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.

Invest in yourself

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 the same; we should be allowed to go to events that help us grow professionally. There is an abundance of events out there for Assistants that are free to attend and have quality content, but there are also some 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 needed 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 regarding knowing that you need to keep your skills up to date and network with other assistants… Otherwise, you wouldn’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 make these objectives on your own, through the company or with an external supplier. Research the suppliers that would assist you to 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 events and exhibitions. 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 lose?
  • Do put aside a few hours a month for your personal and professional development. Not just on your lunch break or at home (although sometimes you might have to) but also during your typical 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!

We have a range of online events from £30 through to our Future Assistant Conference in London and online. If you would like to take a look at our training events click the link to our Events page.