by Dawn Becker, CAP-OM
I’m an admin. I enjoy what I do and I know I do it well. I know I am integral to the team and company I support. I share my training and knowledge with others and am always eager to learn new things from my peers and colleagues.
I’m just an admin. I enjoy what I do and I know I do it well but I don’t receive support and recognition from the team I support or from my company. I don’t think they value my work and they don’t understand how much I contribute.
Which one of the above are you? An admin or just an admin? I once believed I was just an admin.
At 20 years young I worked in a retail environment. I was good at my job and enjoyed the social aspects of retail. A regular customer one day told me he had watched my interactions with customers and he offered me a job in his law firm (lesson: you never know when an opportunity is watching). I started as a file clerk in the law firm (30 lawyers and staff of about 45); within four months I was promoted to the accounting department. I spent five years with this company and never stopped learning (lesson: best behavior only at the office Christmas party—I saw some crazy things!).
When it was time to move on, I supported an interior design company as office assistant to a talented and crazy designer with a cast of one of every type alongside (lesson: keep calm while all around you is madness). After five years of these extremes it was time to leave the crazy. I was recruited for a position at a deep sea terminal. The recruiter asked if I knew Word Perfect (you know—before Microsoft Word…), I said yes (I did know how to turn it on and type); they offered me the position on a Thursday. I spent the weekend teaching myself Word Perfect and arrived Monday feeling quite confident. My first assignment was to have a number of tables updated. Yikes! I had not studied much about tables—so I said of course, I will have those done this morning. And they were. Tables were never scary again. And I updated those tables every Monday for three years (lesson: leap and the net will appear).
This is the position where my job became a career. I realized I was good, and getting better at what I did every day. The company recognized my ability and willingness to learn, to improve, and to add more responsibility and so rewarded me with increased responsibility and scope of duties. When I asked for industry specific knowledge which would help me better serve the people I worked with, I was taken into the field and provided that knowledge (lesson: just ask). I became an ambassador for the company at community events and was selected for specific roles in the company (lesson: even being a member of a company committee is an opportunity to be heard).
It was from this position—which I had approached as just an admin job—that my career, and myself, really grew. I needed supervisory training so I took a certificate course and then changed positions to a supervisory role. From there I moved to supporting and then working with senior executives and now the CEO and CIO. An executive valued education so I completed a certificate program in Business Management. As the executives I work with value training and networking, I have shared with them the value I bring back to my role and organization from IAAP conferences and programs.
I have watched behaviors, observed interactions, questioned, and learned; I’ve sought clarification, solutions, and shared with others. I have learned lessons—some the hard way. My training is not just for me—it is for all to benefit from. My experiences are to be shared. My career is not just mine—it serves many.
I am not just an admin.
I am a career administrative professional.
When we catalogue ourselves we don’t tend to move beyond those limits that we place on ourselves. If I had not believed I could learn Word Perfect in a weekend, maybe I would be just an admin. If you do not believe you can change, learn, adapt—you will most likely remain in a small paper box. Start your change with something small, comfortable, or easy. Move to stretch goals—out of your comfort zone.
I have planted trees in the rain, walked along conveyor belts to understand how they worked, and learned to dress on a shoestring budget, how to correctly fold blueprints, to smile when the customer is not always right, to send yet another (nice) memo about the messy fridge, when to take the high road and when to be assertive.
You have to initiate the change. Life will not come to you.
So I ask you: are you just an admin? Or do you want to be more?