The Pillars of Success

By Wendy Ennis, B.Ed and Lisa Gambin, B.Ed
Originally published in the July/August 2016 issue of OfficePro Magazine

Administrative professionals play a significant role within an organization. They provide necessary support to key individuals as well as perform tasks to keep the business running. They are often referred to as the “backbone of the workplace,” and many businesses would simply not function without them.

You can imagine, then, why it is so important for employers to recruit the right individuals to fill vacant administrative professional positions. In order for employers to gain a competitive edge, they seek applicants who are leaders in their field, well-educated, and well-rounded. To meet these criteria, aspiring administrative professionals, or those seeking promotions, should consider reflecting on real-world experiences, taking courses, and getting certifications in order to display these qualities.

There are generally three ways to gain knowledge, the three pillars of success: Real-world experiences, a formal education, and self-directed professional certification. There is value in all forms of education; and all administrative professionals, or those considering this exciting, rewarding career, should strive to reach their full potential with the help of continued education. Dedication to continuing education brings us one step closer to finding the right employer and the right job.

Real-world knowledge

Only two weeks on the job and the new administrative professional is assigned to assist in organizing a convention for a large number of delegates. This entails having communication and organizational skills as well as the ability to create and reproduce various business documents. In addition to the more practical skills, there are always a few challenges and last-minute changes one must deal with in this role. Outcomes of performing these tasks provide real-world learning experiences. If the event is successful, well executed with few necessary modifications, the employer will be impressed and will have a positive image of the employee. Then the administrative professional can add this experience to her existing knowledge in order to become that much more desirable in future hiring situations.

The ability to navigate these situations can impact future opportunities. Gone are the days of the administrative professional just making coffee, typing correspondence, answering phones, and taking shorthand in important meetings. Today’s administrative professional has many roles and a variety of responsibilities. Those who are up to the challenge and see the value of real-world knowledge become the beneficiary of vast learning and growth. This type of learning should never be undervalued. The professional and personal growth gained from real-life experiences is immeasurable.

Benefits of formal education

If the conference in our example in the real-world knowledge pillar was a success, the employer may be so impressed he suggests further training to enhance the admin’s skills and benefit future projects. The benefits of formal training in the latest technologies, conventions of writing, and document production can further develop the desired traits of being leaders in their field, having a good education, and being well-rounded. The administrative professional is now presented with another opportunity for skill advancement; this time it will happen in a formal education setting. This could take place online or in a traditional classroom.

With today’s competitive and demanding job market, it may be difficult for an individual to advance in the industry without formal training. Most business schools have similar curriculum and are current with industry standards. Administrative professional programs are offered at many institutions worldwide, both online and in-person. In addition, these programs are not necessarily just for those entering the profession. Experienced administrative professionals can get training in the most up-to-date technologies and the best office practices as well as a documented dedication to personal growth. Employers look for this when hiring for the position, as it demonstrates an admin’s value to that company.

Self-directed professional certification

After researching, our administrative professional decided to pursue a self-directed professional certification program and now has a CAP, or Certified Administrative Professional, designation. CAP represents extensive knowledge, practiced skills, and continued training in the administrative profession. The professionals quoted in this article, for example, have proven a strong commitment to their career by obtaining certifications, and are now considered experts in this field. It stands out! It steers the conversation at future interviews toward the discussion of qualifications at a whole other level. Equally as important is it instills in the certified administrative professional a sense of pride and confidence.

While getting certified seems to be a personal decision, in some instances it is a requirement for the job. This licensure indicates the person has the skills to do the job and that they show a commitment to continued education, and thus must be obtained to hold the position. While not a licensure, professional qualifications such as Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) are credentials that are close to meeting this type of criteria. Furthermore, the administrative professional who is focused on career development has an advantage over others who have not committed the extra time or effort to advance in their field and would be selected over the others for a future position.

What is certification?

With so many options for learning and illustrating your dedication to life-long learning, it’s often difficult to keep them all straight. Here are some characteristics of the three most common—a certification program, certification, and licensure.


Which form of continuing education is best?

iaap-pillars-quote-officeproSome people would argue that one type of learning is more important than the other. However, since the job market for administrative professionals is so competitive, candidates must ask themselves how they can stand out from the crowd. By combining all three pillars, the administrative professional becomes a well-rounded employee who has life experience, up-to-date training, and certification. These pillars complement each other in helping to become the stand-out, in-demand admin, so the next time they are in front of a hiring manager they will be prepared to fulfill their next role.

To learn more about the Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) designation, visit

About the authors:
Lisa and Wendy have 40 years combined experience as administrative professionals. They are committed to life-long learning and inspiring their students to reach their full potential as faculty members at College of the North Atlantic.

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