Hopefully it took you about 0.00001 second to say, “I am.” There are, however, many who think they are not in charge of their own career. Their employer – or lack of one – is in control.
Corporate Culture Crunch
Within large corporations, it may seem like there’s little you can do. Pretty much every large company in America is trying to do more things, and getting rid of big chunks of the number of employees at the same time. The stuff that 5 people were doing 10 years ago are now on the shoulders of one person. One exhausted, beleaguered, drowning person. Some people are so spooked they are worried that if they take too long relieving themselves in the restroom, they will return to their desk to find their manager, HR rep and a security guard there to escort them out. They will tell you, “I don’t have time for anything other than what’s in my job description. I can’t take lunch. If I do, I have to stay 4 hours later to make up for it. The extra activities available at our comany, I can’t participate.”
For some, these fears are imagined. For others, they are quite real, reinforced by a thin-skinned, immature, insecure supervisor who gets perverse joy out of micromanaging people and has no self-worth outside of controlling every aspect of other peoples’ lives. Fortunately for me, I didn’t have that type of management. There are certainly some barriers I had to overcome, and I worked hard at it. But generally speaking, there are avenues that I used to further develop myself, and I was never going to allow my boss or my company keep me from pursuing them.
I’ve talked a lot about IAAP and IVAA and the opportunities they provide to administrative professionals. I also stayed heavily involved in Toastmasters, through my company’s club, the High Energy club. IAAP and High Energy have similar benefits, among them leadership skills, working with fantastic people, certifications, and doing so with thorough professionalism and having fun at the same time.
The greatest of all these benefits is the people. You get to interact with people you never would have been able to meet outside of the organization. There are lasting friendships you can make. You get fantastic feedback on your projects that is both positive and constructive, and you become a better person for it. Plus, the more you learn, the more you get to pass on to others through mentoring. Most Toastmasters clubs have a formalized mentoring program in place. In my club, I had the privilege to be a mentor. These relationships, when done well, go from being business partners to being best friends.
Of course, there are costs for these wonderful benefits – time and money. I mentioned barriers a minute ago. I was allowed to use company funds to pay membership dues in ONE professional organization. Any other costs I had to bear myself. (Part of that is because I was an admin instead of an engineer. Engineers can be members of any organization they want, go to any conference or seminar they want, and pay for all of it with their corporate credit card, no questions asked.)
Since IAAP dues are much higher than Toastmasters, I used the company card for that and paid for Toastmasters myself. Both IAAP and Toastmasters have excellent educational conferences that are more valuable than their price tags. Since I was on my own paying for these, I have to pick and choose which ones to attend. IAAP generally got first priority here. As I mentioned other times, this is a profession that is 98% female. I am a certified rock star at IAAP conferences, and I can’t get enough of it. In both groups, there is valuable education and wonderful people to spend time with.
Besides money, there is time. I mentioned I refused to allow my work environment to keep me from these opportunities. Particularly in the Toastmasters club, we had a large percentage of club members that participated very little. Almost universally, the cited reason is “I don’t have time.” The workload and sabotaging bosses are usually blamed. Of course, there will be times when you just can’t get away. But we have all heard the phrase, “you make time for what you want to make time for.” If you want to use this avenue to develop yourself, you will find time for it.
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