I have long been a member of the International Association of Administrative Professionals® (IAAP). Every July, they hold their signature event, the IAAP summit. This is my favorite event of the year. Forget Christmas, my birthday, Arbor Day, all of ’em. Every July, this is where I want to be. I have attended 9 of the last 13 of these. Due to extreme financial pressure, I couldn’t attend this year, and for that week, I was as miserable as I’ve ever been.

I joined this association in 2002 after hearing about it in a training class for admins at my company. Thanks to IAAP, I realized this career was not just being “the help,” that every work group’s success depends heavily on the admin person that supports it, and that yes, there is professional certification available. I attained Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) in 2005 and got the Organizational Management (OM) specialty added on in 2008. You have to re-certify regularly – it was 5 years for a while, but recently was reduced to 3. I recertified in 2013 and 2018, and will need to file for my re-certify in May of 2021.

I have said often in the past that admins bond faster and more tightly than those of any other profession. Doing this for a living means you are your office’s offensive line – if you do the best possible job, you aren’t really noticed, but when you mess something up, everyone notices.

Depending on your office environment, it can be a very thankless job. A fellow admin told me once that in staff meeting, her boss had referred to admins as “unskilled labor.” Really????? You come out of your office and try to do this job for 2 hours without having a nervous breakdown, you ungrateful heifer!

Some people take advantage of you – they think you aren’t ever doing anything important, so they walk up to your desk, drop some massive, time-sensitive work in your face and say, “I need that in an hour.” Often, they have had this task for days, but just waited until the last minute. I was having none of that. My last 3 years in the corporate job, I had a big sign on my cube wall that read, “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency in this area.” The manager I reported to thought it was hilarious, since he never threw last-minute work at me that had been aging longer than trees on his desk. Others squirmed a bit. But they learned to not mess with me on that front.

Other challenges appear just as regularly.

  • You have to sooth the nerves of neurotic co-workers who think the slightest deviation from their carefully-laid plans is cause for 9-1-1 panic.
  • You have to do a slow dance with micro-managing, anal-retentive people who think you have ruined the existence of planet Earth because you typed the letter in 11-point font instead of 10-point font.
  • You have to order lunch for 12 people, including accounting for 8 different food allergies.
  • You must tactfully explain that while “your” need for that conference room is important, you just can’t stroll in and tell the CFO to get the hell out of there.
  • And most of this is happening all at the same time.

And when you tell just one of these people that their task will be completed tomorrow morning when they want it yesterday, you get the “why, you don’t ever do anything around here” look.

So, admins across the continent go to this Summit. We take a number of workshops to learn skills that can help us manage that office zoo a little better. We hear about the business of the association. We sample the excellent cuisine of whatever city we are in. And yes, we drink, some more heavily than others.

We enjoy great fellowship (or networking, if you insist on being all business-ey and everything). And we get anywhere from 12-20 of the 30 recertification points we need to accumulate over the 3-year period. There is a Marketplace to see the latest & greatest in office supplies. You make some new friends (I do every year) and get to catch up with some friends you met in previous years who will be friends for the rest of your life.

The timing makes for a perfect vacation. Our wedding anniversary is July 22, so most years the Mrs. comes along and we do some sightseeing before and after the conference.

Let me go back to the demographics. About 94% of the people who work in what is classified as an administrative support position are female (that’s down from 98% about 10 years ago). For the few males in the profession, that makes for an interesting week. I am introverted by nature, and normally get very exhausted when I have to spend long periods of time in crowds. This conference is an exception. I revel in the attention. I get plenty of it because 1) I’m a rare male attendee, 2) my appearance, which stands out in a crowd, and 3) my humor, which usually goes over very well.

As I said earlier, I missed this year’s event in Washington DC, but was in attendance last year in Austin. I had started my VA business then, which made a fabulous conversation-starter. (I needed one, because of the 12 or so closest friends I have made at previous conferences, only 4 were there. So I had to make even greater efforts than usual to meet new people.) One of my daily prayers is that business is good enough that I can go to the conference in New York City next year.

In the next post, I’ll talk some about moving from being an admin in a traditional office to being a Virtual Assistant. If you need a VA, Click here to see a list of available services, and contact us to see how a VA can help your business grow.