Executives transfer. Departments get outsourced. Work cultures shift. Personal obligations and preferences change.

It’s not personal, it’s business.

But if business happens to you, are you prepared? What are you doing now to make sure you continue to develop the skills you need to remain competitive in your changing environment? What skills do you need to develop if you want to work in the admin profession for another three, five, 10, or 15 years?

I often hear admins make comments like these:

“I don’t have to know that in my job — we have a travel department that handles it.”

“Nothing in that training applied to me. I don’t have to do that for my job.”

“I would never use that skill in my current position.”

 “We can’t use Facebook or Twitter at work. They have those sites blocked.”

“We hire an outside firm to do our website work.”

“I’m planning to retire in a few years, so I don’t need to know that.”

There are a lot of professionally limiting ideologies and mindsets in these statements. And when I hear an admin say one of these things, I usually have this to say:

  • What if your travel department is eliminated? What if your next company doesn’t have a vendor or internal department for you to rely on? You need to know how to do what your travel department does because you may become the travel department!
  • Maybe you don’t have to do it yet! Or right now. But are you planning for your next career move? What if you need that information or skill set in the future? Is your mental database fully populated so you’re ready to hit the ground running when you do need that knowledge?
  • Perhaps you don’t get to do that kind of work because you don’t have the skills to do it. Have you asked if you can add new responsibilities to your position? What if you change jobs and need to know it there?
  • In the early days, the Internet used to be blocked at work for most people, too. Remember those days? Social media accessibility at work is evolving every day. And admins need to embrace it.
  • How much money and time could you save your company if you could do website updates, instead of waiting for someone else to get it done?
  • What happens if you get laid off before your retirement date? Are your skills current and relevant enough to get you another job at the same pay rate until you can retire?

One of my favorite blogs is by Kemetia Foley (@officerenegade on Twitter), an administrative professional in Washington, D.C. area who shares her insights on the administrative profession. And one of her best posts highlights trends I’ve also been observing: positive job growth, an increase in hiring activity, and employers actively looking for qualified administrative candidates. There are companies out there looking for competent, qualified administrative professionals or virtual assistants.  I know this because I get calls looking for admin candidate leads on a regular basis. But there are still a lot of seemingly qualified admins struggling to find new positions. So how can you better prepare yourself in case you find yourself searching for a new job unexpectedly or new tasks are added to your current position?

  1. Keep your resume updated regularly. By regularly, I mean update it at least once a quarter. It’s hard to regularly add new “accomplishments” when you’ve forgotten what you were working on.
  2. Develop a professional portfolio. It should include samples of your work and projects you have participated in. Once you have your print version of your portfolio, take it to the next level by creating an online or electronic professional portfolio. Admins who want to get noticed and stand out need to prepare and be more innovative thinkers than the rest.
  3. Network. You need to be actively networking with others  — both inside and outside of your profession — now, when you don’t need them, so that you have the relationships established when you do need them. Nothing frustrates me more than when an admin loses their job and suddenly starts showing up at local networking events. I feel used, and so will others. Networking isn’t just about people helping you when you need it. It’s about you being engaged in what’s going on around you and being a connection for others as well. And you can’t be a connection if you aren’t connecting yourself. As admins, this is a vital element to our success! If you aren’t already familiar with the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), it’s the first place I recommend admins start their professional networking efforts.
  4. Develop your strategic administrative career plan. Do you have a plan? If you have a plan, does it have contingencies? What are your interests, talents, passions, and strengths? What is your personal mission? What gets you out of bed in the morning? What are your goals? Creating a solid plan that incorporates all of these elements will put you in the driver seat of your career and give you the roadmap you need to get you where you want to go. If you need help getting started creating your plan, download my free special report, “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan,” which is for admins who need help getting started with this.
  5. Figure out what skills you need to learn to remain competitive and learn them. Embrace technology. Don’t fear it or resist it. Learn it. Electronic devices and communication are only going to get more advanced. Here are some other skills that will likely be coming soon to a job description near you:
    • Social media marketing. How it can be used and the sites that are best for personal and professional use.
    • Website development training. Basic website development, basic HTML, blogging, or training. Almost every company is utilizing or shifting to web-based, collaborative platforms, and you need to understand how to use this technology.
    • Knowledge of Microsoft software programs. This includes Outlook, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Get started learning Publisher, Access, Visio, and SharePoint. Talk to recruiters or HR professionals and ask them what skills their clients are looking for. Watch the help wanted ads and job boards to see what skills companies are seeking for the types of positions you may be seeking. Ask your executives what skills they’d like you to develop further as you continue to support them.
  6. Connect with non-profit organizations and volunteer your time. Volunteering is a terrific way to make professional connections and establish a network of contacts outside your current sphere of influence. If you’re looking for a job, it’s a great way to eliminate gaps on your resume and stay current in your field and keep your skills honed while you continue your job search. It also gives an opportunity for you to demonstrate the quality of work you do in the event they recommend you to a prospective employer. (Click here to learn more about the benefits of volunteering for admins.)

Options abound, but you have to seek them out! One of my favorite quotes comes from Sherese Duncan:

“In order to think out of the box, realize there is no box.”

I do not advocate taking a pay cut when searching for a new position. But if you can’t demonstrate the skills you have, the value you bring, and show someone you’re proactively learning new things to be truly useful in the administrative position, it’s hard to sell a future employer on your salary requirements.

When you’re happy in your current position or with your current company, it’s hard to imagine being laid off or having to look for a new job. But business happens, and innovative, proactive, success-minded administrative professionals are prepared with the skills and proof of their work product when it does. You may be a few years from retirement and have no plans to work anywhere else, but things can change in an instant. No matter what your career objectives are or how close to retirement you are, you still need an updated resume, a professional portfolio, a fully developed and functioning network, and a career plan of action.

To quote a brilliant, administrative professional:

“Be savvy about what you want. Be honest.
If you hate being an admin- then get out of the profession.
If you love it and want to continue to grow — you have to do the legwork.
The job market is too tight for sitting back and hoping what
you’ve done in the past will be enough. Get busy!”
– Kemetia M. K. Foley

© 2015 Julie Perrine International, LLC


Want to use this article in your newsletter, ezine or website? You can — just as long as you include this complete blurb with it:

Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity. And request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at

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