I bloody love Oprah Winfrey! I can remember watching her chat show when I was a young girl and I just thought she was the most amazing women in the whole wide world. As I’ve got older my opinion hasn’t really changed. I think she is truly inspirational and can teach all of us so much about life, how to conduct ourselves and how to be a woman in business. Seeing her promote The Butler recently got me thinking… What can Oprah Winfrey teach assistants?
Usually the thing you are good at is the thing that will make you successful
Oprah has said many times that she always knew where she was supposed to be. She felt comfortable on stage and she was good at it. Assistants should always seek out the things they are good at – be it spreadsheets, marketing, social media or project management – and then do more of that stuff. If a project comes up ask to help the project manager, get involved with the organisation’s social media. Push your manager to let you take on more of the tasks you excel at so that you can succeed.
Show up… everyday!
Oprah Winfrey never missed a day of work. She was there for every day’s taping. The show was on TV for 25 years! That is dedication and surely must have contributed to her success. I’ve always found if you are just another face in the crowd you will never shine. It is much better if everyone knows who you are, what you do and how you can help. Assistants have the advantage that they are in direct contact with their organisation’s movers and shakers and can really excel if they turn up, working hard and show their dedication.
Acknowledge your mistakes and move on
Assistants are bound to make mistakes because we have such a pressured job. If we don’t make mistakes, we probably aren’t challenging ourselves enough! In 2012 Oprah admitted that she had made several mistakes with the launch of her OWN network. If Oprah can admit her mistakes, learn from them and move on – we all can!
Setbacks can make you stronger
Oprah had some setbacks in life which have been well documented. She has also met a few stumbling blocks in her career. Working as an assistant isn’t always going to be an easy ride, but set backs can help to make you stronger. Resilience is certainly a good quality for any assistant!
Break out of the box
Oprah Winfrey was not supposed to be a journalist, she wasn’t supposed to be a TV presenter, chat show host, actress, global brand… That is certainly not how life should have turned out for the little girl growing up in such poverty. But it did! She constantly challenges herself and does the unexpected. Assistants aren’t supposed to become leaders of organisations – but why not? We all have to start somewhere!
Oprah Winfrey has demonstrated that people can keep growing no matter how successful they have become. One of the shows that I love is her very famous ‘giveaway’ episode where she gave every member of the audience a car. Talk about topping previous ‘giveaway’ shows! Her excitement and joy is obvious to see, especially when she continues to shout ‘you get a car.. You get a car… Everybody gets a car’. It goes to show how much joy can come if assistants keep trying to challenge themselves and keep growing. (For those receiving this by email, there is a wee video here…)
Excellence is the best deterrent to racism or sexism
Lastly, I love this quote from Oprah. Assistants are mostly female and that is probably a big reason why we are not appreciated as much as other members of staff. It is certainly a contributing factor as to why the role is not recognised as a profession. If Oprah can teach us anything, it is that excellence will always prevail. As assistants, we must be excellent at what we do – this will help move the profession forward.