Administrative Assistants Day

There are many professions that require so much, yet gratify the holder in so few ways. One of these “unsung hero” jobs is that of an administrative assistant. Administrative assistants are the “pulse of the office”- the behind-the-scenes wizard who controls the day-to-day, ensuring that all runs smoothly, on time, and under budget, yet rarely are they given any sort of recognition. Administrative Assistant Day (also known as Secretary’s Day), is a small way to mitigate this imbalance. This unofficial, secular holiday is celebrated in several countries in order to draw attention and accolades towards the services of administrative assistants, receptionists, and other support personnel. The date of celebration differs according to which country is celebrating- In Europe, Administrative Assistant Day always falls on the third Thursday in April, which is April 26th in 2012, and in North America, Administrative Assistant Day is celebrated on the Wednesday of the last full week of April, which is April 25th in 2012.

The idea for a day set apart to celebrate the contributions of those employees who otherwise might remain unrecognized came about in 1952. Mary Barret, then president of the National Secretaries Association (now known as the International Association of Administrative Professionals, or IAAP), along with C. King Woodbridge, (president of Dictaphone Corporation) served on a council that year which addressed the national problem of a shortage of skilled office workers. Together with Harry Klemfuss, the public account executive at Young & Rubicam, they came up with the idea for a National Secretaries Week. The U.S. Secretary of Commerce at the time, Charles Sawyer, inaugurated the first official
“National Secretaries Week” From June 1-June 7 in 1952, with June 4th serving as “National Secretaries Day”.

The name was changed from “National Secretaries Day” to “Professional Secretaries Day” in 1981, and then to its final name, “Administrative Professionals Day” in 2000, both to reflect the wide ranging duties and responsibilities of administrative professionals,  as well as highlight the changing levels of importance of administrative assistants.

The purpose of the day was two-fold, both to recognize the incredible hard work and vital nature of administrative professionals, and to draw favorable publicity toward the career of an administrative professional, in hopes of addressing the national shortage at the time. The holiday, now in its 60th year since the inception, is one of the workplace’s largest observances, coming slightly behind employee birthdays and national holidays. The theme of this year’s  Administrative Assistant Day is, appropriately enough, “Admins: The Pulse of the Office”. This theme is a reflection of the important behind-the- scenes role that administrative assistants play in the world of business, and recognizes their contributions in the areas of efficiency, data mastery, gate-keeping, and time management.

Modern celebrations of Administrative Assistants Day may include corporate-wide events and social gatherings, as well as the more traditional way of recognizing support staff with gifts. In the United States, some common gifts for this day might include flowers, candy, perhaps even a day off, or a lunch date with the boss. The IAAP suggests that employers celebrate the holiday by providing their administrative assistants with self-improvement seminars, continuing education classes, or self-study materials, as opposed to the more transient gifts.

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