Don't Let Fear Foil Your Career

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I used to believe that all mature, working adults in modern business understand the value of professional development and certification. A surprising question I recently fielded proved me wrong. I've learned there are admins struggling to improve their careers by becoming certified because they work for people who are afraid of the consequences.

In this case, an administrative professional asked me for advice about taking the Certified Administrative Professional exams scheduled for this November. The problem, she explained, is that her current employer might think she's preparing to look for a better job. She was concerned that there would be some backlash if she asks her boss to complete the employment verification required to register for the exam, and asked if she could refer us to a previous employer.

I had no good answer for her because it had never occurred to me that an employer would be anything less than thrilled to have an employee so eager to earn their professional merits. So I turned to the talented and hard-working folks in the Certification Department here at IAAP's headquarters.

It turns out this admin's short-sighted boss isn't an isolated case, according to Certification Admin Jennifer Mikic. "It always surprises me when I hear these stories," Mikic said. "It's just backwards."

Backwards indeed, because this employer is likely falling behind its competitors with that kind of negative attitude about professional development and certification. The way we do business is constantly evolving in the modern economy. If employees are stagnant, so is productivity and profits. Beyond that, serious professionals are always going to feel the need to improve. Morale will suffer if they feel stymied because their employer thinks they'll find better work. In fact, these types of employees will find better work, one way or another. So this isn't just reverse gear, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you find yourself in this situation, the first thing Mikic suggests is to have a heart-to-heart talk with your employer. Explain how being certified will help you and your employer in the short and long term. At it's most basic, becoming a Certified Administrative Professional is a career commitment, a pledge to yourself and your boss that you will always strive to meet the highest standards. This can be nothing but a positive.

If your manager is still resistant, try going straight to your human resources department. All you need is a letter verifying dates of employment and job title, along with a job description. Barring these options, a previous job can count if at least one year of your employment there occurred with in the last five years.

All of this is spelled out in the certification section of IAAP's website. Still, I felt the need to address this issue and offer some options. Professional development, which includes certification, is a necessity. I don't know if this is a widespread problem, but even a few employers with this attitude are too many. Administrative professionals must evolve if they're going to stay savvy. It's time to put your career in high gear.