So here I am in sunny Madrid attending my first event as the Executive Assistant of Gallus Events. My manager is speaking about sponsorship to a group of event organisers who are all taking notes and listening intently. It has got me thinking about the differences between our profession and theirs.

The fact I even call what we do a profession is to some people quite shocking. I’ve heard in the not so distant past a colleague say something along the lines of “women fall into your job and don’t have to be qualified so why do you think it is a profession?”. I know I know, what he said was wrong on so many levels (not to mention completely sexist) but I’m sure most of you have heard something similar especially when seeking investment in your career from your employer.

Here are a few other excuses I’ve come across over the years that companies use not to train their support staff:

  • You do not have a qualification to maintain so we won’t support your training
  • We need you in the office at all times
  • You should already have the skills you need for this job
  • We will put this in your objectives for next year
The people surrounding me today take their profession seriously, how do I know that? Well they are here. They may or may not have a qualification in what they do but they all want to learn and are here to find out about new and innovative ways of working. Assistants should be exactly the same; we should be allowed to go to events that help us grow professionally. There are an abundance of events out there for assistants that are free to attend and have quality content but there are also a number of outstanding courses which we quite rightly are asked to pay for. Assistants across the world should be attending both.
According to Melba J. Duncan’s influential article The Case of the Executive Assistant:
At very senior levels, the return on investment from a skilled assistant can be substantial. Consider a senior executive whose total compensation package is $1 million annually, who works with an assistant who earns $80,000. For the organization to break even, the assistant must make the executive 8% more productive than he or she would be working solo—for instance, the assistant needs to save the executive roughly five hours in a 60-hour workweek. In reality, good assistants save their bosses much more than that.
If this ratio is correct then really it should be in our company’s best interests to keep us up to date on all the new time saving techniques and the soft skills required to maintain the confidence required when dealing with those that want our boss’s time. If you are reading this blog then I guess I am talking to the converted in terms of knowing that you need to keep your skills up to date, and network with other assistants… Otherwise you would’t be here! So what can we proactively do to get our managers to invest in us because unless you do have an outstanding boss you will have to be proactive in seeking this investment in your career
  • If you are an assistant you will be a planner, no doubt about it! Use this skill to strategically plan your career. Write a list of what you would like to achieve per quarter. It could be anything from improving your Excel skills to overcoming your public speaking nerves. Think about how you can achieve these objectives on your own, through the company or with an external supplier. Research the suppliers that would assist you achieve these objectives. For example can you brush up on your IT skills by listening to a podcast or webinar? Are there any free tutorials online? If you would like to improve your time keeping skills could you go along to a training course run internally by your company? If it is a specific PA skill, for example minute keeping, find and research the best external supplier for that course. If you have proactively thought through your needs your boss is more likely to take you seriously.
  • Attend free shows such as The Office Management & PA event in June. Tell your boss you want to take a day out of the office to meet with potential suppliers but also attend FREE training sessions. Other than you being out of the office for the day (which is the same as you taking a holiday) what do they have to loose?
  • Do put aside a few hours a month for your personal and professional develop. Not just on your lunch break or at home (although sometimes you might have to) but also during your normal working day. Yes you are using the company’s time but they will benefit from your improved skill set.

We are a unique commodity in any office. We save the people that run the company time and this alone is invaluable. We need to think of ourselves as a commodity and with that comes investment. The best assistants are well oiled machines that can “do it all” but we still require the odd maintenance service every now and again!

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6 comments

  • Izabela April 25, 2013   Reply →

    Great article!
    🙂

  • Gwenda Taylor April 28, 2013   Reply →

    If you do require your firm to invest in external training for you, it’s always worth planning ahead by notifying your training budget holder of your intentions, backed up by your line manager.

  • Bree Schmidt April 29, 2013   Reply →

    Great article and I couldn’t agree more! This is an excellent reminder that learning is never finished and there is always room for improvement. Many times, the workshops and seminars you attend help to set up better networking opportunities that are just as useful as the information being delivered.

  • Laura Smith May 1, 2013   Reply →

    Great blog – agree about the paid for training….however in saying that attending the free events is a great way to get a taster of training you may want to try and convince your boss to pay for.

    For instance at our upcoming exhibition (Which Nicky is speaking at) we are running a Microsoft Workshop headed up by Paul Pennant of Today,s PA, We have Souters Training running a business writing seminar and DV8 Events running taster sessions of thier event management courses.

    If you go to a free exhibition, register for workshops and seminars relevant to what you want training in, then go back beaming about the trainer to your boss – put what you learned into practice straight away, if your boss sees you got value from a 30 minute taster session, he might suddenly be more open to paying for training.

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