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Certified in Soft Skills

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There seem to be certifications for just about every technical skill in the administrative field. For example, the International Association of Administrative Professional’s Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) and Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) designations validate an individual’s administrative expertise. And the Microsoft Certified Application Specialist certification signifies that those who hold it are proficient with a particular Microsoft software application, such as Word or Excel.

However, when it comes to interpersonal skills, such as juggling 10 projects with diplomacy and grace under pressure, no such certifications exist. Indeed, knowledge of the finer points of business — so-called soft skills — is as critical as technical abilities. In fact, 67% of human resources managers polled by OfficeTeam,, and IAAP said they would hire an applicant with strong soft skills whose technical abilities were lacking; only 9% would hire someone who had strong technical expertise but weak interpersonal skills. The following are soft-skill certifications that would be offered in a perfect (yet hypothetical) business world.

Certified Team Player

Successful administrative professionals establish rapport with peers and supervisors across their organization. These relationships are invaluable in helping them — and their managers — to accomplish business objectives.

Certified Team Players would show a willingness to go beyond their job description and adopt a collaborative mindset when interacting with others. For instance, they might volunteer to train a new employee on a software application or search for the answer to a question rather than transfer a customer's call to another department. Essentially, they would make an effort to facilitate team building whenever possible.

Accredited in Ethical and Critical Thinking

As an administrative professional, you're privy to sensitive information on a regular basis and must therefore exercise good judgment. Those accredited in ethical and critical thinking would prove that they make logical, principled choices during difficult circumstances. For example, you might overhear a confidential conversation that touches upon a sensitive subject, and you must decide what, if anything, to disclose to your manager. Or you may have found an error while proofreading your boss's letter and need to find a way to correct it without having to call her while she's on vacation. These decisions come up time and time again, and how you handle them is crucial to your overall success.

Certified Perceptive Professional

Often, knowing how to get things done has less to do with being familiar with business processes and more to do with understanding individual personalities and work styles. You may report to a manager who isn't a "morning person" or a busy executive who prefers all information to be short and concise, for instance, and each merits different approaches.

Individuals who know how to interact intuitively pay attention to nonverbal cues, such as body language and tone of voice, to determine a colleague's receptiveness to a business idea. By taking note of signs that people are satisfied or dissatisfied with certain approaches to work, Certified Perceptive Professionals would modify their own efforts accordingly.

Accredited in Lifelong Learning

Anyone who has worked in the administrative profession knows that the demands of the job can change quickly. Technological trends alone have made it challenging to keep skills sharp and current. The database program you learned a few years ago may soon be replaced by a newer version or a different one altogether, requiring you to enhance your expertise.

Those committed to ongoing education, however, don't just seek out learning opportunities when they're required; they take proactive measures to continually build their skills and knowledge.

Certified Deal Maker

Most people tend to associate deal making with sales or executive positions, yet negotiation skills also can be valuable in administrative roles. For example, in your job you may need to reach deals with office-supply vendors or convince your supervisor that modifying a procedure in the department would enhance productivity.

Certified Deal Makers would have a proven understanding of the negotiation process, from researching the issue at hand to building support and finalizing the agreement. They also would know when it's appropriate to compromise to reach a particular objective.

Possessing excellent interpersonal abilities will continue to be a key success factor for administrative professionals in the coming years. By working to "earn" the certifications mentioned in this article, you may impress coworkers and management, which can quickly put you on the fast track to success.

About the Author

Diane Domeyer is executive director of OfficeTeam, the nation's leading staffing service specializing in the temporary placement of highly skilled administrative and office support professionals. OfficeTeam has more than 300 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at
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