There have been so many times over the years that I have received an email about a fantastic training course or conference that I would love to attend. As I’ve read over the details, looked at the programme and the speakers I thought to myself ‘I’d love to attend that conference’ and then rather than doing something about it I’ve deleted the email.

I’m sure many of you have had a similar experience. There are plenty of training opportunities for assistants but so many of us don’t attend external training events – in fact according to the recent Practically Perfect PA Industry snapshot 52% of respondents had not attending a training event in the last two years! Can you imagine another professional saying that? It really is unheard of in any other profession: so why don’t assistants attend training courses?

There are many benefits for both assistants and their employers in receiving the right training but how do we convince our managers and our organisations that they should invest in our career development? Here are my top five reasons why every assistant should prioritise attending external training:

You are not ‘just’ an assistant!

Firstly, and I know I do say this all the time, you have to be in charge of your career development. It is really important that you have the confidence to ask for funding and this isn’t going to happen if you think of yourself as ‘just the assistant’. I’ve had Executives turn my training requests down because I worked in a support function and I didn’t make the organisation any money. If I considered myself as ‘just’ an assistant I would have walked away and accepted their answer. But really this answer is just an excuse – would they say no to one of the accountants or compliance team? No because they are deemed professionals who need to attend training and unfortunately we are not in that position …….yet. But if we have the confidence in our own career choices we should be able to explain to our managers the importance of training and why it is essential.

You have a lot of unique skills

Assistants have a lot of unique skills that other professionals do not have. If you take hard skills for example – we have to understand how the latest office technology works, we have to organise events, take minutes, run meetings, write reports and edit documents. The list is endless. We also need a plethora of soft skills from people management to communication, assertiveness and everything in between. We deal with different types of individuals on a daily basis and we have to represent our Executives at the highest level of business. To be good at our job we need to know a lot of stuff and we need to have continuous training in that stuff! Do bear that in mind next time you are reading about that really great training event.

You must have career objectives

It is really important that you take your career development seriously because if you do not your boss won’t. Make sure that you have regular 1-2-1 contact with your manager (you have control of their dairy – schedule these meetings in!), ensure that you have a formal review twice a year and make sure that you have measurable objectives that are reviewed throughout your time in the role. It is much easier to ask for funding if your manager is aware that you want to progress as an assistant and you see yourself as a true professional who requires CPD (continuing professional development). In many cases I have added ‘attend a training course on (insert subject matter).’ to my yearly objectives. Once you get a training course on to your formal objectives your manager has less room for manoeuvre!

You must present a business case

It is really important that you present your manager with a business case for this expense. Julie Perrine over at All things Admin has written a brilliant article on presenting a business case for training which is definitely worth a read.  I would add that it is really worthwhile to look through the conference details and pick out the sessions that will really benefit your organisation. This will help you prove to your manager that you have thought about the event’s ROI (return on investment).

You must pick training sessions that really do add value to you and your organisation

My fifth and final point is really important. Spend some time researching the best training events for you. There are plenty of conferences, seminars, exhibitions and networking events for assistants. Some are better than others and and some are more expensive than others so it is worthwhile working out which event is right for you and is right for your organisation. This research will also make the conversation with your Executive easier. If they can see that you have really thought this through they will be more inclined to fund your training.

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