Do you know of a reference point on where to find solutions
to professional development problems? I am an Admin who needs
to increase my technical and interpersonal skills. I've been
searching and can't seem to find development solutions for
gaps in admin competencies.
to hear that you are taking inventory of your skills and
brushing up on the areas that need some updating. Here are a few
suggestions and some questions you’ll need to answer yourself
before you begin your educational pursuits:
Analyze why you are now doing this inventory. Are there
things you can't do on the job now...as demands have
increased or as tasks are moving more toward being done
electronically? Did your exec point out some areas that need
development in your last review? Are you seeing others in
the company getting recognition for skills you don't have?
That's the place to start.
Where do you want to go with your career? Do you want to
remain in the administrative field? Do you want to move into
management? Would you like to specialize—such as focusing
on HR or working with exclusively with desktop publishing?
Depending on where you see yourself in three years, the
skills you need may be very different, and therefore where
you go to get them may change...as well as how long it will
What are you good at? What do you enjoy? It's best if you
can build on the talents you have, not force yourself to
learn/do things you aren't really naturally good at or
prefer to do (ask yourself "if I had the
choice"...then remember that you do!).
How much are you willing to invest in your future? If you
move into technical areas, you'll constantly have to learn
new skills and upgrade old ones. You'll never feel totally
secure with your skill base since technology will continue
to change at a rapid pace and you'll have to keep up or lose
out. You'll also be working with (and taking instructions
from) younger people. Ask yourself, "Is that a
If you want to move up to management, you're almost
guaranteed to work more hours and be more on the firing
line. At that level, you are held responsible for the
mistakes of everyone who reports to you. Is that a problem?
Some skills/positions require long-term commitment (like a
college degree or college courses of a semester or more).
Others can be learned in a one-day seminar with
determination to apply them back on the job. Some skills can
be learned over the Internet on your own time, but require
lots of discipline (many people start these courses but
never finish them...they are like the old
"correspondence courses" but more immediate).
What's your time frame for developing these skills? Do you
need them this month or can you add to them gradually, over
How do you learn best? Some people like face-to-face
classes where they can interact with a "live"
instructor and other learners. Some people can purchase a
user manual or how-to-book, sit down and wade through it—and
like doing it all themselves (it builds confidence, so the
writers say—if you can pull it off—if not, it can
destroy your self confidence).
Do you like immediate feedback and individualization? Then
maybe an online training program or CD-ROM tutorial would be perfect for you. Or do
you learn best by watching someone, then trying the task
yourself? (Sort of like having a private tutor that can
tailor the info especially for your job/company.)
Look first within your company. Is there anyone on site
that can teach you what you need to learn? Is there a
training department? Are there mentors? What about
"clubs" or informal networks (like of techies or
particular software users)?
Ask other people who have the skills you want how they got
them. They might be able to recommend a person, a tutorial,
or a class that would work well.
Get on the mailing list for local community colleges and
voc tech schools. Each semester (or course period) see what
is being offered and select the ones you could benefit from
the most. Then sign up! Get on the mailing list of public
seminar companies, like CareerTrack, National Seminars, etc.
Find out the skills that are being most valued by employers
(and ones they are willing to pay for).
Read your local newspaper and specialty (usually free)
newsletters that are available in your community. Look for
user groups (to keep up your computer skills), support
groups, library discussion groups, etc. It's a great way to
meet new people whose interests are similar to your own. You
may feel freer with people outside the company when you are
talking about problems or asking how to get things done. But
DON'T EVER bad-mouth your company to the public. It will get
back - assuredly.
Of course, actively participate in a professional network,
like IAAP (and there are other good ones too) so you'll be
on top of the skills you need to get ahead and will have a
caring support system to see you through to your goals.
magazine and other publications can keep you
up on the latest news and developments. They put you in the
driver's seat...and more in charge of your own career.
There are many ways to go, depending on your needs, goals,
time, money, and energy. But ANY additional learning will put
you ahead. Good luck!
—IAAP Education & Professional