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State of the Profession, April 2010

Happy Administrative Professionals Week!  (April 18–24)
This annual event was originally organized in 1952 as "National Secretaries Week" by the National Secretaries Association.  The idea began with Mary Barrett, president of the Association (now known as the International Association of Administrative Professionals) and C. King Woodbridge, president of Dictaphone Corporation.  It was established as an effort to recognize secretaries for their contributions in the workplace and to address a national shortage of skilled office workers.  This year, Administrative Professionals Day falls on Wednesday, April 21.

Admin Professional Job Outlook
According to the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), even in the current downturn, becoming an administrative professional is a solid career choice.  They cite the following statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor:  more than 4.2 million people were employed as administrative assistants and secretaries in 2006, with another 362,000 jobs expected to be added by 2016, an 8.5% increase over the 10-year period.

The Labor Department projected admin job growth in all industries, but especially in health care, professional services, and scientific and technical services, with the largest growth expected among higher-skilled administrative professionals.

Salary Forecast
In its 2010 Salary Trends Report, OfficeTeam projected that starting salaries for administra¬tive professionals will decrease slightly, by an average of 2.2% in 2010. But the report also stated that demand remains steady for administrative candidates with broad expertise and the ability to multitask, especially within teams that have been stretched thin and have redistributed work among fewer employees. In addition, firms want support staff who are confident as they approach unexpected situations, quick to learn new skills and able to help others adapt to change.

The Robert Half 2010 Salary Guide included “executive assistant” in its list of “10 Promising Jobs for 2010,” stating that, “Companies with leaner teams are looking for employees to take on a wider range of duties. Executive assistants who can wear many hats, support multiple managers and adapt readily to change are in particular demand.”  Starting salaries for executive assistants were estimated as from $35,000 to $47,000.

Valued Skills
Even though salaries are down, companies are cautiously hiring. Industry background and technical expertise, along with strong interpersonal skills, are most in demand. Administrative professionals should also show initiative and commitment to ongoing education. Employers are willing to offer an average of 7% more to candidates with professional certifications such as the Certified Administrative Professional and Certified Professional Secretary, designations from IAAP, reports OfficeTeam.

Administrative professionals and secretaries are adaptable in today’s changing office environment and are able to take on higher-level projects. Over the last decade admin job responsibilities have increased to include many of the duties traditionally done by midlevel managers. Companies fill the gaps in staffing with administrative professionals, who are able to juggle multiple roles in the office.

“Administrative professionals are no longer simply answering phones and handling correspondence,” said IAAP President Barb Horton CAP. “Admins of today are buying software, learning how to use it and training management. In addition, our latest survey shows that admins are branching out into non-traditional roles including budget analysis, research, project management and internal communications.”

Evolving Role of Admins
IAAP’s 2009 Benchmarking Survey of 3,117 professional members found that nearly half of those surveyed (48%) said that their workload has increased.  According to IAAP, the office professional’s role in the workplace is expanding during the downturn to include more complex duties and responsibilities.  Often during layoffs, admins are must assume the duties of departed co-workers. Over the last decade their job responsibilities have increased to include many of the duties traditionally done by mid-level managers, increasing their value in the workplace.

“As the role of admins expands, so does their value to organizations,” said Dr. Susan Fenner, education and professional development manager for IAAP. “Corporations will be looking for and filling jobs with the ‘new admins’ who can apply many skills, such as coordinating projects, leading on-site and virtual work teams, becoming the communications hub for the office with mastery in the written, spoken, and e-arenas and the primary users of technology.”

Reward & Recognition
Last April, in conjunction with Administrative Professionals Week, OfficeTeam and IAAP teamed up to launch a study to find out which forms of recognition were most valued by administrative professionals, as ranked by managers and support staff.  Interestingly, managers rated promotion and cash as numbers one and two in importance, while administrative professionals rated in-person thank-you and having the boss share achievement with the admin as tied for number one, with promotion as number three.

The research also revealed how instrumental recognition is in attracting and retaining professionals, even in a soft economy. Two out of three (66%) administrative employees polled said they would likely leave their jobs if they did not feel appreciated by their manager, and seven out of ten (70%) support professionals said the company’s recognition program would factor into their decision to accept a job with a potential employer.    

“While financial rewards should not be overlooked, the research shows there are other ways to effectively recognize someone’s commitment and dedication,” said Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam. “Administrative professionals are working harder than ever, but their accomplishments usually occur behind the scenes. Therefore, praise from supervisors or colleagues that is specific, immediate and genuine can go a long way toward keeping these employees motivated and loyal.”

Managers also should recognize the value administrative personnel place on professional development. “When support staff receive association memberships or registration to a seminar or conference, both the employee and company benefit,” said Barbara Horton, IAAP’s 2008-09 international president, who holds the Certified Administrative Professional designation. “The small investment in education pays big rewards when administrative staff share new skills with colleagues and increase efficiencies at their organizations.”

For more information, visit www.iaap-hq.org and www.officeteam.com