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. Personally, I refuse to let that be the case for me.

For those of us that work for large corporations, it may seem like there’s little we 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’m afraid to take the amount of time for a lunch break that is allotted to me by Federal law. Even if I do take an entire hour for lunch, I’m going to have to stay 4 hours later to make up for it. I just can’t do anything else!” For some, these fears are imagined. For others, they are quite real, reinforced by a thin-skinned, immature, insecure supervisor who gets perverted joy out of micromanaging people and has no self-worth outside of controlling every aspect of other peoples’ lives.

Fortunately for me, I don’t have that type of management. There are certainly some barriers I must overcome, and I work to overcome those barriers. But generally speaking, there are avenues that I use to further develop myself, and I am never going to allow my boss or my company keep me from pursuing them.

I talked in my last post about IAAP and the opportunities it provides to administrative professionals. I’m also 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 a blast 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. You make lasting friendships. 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. IAAP is developing a formal mentoring program we will hear about in a few months, but informally, you can ask anyone to mentor you. I’m starting to get some of these requests. Most Toastmasters clubs have a formalized mentoring program in place. In my club, there are 4 members I get the privilege to 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. In my section of my company, I am allowed to use company funds to pay membership dues in ONE professional organization. Any other costs I must bear myself. (Part of that is because I’m 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. I’ll get around to venting my spleen about that in more detail eventually.) Since IAAP dues are much higher than Toastmasters, I sue the company card for that and pay for Toastmasters myself. Both IAAP and Toastmasters have excellent educational conferences that are more valuable than their price tags. Since I’m on my own paying for these, I have to pick and choose which ones to attend. IAAP generally gets first priority here. As I mentioned in the last post, 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 refuse to allow my work environment to keep me from these opportunities. Particularly in the Toastmasters club, we have a (too) large percentage of club members that participate 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. My management is supportive, but if that ever changed, I would remind them that our club is funded both by member dues and by an allotment from our HR department, and as long as the company is helping to pay for this club’s existence, then it is a legitimate work function and I will not be ordered to not participate. Anyone who knows me and has heard some of the questions I have asked our current and last CEO during open forum meetings will agree that I could easily talk to management that way.

What it all boils down to is, are you going to step forward and do what you have to do that will keep you developing as an employee and a person, or are you going to sit back and let the fickle winds of some other person or company? I choose to inves – both in time and money – in myself. Nobody’s pushing me around!