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A PAY BOOKLET FOR ADMINISTRATIVE PROFESSIONALS

Dear Joyce: I am the only bilingual administrator in the patient registration department of my hospital, and I'm always called on to interpret for Spanish-speakers. Shouldn't I get paid more than those who can only speak English?

-- D.G.

Dear D.G.: In a word, si. Set a meeting with your boss, line up your talking points and ask for premium pay to reflect your added contribution of facilitating communication between patients and staff.

"Expert bilingual abilities can increase an applicant's base compensation up to 8 percent," says the new Office Team 2005 Salary Guide. The figures in the guide reflect starting pay offers for administrative staff, not continuing or ongoing salaries. Some local salary variances are included.

Office Team (officeteam.com) is a huge staffing service with more than 300 offices across the United States. Get a free copy of the 32-page salary guide booklet by calling (800) 804-8367.

Project manager

Dear Joyce: Can you write about becoming a project manager?

-- F.Y.
Dear F.Y.: Your timing is sweet: A new book by a 30-year expert in the profession has just come out: "Your Successful Project Management Career" by Ronald B. Cagle, under $18, published by Amacom (amacombooks.org), which is an arm of the American Management Association.

Cagle certainly knows what he's talking about, but I wish he'd clued newbie project managers to beware of non-compete clauses in some staffing agency contracts. These non-competes may present a problem when the time comes to leave one project or employer for another. (For a crash tutorial on non-compete clauses, visit BreakYourNonCompete.com.)

Executive assistant

Dear Joyce: I'm an executive assistant (jack-of-all-trades). My problem is not really money or benefits, it's finding a company that's fun, upbeat, has a positive working environment and keeps employee morale and spirits high Also I want to work for one high-level executive. Any suggestions on how to get what I want?

-- A.M.A.
Dear A.M.A.: If you agree that birds of a feather flock together, associate yourself with top notchers in your field. Look into joining the International Association of Administrative Professionals (iaap-hq.org) and becoming a "Certified Administration Professional." You may learn from other IAAP members of great, free-wheeling companies like Southwest Airlines, whose head man used to arm wrestle when negotiations stalled.

Additionally, seek out bright successful environments on your own. Fortune magazine (fortune.com; screen left menu) offers multiple lists of the best companies to work for. Details require a six-month subscription that costs only $4.95.

Franchise deals

Dear Joyce: If my husband gets back from Iraq, he wants to work for himself. I know about the Small Business Administration, but what other resources should we look at?

-- H.J.
Dear H.J.: Consider a franchise. Never go into a business just because you're getting "a deal," but be aware of a program called VetFran from a franchising trade organization that includes some 70 franchising companies that make special offers to veterans. The deals typically are either a substantially discounted franchise fee, a waiving of royalties for six months or thousands of dollars in free inventory. For details, go online to franchise.org and click on VetFran.

E-mail career questions to Joyce Lain Kennedy at jlk@sunfeatures.com; use "Reader Question" for subject line. Or mail her at Box 368, Cardiff, CA 92007.

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