Over the last few weeks I have been wondering how my initial thoughts about running an event have turned into the Assist Conference – which is just a month away!

I’d been thinking about running an event way back in 2013 but I was too busy with other things (living in a foreign country, starting a new job and juggling Practically Perfect PA) to really do anything with the ideas I had. Skip forward to summer 2014 and the voices in my head were pretty vocal about running some sort of event. I was trying to ignore them.. but then I put the Practically Perfect PA survey out there. Reading the replies to the question “what do you enjoy least about the profession?” made me realise that I had to create an event and it had to be about career development.

I wanted to share some of the survey responses with you today. I hope after reading them you can see why I have created the Assist Conference, why the theme is ‘Moving on up!’ and why I have chosen the sessions and speakers.

What do you enjoy least about the profession?

  • My opinions/advice are not often valued. The fact that you always have that feeling that you are just the assistant
  • We are treated like basic admin instead of the level we deserve (and hold!)
  • Executives do not see the post as a profession. I have in the past been called “just” a secretary
  • The low status. I’m not “just” an assistant – I’m a “professional” and have chosen this role
  • Lack of opportunities it offers. As an assistant, I feel you get overlooked for other potential roles.
  • Difficult to move up or sideways without moving companies, colleagues lack of appreciation for the role
  • Being taken for granted. If they don’t know who should do something, it ends up on my desk. I’ll do it (the job description says “and other duties as needed”), but rarely is there appreciation that I’ve gone over and above.
  • The little appreciation or knowledge of the tasks I do and time put in to get things done to a high standard.
  • The perception that we are stupid
  • Lack of real understanding and respect for what an assistant brings to the table and how much we are capable of doing for an organization.
  • Sometimes the tasks can be menial in nature–which is a given as you are hired to make your executive’s life easier–but eager to do more that I’m capable of, but doesn’t fall into my job description.
  • I sometimes would like to be a project manager or be able to take decisions. I do have a lot of ideas and projects in mind and I just see myself as the pa of…
  • It still feels like the old just an assistant sometimes when we might know more about the business as a whole than anyone else.
  • The presumption by a majority of non-assistants in the business that I only get coffee and book meetings in the diary.
  • Being hidden behind the scenes as such. Seen as a secretary. Even my own mother thinks I merely answer the phone and type a few letters. It’s quite a stressful job which people do not seem to acknowledge. Constantly being underestimated.
  • The feeling that my work is sometimes only noticed when something goes wrong – the lack of understanding that things going smoothly takes a lot of work, and that looking calm is part of the job. I am the only PA or EA in the organisation and I think colleagues sometimes think that because our office is tidy and organised I do not have enough to do! Also I think there is a lack of understanding about how my role adds value for the whole organisation, coupled with a lack of understanding of how important the more ‘unseen’ ‘soft skills’ elements of my executive’s job are – stakeholder management, relationship management, reputation etc.
  • The lack of respect from those who do not appreciate what it is that we do. Nothing is more frustrating than being looked down upon because you are attending a meeting that you were asked to be a part of and someone doesn’t feel you should be there. Working hard on a project and not receiving the credit that you deserve. This is changing with the times, but still is way behind!!!

There were of course positive answers – I received quite a few replies which stated ‘I love my job’ but on the whole most of the answers to the question were the same – we feel undervalued and unappreciated. Reading the replies made me feel pretty glum. The answers were articulate and obviously written by motivated and intelligent assistants. I could understand how frustrating it must be to want to do more within businesses and not having the chance. Boom! The Assist Conference was born!

The conference is designed to support assistants, to arm them with the skills they need to tackle the issues of moving up the assistant career ladder. To power them to have the confidence to seek more recognition and rewards. To focus assistants on the need to develop a career plan. To help them move up in their current organisation or beyond. All of the sessions at The Assist Conference will be based around three important key themes:
  • How to change yours and others behaviours,
  • The need to be proactive
  • The importance of having your career goals, always, at the front of your mind.

With a mix of formats, the conference will focus on best practice and learning form other assistants. Together we will look at how we can improve ourselves personally and professionally. The programme includes the following sessions:

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