Program offers professional mentoring to administrative assistants
As part of the Clerical and Administrative Assistants Mentoring Program, Sheryl Willison (left), administrative assistant at Discovery Park, and Angie Teel, assistant to the dean of the College of Science, meet over lunch for mentor-to-mentor coaching. (Purdue photo/Chloe Woodson)
At colleges and universities, mentoring is typically associated with professors and advisors guiding students, but at Purdue, academic support staff have the chance to participate in the Clerical and Administrative Assistants Mentoring Program.
The six-month program, which pairs experienced administrative assistants, level V clerks and secretaries with less experienced clerical and administrative staff members, focuses on professional development, networking and strengthening professional skills.
"We provide an environment where support staff can receive training and encouragement to enhance their workplace performance," says Charlyce Patterson, human resources talent management specialist and CAAMP leadership team member. "Our support staff directly impact our leaders' ability to be effective. By providing opportunities for our support staff to improve and perform at their peak, we, in turn, enhance the effectiveness of our leaders."
After mentee applications are reviewed by the CAAMP Outreach Committee, mentees choose an "in-scope" area they want to concentrate on for the duration of the program. The "in-scope" areas are advancement of skills, career advancement, development of professional network and solidification of relationships with supervisor or team.
Trained mentors are matched to mentees based on skills, professional interests and mentor expertise and strengths in regard to the areas a mentee wishes to focus on.
"We coach mentees. We lead them, but we do not give them solutions," says Carla Reeves, assistant to the dean of the College of Education and CAAMP leadership team member. "We guide them through self-assessment to reach conclusions and help plan improvements to enhance their work processes and relationships."
At least once each month, mentors and mentees meet, often over lunch, to discuss their in-scope area and other professional concerns. Common discussion topics include creating better working relationships with supervisors, adjusting thought processes and work habits from those of a secretary to those of an administrative assistant, proofreading and reviewing resumes and career goals.
Though most meetings are one-on-one, mentors are encouraged to invite mentees to specific relevant events or activities such as minute taking or setting up a large meeting if it coincides with their stated concentration. Both mentees and mentors benefit from these monthly exchanges, and many mentees become mentors within the program.
"While the intended goal of CAAMP is to assist less experienced individuals, everyone can get something from the discussion," says Angie Teel, assistant to the dean of the College of Science, CAAMP leadership team member and acting mentor in CAAMP. "I have enjoyed interacting with people who have a heart for change and who desire to grow more effective and efficient within their positions. Their excitement instills a new energy in me."
Teel's mentee during the first CAAMP term, Sheryl Willison, administrative assistant at Discovery Park, is now a mentor, but the two still meet during monthly peer coaching sessions, which focus on leadership and networking.
"I decided to continue participating in CAAMP as a way to give back and to help continue the program for everyone on campus," Willison says. "It's more than networking, training and professional development. It's a group of individuals strengthening each other."
According to an end of term survey from April 2011, CAAMP has helped support staff increase workplace productivity and morale and feel more confident. The program was created by and is coordinated by administrative assistants with continued support from Human Resources and the Office of the Provost.
Beverly Davenport Sypher, vice provost for faculty affairs, says, "The Office of the Provost is committed to long-term support for this grassroots initiative that provides important professional development opportunities for Purdue’s administrative professionals. This program has garnered national attention and has provided hundreds of hours of training, development and mentoring at no cost to the participants."
The mentor program, which is now nearing the end of its second term, offers two opportunities for clerical and administrative staff to participate each year -- from November to April and from May to October.
Currently CAAMP is being expanded to include nonacademic support staff on the West Lafayette campus.