Celebrated since 1952, Administrative Professionals Week, April 20-26, 2014, recognizes the work of administrative professionals throughout North America, within our own province, and here at Eastern Health.
There are over 200 administrative professionals within our organization. Their roles are varied and multi-faceted and can range from work completed by front line workers like clerks and medical secretaries to administrative assistants and office managers.
This is the story of two administrative professionals who love the work they do, are very passionate about their ever-evolving field and are committed to self-improvement.
After 20 years of living away, Susan Hutchings was more than ready to move back home. Her children were raised and Susan was looking forward to living the next phase of her life – on her terms.
So she packed up, moved home and, after a few months, was lucky enough to land a job as an administrative assistant with Eastern Health. She expected to hit the ground running and planned to reconnect with old friends, meet new people and expand her professional goals.
“I had high expectations, which I realize now were sort of unrealistic,” she smiles. “But I was so excited! And I thought it would be easy to pick up where I left off.”
To her surprise, she discovered that the connections she had established earlier in her life and maintained as best she could while she lived away had changed. Rebuilding her professional life turned out to be a bigger challenge than she expected.
“I was really back to square one,” she says. “Then one day, I got a phone call from a colleague that changed everything.”
Susan was invited to attend a meeting of the local East Coast Admins chapter of the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), an association that promotes professional excellence in the administrative profession.
The rest, as they say, is history. Susan started to attend chapter meetings and gradually became more involved. She took part in training opportunities and began to establish a network of contacts. She was even elected as treasurer a couple of years ago – a position she still holds.
“There are so many benefits to joining the IAAP,” she says. “People sometimes get to a certain point in their career where they feel stagnant or even uncertain as to what path to take. How do you go about upgrading your skills, take advantage of educational opportunities or meet people in your field? This association offered me all of that, and then some.”
Part of the role of IAAP members is to act as mentors for those entering the profession, or for those who want to advance their career. Susan is quick to name her own mentor – Bev Stone, administrative professional with Learning and Development at Eastern Health – as a hugely positive influence for her.
Bev has been involved with the IAAP since 1986 and has held multiple positions such as treasurer, vice president, president and public relations director for the Eastern Canada division. She has also been a key member of various sub-committees and is currently the certifications chair for the local chapter.”
As they chat back and forth, it’s easy to see that these two are passionate about what they do.
“Since I’ve met Bev, she has inspired me to do a lot of thinking,” laughs Susan.
“I’m a life-long learner,” adds Bev. “I always look for opportunities to further my education and to become a better administrative professional. Taking advantage of the opportunities provided by my association not only improves my skill level and that of my peers, but more importantly, it contributes to the overall level of service we provide at Eastern Health, not only to our co-workers but those we serve.”
While the roles of administrative professionals vary widely, the strongest component are the employees themselves – whether they choose to look for and take advantage of opportunities or not.
“In my area, I consider myself more of an office manager. For example, I often take on the role of calling in staff if they are needed and if someone phones in sick, they usually call me,” says Susan. “I also think the nature of the administrative role itself means that many of us have an excellent feel for what’s going on in our work area – or at least we try to!” she laughs. “That allows us to be a more effective member of whole team.”
“I agree,” says Bev. “We also have different skill sets than our managers, and we’re often the glue that holds things together.”
So what advice would Susan and Bev like to share with those in the administrative field, or those who would like to be?
“Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself! Our profession has come so far, especially in that last 10 years or so, that it’s almost a revolution in the office workplace. We’ve evolved from the traditional secretary to a multi-skilled, dynamic member of the team.” ■
This story was written by Robyn Lush, a communications specialist at Eastern Health.