Evolution takes time – just ask any of the scientists around the world preparing to celebrate International Darwin Day next month.
Let’s Collectively Nudge Evolution of the Assistant Career
However, in the case of the administrative profession, a number of us are working to nudge evolution along.
I’m an advocate of treating what we do for a living as a career of choice, one that merits respect – have a look at my July 2016 cover story for Lucy Brazier’s Executive Secretary Magazine, or almost any article I’ve written.
I’m not alone in urging peers around the globe to fast track the current stage of evolution of the assistant career. Lucy Brazier decided that my views merited the cover of her highly regarded magazine. Victoria Darragh, Founder of the UK’s Executive and Personal Assistants Association (EPAA), is a strong fellow advocate for representing our profession in a manner that commands respect. Have a look at Victoria’s December 2016 LinkedIn post and you’ll see that, while we come from different continents, we also share convictions and goals.
This month, my Real Careers series is focusing on the ongoing evolution of the assistant career, and dismantling preconceived perceptions of the role. Popular culture has historically presented frustrating stereotypes of assistants, and that continues to this day. Some people are slow to shift their perspectives.
Run and Get Me Coffee
Take James Corden, for example. Or his writers. At the 3:50 mark of his November 2016 Drop the Mic bout with Usain Bolt, Corden tauntingly invited the magnificent runner to call him once his “endorsements dry up”. After all, as Corden said, “We always need more PAs to run and get me coffee”.
I first saw this on television. Since then, over 3.8 million people have watched this clip online. How’s that for perpetuating dated stereotypes, and discouraging students from choosing such a career?
I like James Corden, and I do get it. This piece (“run and get me coffee“) was intended in fun, and the PA reference was a minor bit. You could compare it to the jokes my lawyer acquaintance tells at the expense of his profession, or the jokes others tell about accountants, dentists and so on. If there’s a silver lining, perhaps that would be the acknowledgement that the PA role can be filled by a male.
Cracking One Stereotype: This Career Isn’t Solely for Women
As I write this article from my home near the Pacific Ocean, Victoria Darragh and her EPAA Board of Directors across the UK are preparing to launch a campaign. EPAA is building on Britain’s recent “Not Just A Boy’s Job” campaign. It was designed to encourage both females and males to study for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and other careers that have been historically considered the purview of males.
Late this month, EPAA will launch its own campaign: #Notjustagirlsjob. You can read more about it by clicking here. EPAA’s General Advisory Board members Craig Bryson and Sean Steel (Deputy Chair of the Board) are leading the campaign alongside Victoria Darragh.
An Environmental Scan, Including Men’s Place in the Assistant Career
Having interviewed more than a hundred high performing admin. professionals from 21 countries so far, I’ve reached out to a group of them to form another international panel. My first such panel explored the impact and relevance of social on our careers, and this panel is examining perceptions of the career, and the presence of men in the role.
Along the way, we’re looking at how to dismantle unwanted stereotypes of the career.
I’ve asked my panelists for their insights on what individuals and assistants’ networks and professional associations around the globe can do to nudge this evolutionary process forward.
Craig A.T. Bryson, Executive Assistant – England
Bianca Constance, CAP, Executive Assistant – USA
Declan Halton-Woodward, Executive Assistant – England
Jennifer Robson, Executive Assistant – Australia
James Sobczak, Executive Assistant – USA
Matthew Want, Personal Assistant – England
Louise Whitehead, Senior Executive Assistant – England
Check Back Wednesday
… for the next article in this series, reflecting insights from this terrific panel. I’m grateful for each member’s reflection and recommendations, and know you’ll find each article a good, provocative read that prompts discussion within your networks and professional associations.