I’m not going to lie, I became an assistant because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Growing up I’d dreamed of becoming everything from a spy to an air hostess but those dreams faded once I left University and hit the big wall of reality that is paying bills and funding your social life. Looking back over the last 10 years and having worked my way up from a Team Administrator to an Executive Assistant I wouldn’t change my decision for the world (not even the world of espionage!)

I must admit something else to you though, I haven’t always been in love with my profession. For a long time I felt like I was just an assistant who just got on with the job. I knew I could do more and I really wanted to but a lack of confidence in my role prevented me from stepping forward. I didn’t have the belief in my job title or really in myself to speak up, I felt my colleagues wouldn’t listen to the girl who ‘was just the assistant’ and so I did the work to the best of my abilities but I didn’t strive for more.

My confidence crisis came to a head in the most unlikeliest of places – I was applying for a new assistant role. During one particular interview with the owner of a hedge fund I was discussing my CV when he abruptly said “do you realise how many times you’ve said that you are just this and just that? Talking to you I know you could do this job standing on your head but I’m not going to hire you because you don’t think very much of yourself’’.

I walked away from that interview shocked and angry that a complete stranger had spotted my weakness but at the same time I knew that if it was that obvious I would have to change my perceptions of myself and my profession. So I did, and this is how I changed from thinking I was just the assistant to becoming a career driven Executive Assistant!

Executive Skills

I went through my employment history with a fine tooth comb and came to realise that I could do a hundred different jobs because of the experiences I had gained working as an assistant. I had sat in meetings with Directors and Chairman of companies and picked up numerous business skills that many of my colleagues didn’t possess. I had advanced IT skills, I could build websites and I could write the marketing material for that website while organising the launch event! I could set my mind to anything if I just had the confidence to push myself forward.

Confidence

The confidence and belief in myself didn’t come over night. I went on a lot of training courses, read and listened to a number of other EAs that had done incredibly well for themselves and I eventually started to think that I could follow in their footsteps. Getting involved in social media, joining a few associations for assistants and networking via events and also LinkedIn groups all helped boost my confidence and changed my mind set.

Love what you do

I realised that I liked my job, a lot! I didn’t want to do anything else because no day is the same! The work I am involved in is diverse, creative, demanding, fast paced and most importantly never dull! Once you really start to like your job and develop a passion for it the determination to speak up for yourself and your opinion is easier to do because you care about your work.

Big decision making

The people I’ve worked with are highly educated, at the top of their career and I help them make the big decisions that steer the company forward. Not many people can say that! Also, you are trusted by senior people in the company, they wouldn’t have placed their trust in you unless they believed in your skills – again how many of your colleagues can say that!

So in the end I made a vow to myself that I would always push myself forward and would no longer be ‘just the assistant‘ I would be THE assistant. I’m now an Executive Assistant confident in myself and my abilities and I thank that hedge fund manager every day for making we realise the only thing stopping me was myself!

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34 comments

  • Silvina January 14, 2013   Reply →

    I agree 100% with this, especially the first paragraphs!

  • Heidi January 14, 2013   Reply →

    Excellent article! My company has been through 3 RIFs and the administrative professional role has been cut down to the “bare bones”. In tough times, we have to realize how extremely important our position is in the company, even if the company doesn’t recognize our import. I’ve had several conversations with colleagues and some of them have said that they’re “just the admin”, and I always tell them that they’re “the” administrative professional and without them, their departments would be sorely lacking in the ability to process work, accomplish tasks and ensure all goes smoothly. We make the internal workings of the corporate “machine” go. I’m a career administrative profesional and very proud of it.

  • Rita January 14, 2013   Reply →

    Hi Nicky – another great blog! I just had to tweet this one too.

  • Elizabeth Bryant January 15, 2013   Reply →

    It’s good to see that there are others who take pride in what we do, and recognize that we make an important contribution.

  • Fayaz January 16, 2013   Reply →

    a really good and motivational article. agreed on all the points discussed specifically about level of confidence of superiors on EA’s and the opportunity we are having to interact with top management of the organization which render immense level of experience and chance of learning new skills every day.

    Proud to be an Executive Assistant.

  • sandra January 16, 2013   Reply →

    perfect timing! the assistant role literally fell in my lap about 2 years ago after several years in marketing management and a stint in ESL overseas. i kept feeling that with my smarts (hello? i graduated summa cum laude! shouldn’t i be higher up?), i should be doing something MORE; i should have a bigger title; a bigger salary; a bigger role…

    but as i continue with this assistant gig, i’m discovering that i’m really really good at it. 1) because it comes so easily to me, 2) because i am a natural multi-tasker. so now, really, the only problem i have is my own perception of the title ‘executive assistant’. i felt the same way you did – i’m just an assistant. but my 2013 new year resolution is to embrace my current vocation. and after writing that out and hammering out the details on what that means to me, i’m re-discovering the job and the role i play. and, like you, i’m beginning to love it and embrace it more and more.

    i think the biggest hurdle in the support field/industry is the perception that it’s lower or not that important… or that it’s just a stepping stone to something “bigger”. once we can push through that, we are golden. 😀

    thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. i felt i was the only one who felt this way. i’m glad to hear i’m not the only one struggling with accepting this profession as a real career.

    • Practically Perfect PA January 17, 2013   Reply →

      Hi Sandra

      Thanks so much for sharing this – I don’t think we are the only ones we just need more assistants to stand up and say they are proud to be assistants!

      Nicky

    • Tamara Coleman January 18, 2013   Reply →

      Personally, I think getting involved in an administrative professional organization (IAAP) and taking an active role by chairing a committie or even getting on the board of a local chapter helps to overcome the perception of others think. I know it did for me. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could serve as my chapter’s president, but I did it for four years and enjoyed it.

  • Ruth January 17, 2013   Reply →

    Thank you for this great blog. Just recently I was telling myself that I didn’t get this profession because I was out of options but because I love my job. Most people don’t our worth but in actual sense we are the worth of the company.

    Being an assistant is really great and enriching too.

  • Saba January 17, 2013   Reply →

    Thank you so much for this post Nicky! And thank you for being so frank and candid about how you felt.

    I think I have real confidence issues when it comes to reflecting on my professional skills. When I look at jobs I like or think I can do, I get so overwhelmed by the “requirements” and expectations and convince myself that I could never do it (which is sooo demoralising!). And I just end up stressing and secretly deciding that I’m better off doing an “easy” job. I’m really hoping to find a PA role in the next couple of months and I hope that I can give the career a chance before escaping.

    Sx

    sabaandthecity.blogspot.com

  • Tamara Coleman January 18, 2013   Reply →

    Wow! Reading this article took me back several years to a former job and a former boss. I vividly remember sitting in his office during a one-on-one repeating those same words – no one takes me seriously because I’m “just an assistant.” He soon made me realize that I was so much more and pushed my limits. Soon I was sitting in the boardroom alongside the directors as their recording secretary. Even when asked about my career path it was clear that I love being an administrative assistant. Joining a professional administrative organization like IAAP (International Association of Administrative Professionals) also helped me to see that I am so much more than “just an assistant”; it bolstered me with the confidence I needed and continued to expand my limits.

  • Nisha DSilva DSouza January 18, 2013   Reply →

    Hi, what a wonderful eye-opener… i see myself so much like the author of this article…. would luv to speak to her personally & gain some confidence. Best!

  • May January 18, 2013   Reply →

    Perfectly written and totally relatable.

    I am 23 and have been doing admin work as soon as I was old enough to work in a professional environment. I have been an EA/PA for the past 1.5 years (doing mostly PA stuff) and in my current search for an EA role, feel like my self-esteem has been kicked and beaten several times.

    It is only recently that I realized I harness incredible skills that will get me far in life and in any career. We definitely have the most dynamic roles, and while it isn’t apparent, lots of power as we are the backbone of our companies.

    It is going to take an incredible amount of strength and CONFIDENCE as you said, to get me to my next role. But I know I can do it! Thanks for the encouraging post.

  • Mary January 19, 2013   Reply →

    Spot on! I “fell” into the role 13 years ago and in some other role, I may NEVER have had the opportunity to work with the executive teams of the Fortune 500 & Fortune 50 companies I’ve been at. I went through Six Sigma training, traveled to some cool conferences/events, met celebrities and most importantly, made relationships with colleagues all around the globe.
    Times are very challenging, and heck, down right tough which makes our role even more essential as we look to streamline and transform processes & cut costs.
    I tried to start over in another role that would provide more advancement opportunities but found I like working with the leadership of the companies best. Being “out of the know” isn’t easy to exist in once you’ve been so connected to the pulse of the organization.
    I think we need to push for more financial acknowledgment as occurs in comparable exempt roles. Why not, don’t we deserve it?

    • Practically Perfect PA January 23, 2013   Reply →

      Hi Mary

      I’ve had six sigma training as well, it would be such a brilliant programme for assistants, particularly the yellow belt training. More should do it really! Thanks for your comments!

  • Tumi Motsomotso January 21, 2013   Reply →

    I like, I like… I find that a lot of people tend to undermine Assistants if you come to think of it we do a lot and are like skivies to others

  • Lori January 21, 2013   Reply →

    Great article! It really is true.

    You might want to pay closer attention to spell check when posting blogs. Look at the last sentence.

  • Cheryl Dervan January 22, 2013   Reply →

    What a fantastic article and congratulations to you.

  • Erna January 23, 2013   Reply →

    yours story has wake me up…, i had the same position as secretary at oil gas company , i do a lot of task can imaging how essential our function to run office operational smoothly.

  • Doreen January 23, 2013   Reply →

    What a good article! Wow! Great! I’m just short of words to describe it. Thank you for the motivation:)

  • Peggy January 24, 2013   Reply →

    What an incredible article! I absolutely loved reading your journey and could feel the confidence you now have come shining through! I am so proud of you and honored to be in the same profession!

  • Caroline Acidong January 28, 2013   Reply →

    An inspirational and motivational article. This is an eye opener. I have worked as an Admin. Assistant for the past 10 years. I’m inspired to build a career as an Executive Assistant.

  • Archana February 13, 2013   Reply →

    Excellent Article Nicky……I am already in the process of grooming to be a good EA…..this article has boosted me even more to become a EA….

  • Deb Harris February 19, 2013   Reply →

    Hi Nicky,

    I am enjoying your posts! You mention in the article you “read and listened to a number of other EAs that had done incredibly well for themselves”. Would you be able to share some of those “reads” for us?

    Thank you much!
    ~deb

  • Trisha Radtke February 27, 2013   Reply →

    May – thank you for writing what you did as you hit the nail on the head for me. I changed jobs in the past three months after being in some sort of administrative assistant role for over ten years. After reading this article & your comment I realized being an admin is not a bad thing & is something that fits me. It’s crazy how reading things brings reality & life events into perspective.

  • Shelley May 18, 2013   Reply →

    Inspirational! Thanks!

  • Jen July 14, 2013   Reply →

    Hey miss nicky! I always read your blogs in the mornings before I start work so I can actually grasp and boost my confidence and drive for the day/week. Thank you so much for sharing your passion. I a more inspired to do what I need to do here at my new job. Do you have a blog about settling in a new job? I started just over a month ago and I just don’t have much workload to fill up my day since I just started, are there any tasks you think I can jump in and do without stepping in to someone’s role? Thanks for your help! Love your work! cheers! -jen

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