Should Administrative Professionals Pursue More Education?
By Karen Porter
If you read The Effective Admin newsletter and other TEA resources, I know that you already value ongoing learning related to your job and career.
However, mention higher education in particular to some administrative professionals and I don’t doubt you’ll get conflicting viewpoints on its necessity to be a top administrative professional. You probably have a few thoughts of your own on the subject.
But the way I see it in regard to continuing education opportunities is this…
…whether you’re specifically seeking a college degree, just taking miscellaneous continuing education classes, attending a one-day workshop, getting a certification or reading self-study materials from The Effective Admin, that’s a good thing. It may not be necessary in every admin’s job/career but it can definitely be helpful and useful.
That’s any or all of the above. I view each learning method mentioned as valuable. I know people with college degrees who are less productive or successful than those who are self-taught and vice-versa. It works both ways. People are all different in their work ethics and ambitions. That part can’t be taught. What education and continuous learning resources do is give you access to more ideas, information and knowledge. It’s up to you to learn and retain what’s offered. And most important, it’s then up to you to decide if and how you’ll use that knowledge or that new idea or information. Knowledge must be transferred to your administrative role or workplace and implemented in some way to be of use there.
Ultimately, you can get knoweldge, ideas and information from lots of different places. And I favor all learning methods, not just specifically higher education formats.
At the website and in The Effective Admin marketing materials I’ve started using the phrase “The Best Administrative Professionals Never Stop Learning.” I truly believe this. But why do I say this? For several reasons…
♦ Learning enables you to find or create new processes to do current procedures in your job well or even better than average. Educational resources are a catalyst for creativity. You don’t have to be born creative; you just have to find resources that set your mind to work. One thing then leads to another. A book discussed X. You decide if you made this one change to method X you could actually use it to do Y in your office quicker or with less errors. Sometimes you need that outside element to spark creativity. (In fact, I use outside elements a lot for inspiration.)
♦ Career administrative professionals want to stay motivated and enthused in their jobs, even after 10, 20, 30+ years on the job. One way to do this is through learning new skills and ideas and applying them to new areas of your job. Initiate those new areas or tasks. Let your manager know “I just learned all about X, so I can help you with Y now.” Watch your executive’s eyes light up when he hears you take initiative to continue learning in your field.
♦ Learning opportunities present ways to see how other administrative professionals are doing things today. That’s why I frequently try to get responses to survey questions in the newsletter from administrative professional readers and even admin/career coaches. As a working administrative professional, you get to think: “Well, yea I have been doing it the best way possible all these years” or “Ooooh…what a great way to do that task. I had never thought of doing it that way.”
♦ Even if you know it all (or you think you know most everything you need to know to do your job and then some), you can’t possibly remember it all 24/7. Educational materials provide refresher courses. You think “Oh, that is a great way to talk to Sally about that little conflict we’ve been having. I’ve heard of that method before but had forgotten about it.” Geez…many of us can’t remember where we left our car keys or eyeglasses, so how can you possibly be expected to remember the best way to do every skill and task in your office? How can you possibly remember the best way to handle every communication or other soft skill scenario without a refresher course now and then?
Those are just some of the reasons I favor continuing education whether it’s reading trade magazines, The Effective Admin self-study tip sheets or attending in-person or online classes at colleges. All of it works. Just do some of it year-round, every year.
That said, did I ever tell you about my former administrative professional colleague who spent quite a few years working on a college degree in computer information sciences? Not long before she walked down the graduation aisle, her manager accompanied her to an official luncheon and presentation at the company recognizing her 25 year status as an administrative professional there. She was indeed a veteran administrative professional with her company but not quite ready for retirement.
However, not long after she walked down the college graduation aisle, her employer’s department leaders initiated layoffs of almost every admin in her department. Fortunately, she took her new computer information skills in a lateral move to the IT area of the department. Moral of this story: Continuing education can be helpful (and you don’t always know when and perhaps not always why until the moment you need that particular knowledge).