But Do You Consider this a Profession? Looking at Stereotypes

 A Career, and a Profession

The term “professional” has traditionally referred to someone who has achieved formal qualifications through post-secondary education and training. Someone who adheres to “the technical or ethical standards of a profession”. Someone who, typically, must engage annually in ongoing education in order to maintain good standing within the profession.

On the other hand, Merriam-Webster depicts a professional as “exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace”. Those sound like the traits required for an administrative career. With that in mind, I asked my panel members if they consider it appropriate to use the terms “profession” and “professional” in reference to an administrative career. They were unanimous in considering such terms appropriate; here’s what they said.

To do otherwise is to demean and undervalue, both perceptionally and monetarily, both the people doing the work and the work that they do

Craig Bryson:  I strongly believe that as administrators, we are the backbone of any company. We help make everything run smoothly and efficiently. This is a professional skill and a profession that cannot be done without.

Bianca Constance: I find the words “profession” and “professional” HIGHLY appropriate terms to use when describing an administrative career. If you have been doing this work for more than five years, it is YOUR CAREER. Embrace it and make sure you do the work better than anybody else. While this profession has been a stepping stone for many, it has also been the “final destination” for many more. I’m very good at what I do and I’m proud of that.

Craig Harris: Of course, it is a profession and a great career choice, I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

Times have changed and we need to be proud that an administrative career is a profession

Declan Halton-Woodward: I certainly think so. Those who think that the administrative profession is not a profession are the ones who know least about it. There are many amazing administrative professionals who have built a career from it and are attempting to drive the standards up and promote the industry; calling it anything other than a profession would be a disservice to them.

Jennifer Robson: I do consider it appropriate to use the terms “profession” and “professionals” in reference to an administrative career.  Times have changed and we need to be proud that an administrative career is a profession and that we discharge our duties as professionals.

If we don’t see ourselves as professionals, how can we expect others to?

James Sobczak: I consider it not only appropriate, but essential, that my profession is considered to be a profession, not just a job.  To do otherwise is to demean and undervalue, both perceptionally and monetarily, both the people doing the work and the work that they do.

Matthew Want: I feel that both are applicable to the role, which is seen by many as a profession/career – and the fact that you are in that role and wanting to progress makes you a professional at what you do.

Louise Whitehead: Absolutely – if we don’t see ourselves as professionals, how can we expect others to? This belief is one of the cornerstones of EPAA, to ensure we have a body working on our behalf as a profession.

 

Looking at Stereotypes

I asked panel members whether they’d encountered stereotypes or misperceptions specific to either female or male admin. professionals. Here are their experiences.

Stereotypes of Females in this Career

” …still treated like the characters in Mad Men TV series.”

“I think the main stereotype is that it is a woman’s job.”

“… that they are in a low-paying job with little to no advancement, and requiring only a rudimentary skill set.”

“The list is too long …”

“That it’s a ‘girls’ job’ or that we are merely hired to sit there, type letters and look pretty.”

Stereotypes of Men in this Career

“Male Admin are rare, they are sometimes looked at as gay, to be working in a woman’s job.”

“The recent influx of men into the administrative profession occurred, curiously enough, at a time when other job options were not as prevalent, giving one the distinct impression that they were simply using these job openings as a way to move quickly up into the higher ranks at their respective companies. Most individuals, not accustomed to seeing men in an administrative (i.e., perceived subservient role) might even look for ways to move them into ‘better’ jobs more quickly than women in the same role. And yes, I realise just how sexist this sounds.”

“It’s not so much a stereotype, but more a surprise when I tell people what I do. Most people believe that it is a ‘woman’s job’.”

” … that the profession is just being used by males as a stepping stone to something else.”

” … that they are only doing this job until their ‘real job’ or ‘real career’ comes along and therefore are less reliable in such positions.”

“… that there aren’t any!”

Misperceptions and Stereotypes of the Role of Admin. Professionals in General

I’ve encountered people who view the admin. career as a fallback, or an avenue for people with lesser capabilities than those they support. What are the experiences of our panel members? Read on.

Craig Bryson: We are part of the cleaning crew (not saying that the cleaning crew is a bad thing). Our opinions are never noticed.

Bianca Constance: The biggest misperception: that an admin would not have in-depth industry knowledge or an understanding of current events. I still recall the look of surprise on my executive’s face (a number of years ago) when I began discussing with her a specific issue which could have adversely affected our industry. I was using analytical skills and offering options to potential crises. She did not expect this from a “support person.”

The biggest misperception: that an admin would not have in-depth industry knowledge or an understanding of current events

Craig Harris:  I think assistants as a whole, and the role we do, are stereotyped by the media all the time and I think they are a lot to blame for why people don’t see this as a career choice. You only need to watch ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ to be off it for life.

Declan Halton-Woodward: I know some people do not consider it … a demanding job, which I think it part of the reason they don’t see it as a profession.

That I am in a low-paying job with little to no advancement, and requiring only a rudimentary skill set

Jennifer Robson: (that we are) overhead costs, services used only for day to day tasks – and not provided the opportunity to provide input into business

James Sobczak: That I am in a low-paying job with little to no advancement, and requiring only a rudimentary skill set.

That we are “just” anything

Matthew Want: Just seen as tea and typing (we all know there is a lot more to it)!

Louise Whitehead: That we are “just” anything (just a PA, just a Secretary etc). We are widely skilled and vital to the smooth running of any business, and it is important that we recognise this within ourselves, even if the outside world doesn’t always.

 

NEXT IN THIS SERIES
  • How to Dismantle Career Stereotypes and Misperceptions

Interested in more on today’s admin. career? Here are other articles to date in this series.

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