I just took a survey about virtual assistant certification and accreditation. ( In essence, you can't call yourself a "Virtual Assistant" unless you meet whatever criteria someone decides.) I don't know that the survey sponsor was expecting my visceral and ardent rejection of the idea. Here are my reasons why I think the idea is unnecessary, ineffectual, and potentially damaging.
- Each virtual assistant has different native abilities, skills, and experience. Quantifying some arbitrary skill set as being virtual assistant worthy negates the whole marketing point we use of being versatile. For instance, I know virtual assistants who provide social media marketing, SEO services, real estate agent support, bankruptcy (lawyer) support, legal assistance, bookkeeping, transcription, etc. I could be an accredited VA, but I doubt you would find that I am your best option if you want SEO support or transcription, however I am a great bookkeeper.
- "Virtual Assistant" is a description of the nature of the work and can also be a job title. I have a cousin who is a life coach, but is helping to support her family by working as a virtual assistant to her life coach training program. She would probably never market herself as a virtual assistant, but she is one. (She probably would also never get certified, but it doesn't change the nature of her work.)
- The tenor of the survey was one of trying to limit the people who can call themselves virtual assistants under the guise of protecting the integrity of the profession through some sort of certification. Like non-virtual assistants, the work speaks for itself. If your work is poor, it reflects on you. Competition is good for the profession - it weeds out the bad. Let people call themselves what they want. I doubt passing a typing test (or whatever) is going to make me quantitatively better than I am today. The converse is also true, failing the typing test doesn't make me intrinsically worse. (No one hires me for my ability to pass typing tests; they hire me for my ability to do what they need.)
So, some in my profession think that there should be some sort of accreditation. Seriously, things like this scheme benefits no one but the accrediting authority. I have skills (and patience) that managers and business people don't have; that's why they pay me. But the reality is that we're office administrators, not doctors. We may wreak some havoc if we are bad at what we do, but if a manager is doing his/her job right, it won't last long and the damage is minimal. It's not life and death.
I will conclude this post with the same comment I used on the survey. I didn't go to secretarial school; I will not go to "virtual secretary" school. My work stands on its own. (Yep, I know I'll be blasted, because we aren't secretaries, but the word gets the point across.)