Here’s to you, career assistants!

Here’s to you … today, and throughout the year

It’s no secret. Those who’ve been following Exceptional EA since I launched this website in 2013 will know that I’ve long encouraged a shift away from well intended cards, flowers and lunches to mark Administrative Professionals Day and Week.

Professional development and recognition of your value

In fact, I’ve been writing for years now about my preference for instead focusing on recognition of assistants’ contributions to the success of their respective organisations, and to ongoing professional development.

Own your role in influencing perceptions

If you’re like me, you’ve likely found that perceptions of assistant roles and the value you bring to an organisation may vary from one employer and principal (boss) to another. Many assistants enjoy well deserved respect, and thrive in workplace cultures where high performing assistants are recognised for the value they bring to their respective organisations.

However, not all work environments are created equal. When you have opportunities – or create opportunities – to graciously elevate others’ understanding of this career, nab them and build on them. The way we speak about this career and the expertise we bring to our roles can have a bearing on what others think of the role. Change doesn’t happen overnight; this is an ongoing process.


When there’s a problem, communicate more than the issue at hand; come to the conversation with a couple of suggestions for resolving the challenge. These initial suggestions may not be the ultimate solutions, yet your ideas may lead to discussion that generates a solution. The fact you have the initiative and insights to offer solutions is positive in and of itself.

When – rather than if – you make a mistake, own it. Refrain from being defensive, and instead convey what you’ve learned and the steps you’re taking to avoid repeat occurrences.

Be thoughtful of how you communicate, and the words you use. Do you use qualifiers that undermine your authority or expertise? Do you present yourself confidently,  and justifiably so on the basis of being well informed?

Treat business communications as just that; they’re about business, and not typically intended personally. Do all you can to refrain from being defensive. Many assistants give so much of themselves that this is sometimes difficult, yet the manner in which we respond to constructive critiques speaks volumes about our professionalism.

When you invest time and energy in professional development and networking, let your employer know.

When you’ve generated efficiencies or done something that created positive impacts, quantify and communicate this in a timely manner. This isn’t bragging. Rather, it helps to elevate awareness of  your skills and impacts upon stakeholders.

Be a continual learner, and expand your scope of knowledge

Across careers, the way we work and the skills we’ll require are changing. Reliance on solely traditional skills and areas of knowledge is shortsighted. In addition to being collaborative, it helps to invest energy in understanding your organisation’s strategy, opportunities and challenges. Where will you invest time, energy and perhaps your personal budget when it comes to learning?

One reader recently wrote and submitted her final assignment within a seven-year course of part time studies that will see her graduating early next month with a bachelor’s (undergraduate) degree. Congrats, M!

You may already hold an undergraduate or graduate degree, or a certificate or diploma. Whether or not you hold – or pursue – formal credentials, think about what will serve you and your employers (present and future) well when it comes to learning, professional development, and personal and professional growth. Your organisation routinely deals with matters such as risk management, strategic planning, cybersecurity and more. What do you know about these topics, or others in which your principal is engaged?

ESG, also known as environmental, social and governance, will already be on some employers’ radar, and will be appearing on more and more agendas before long. Be curious; think beyond the current parameters of your career.

Think, as well, about your aspirations for three, five and 10 years from now. It’s challenging to identify just what may serve you well a decade from now, yet we can start with the short and near term and then continue to rework and refine our sense of what will serve us well in the longer term.

Network, internally and externally

Some are daunted by the concept of networking, yet it’s not only outgoing people who can effectively network. Approach networking with a sense of curiosity and genuine interest in others and their careers. Think about it in the context of sharing and gaining insights and expertise, and as an ambassador for your organisation as well as the career. It’s not uncommon, when you expand your network, to find you’re able to facilitate introductions or bring new ideas to colleagues. It’s a bonus that this can also enhance colleagues’ awareness of the role, and just how much you bring to it.

When it comes to networking, avoid a numbers game. Go, instead, for meaningful conversations and exchanges, be they in person or digital.

When it comes to elevating and enhancing your career, it’s wise to document, track and communicate your contributions and impacts. When it comes to networking, I subscribe to Elizabeth Bibesco’s approach: give without remembering, and take without forgetting!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: