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
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 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!