So the topic of diversification has been discussed quite widely within the assistant industry for a number of years now. I think the conversation started around the time of the credit crunch. There were lots of scary statistics which showed many companies were reducing their administrative and support staff. At the time many assistants were being made redundant along with their managers and departments. For those that were still in the role we had to prove our worth by taking on more and varied work. The downturn in the economy certainly had an effect on assistants and played a major part in the diversification of the role.

Aside from the recession there are many other factors which have contributed to the assistant role diversifying. New technology, a raised awareness of our skills outside of our industry and assistants taking their role more seriously are just a few examples. But what does diversification actually mean for an assistant on a day to day basis and what does the role look like now? How much time do we spend on our main tasks and how much time do we spend on the new aspects of our job?

Last year I conducted a survey to get a snapshot of the industry. The results showed that many assistants now have lots of additional responsibilities outside of the main assistant role.

How exactly is the assistant role diversifying?

The survey results certainly showed a clear indicated that the role has diversified – we have lots of opportunities to expand our role and take on new and interesting challenges. That is the positive spin on it anyway! The other side of the coin is that we are being asked to take on extra work that is technically a profession in and of itself. Do we get rewarded financially for this? Are we eventually able to move into this profession?

It would seem that diversification in the role needs to be explored as it throws up more questions than answers. I’d love to know your thoughts on the subject – how much has your role changed? Has it changed at all? Has the industry diversified and is this a good thing?

Leave your comments at the end of the blog and I will revisit this subject in the next few weeks.

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11 comments

  • Silvina March 13, 2014   Reply →

    I’ve been working as an assistant for 11 years in four different companies and I don’t see my role has changed or diversified. I’ve always had additional responsibilities in the fields of Marketing and Communication, and it’s something that I love doing.

  • Erin Gentry March 14, 2014   Reply →

    I have been working as an Executive Assistant for 2years now I came from a background of Offfice Managment & finance, I was able to take all the roles that I have had over the last 20years and roll them into an executive assistant role. However when I took on my 9-5 assistant role I was assistant to 3 executive as well as the event planner and some office Managment type work. I have struggled to maintain ALL expectations for the Office while still keeping my executives happy. I have learned that when you take on such diverse roles often your execs do not take into consideration that you have many things on your plate not just the role as their assistant. And In turn your 1-1 time and relationships with your execs suffer.
    I have since left my 9-5 role and started a Successful Virtual assistant company where I can focus on the needs of my client rather than the needs of the office.

    Erin

  • Amanda Reid March 14, 2014   Reply →

    Wow has my role diversified! I was hired 4years ago as the PA to the Managing Director and that was it. I’m now PA to him, his partner in another business (2 email addresses is fun!), the Finance Director and the Chairman AND Office Manager, Account Manager to our 6th largest account (as of last year, it should be our 5th and maybe 4th this year) as well as looking after all of our 99 trademarks in the UK, Europe and Worldwide – I said no to patents lol.
    Weirdly I actually do get a chance to breath during the day but multi-tasking and a keen ability to prioritise as my new best friends 🙂

  • Cassie March 17, 2014   Reply →

    My job hasn’t exactly diversified since I started (~8 years ago) but it certainly does cover a lot of different areas. My primary job function is financial (account manager) but I am also expected to be an executive/personal assistant to my boss. This means everything from drafting memos and managing calendars to calling in prescriptions and rescheduling dental appointments. I’m also the IT person for my boss’s computers and iPhone. I also handle some event planning (I probably like this the least), and now that he’s the temporary head of the dept, I’ve also helped him with the management/logistics involved with that.

  • Jen S March 17, 2014   Reply →

    This is my 15th year working in the administrative field, and while I have climbed the administrative ladder, I have not strayed outside of the admin industry. Four years ago I was approached to work in sales, but it is not an area I personally enjoy, so instead I opted to take an Executive Assistant role. In this role I managed staff, but was not given a manager title. Last September I successfully negotiated a change in title and salary, but am still the lowest-paid manager in our company, even though I have more management experience than several other managers. I agree that while we have come a long way, there is still a lot of work to be done.

  • Tonya March 17, 2014   Reply →

    Ten years ago I started out as the Timekeeper and Personnel admin and today I do that as well as Budget Analysis, Systems Administrator, Event Planner, Facility Management, as well as serve as the primary back up to all the other admin positions. I’ve had one 2.5% raise and title upgrade as a thank you for taking on all these jobs when 2 posistions were eliminated. I feel that I’ve been forced to become too diversified.

  • Tonya March 17, 2014   Reply →

    Erin,

    I would love to learn more about how you started your business. This is a dream of mine! Any advice you don’t mind sharing, I’d be happy to hear! I’m all ears!

    Thanks!
    Tonya

  • Simone March 21, 2014   Reply →

    I believe that the assistant role has diversified, to the point where all the additonal responsibility which we now take on is just seen as the ‘norm’. I have been in adminsistration for 18 years. When I first started out administration was just that, dealing with diaries, looking after travel, typing, filing and perhaps covering the receptionist. Now it goes beyond standard administration – we create presentations, chair meetings, arrange events, manage offices, plan office moves as well as the all the original duties. Now don’t get me wrong I love all these additional aspects, but as many of you have said as assistants we have not yet gained the recognition or reward for all this additional responsibility. Most assistants are unable to be promoted, we are constantly seen as the junior members of a team, no matter how long our tenure or experience and the salaries are just not comparable. A lot of this I think comes from the fact that assistant roles were traditionally held by women and even today most assistant roles are held by women. I hope that in the near future, we see a change in how assistants are viewed, recognised and rewarded.

  • Justine Curtis April 28, 2014   Reply →

    I’ve been providing a virtual assistant administration service for over 11 years and the role has certainly changed for us. We are being asked more and more for HR services, social media and online marketing services, sales related tasks and even website updating!

    I’m sure part of that is because we generally work for smaller organisations that don’t have separate departments/employees for all these various tasks, but it keeps the role interesting.

  • Karla Grima December 3, 2014   Reply →

    how much has your role changed? Has it changed at all? Has the industry diversified and is this a good thing?

    When I started off in admin circa 20 years ago my work included doing tasks for departments such as marketing etc …. since I’ve been a PA for say the past 15 years my role has diversified a lot, sometimes not for the better, it depends for whom one is a PA, when i was in IT i was expected to get involved in a varied number of tasks (which thought me a lot and opened new interests for me). with an NGO that dealt mainly with tourism related to history and historic sites, i had to be hands on on a number of our sites and fill gaps and resolve employee matters, that also gave me something new to learn and contend with. for the past number of years I’ve been a PA to the Board of a Bank and to be honest although i did learn a number of things, i feel that I’m not allowed to spread my wings and use my potential … I am currently on the market looking for a new adventure with more challenges.

  • Karla Grima December 3, 2014   Reply →

    I agree with all the points you have raised in your post, PA and Assistants in general should be recognised for their role within a company especially when more and more diverse tasks are demanded from them.

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