Finding opportunities to grow in your Assistant role

Finding opportunities to grow in your Assistant role takes initiative – you have to work in a culture where initiative and proactivity are recognised and rewarded.

You have to have the confidence and drive to see it through, and you need some time in your schedule to plan and strategize.

Not easy for Assistants who are busy with the day to day.

But it is worth doing! This post will look at the steps you need to take when finding opportunities to grow in your Assistant role and ultimately shine!

We are going to cover:

  • Knowing your strengths and weaknesses
  • Making time for strategy
  • Looking outside your role
  • Thinking about what is falling through the cracks
  • And lastly, delegating and automating
Finding opportunities to grow in your Assistant role

Know your strengths and weaknesses

With everything, finding growth opportunities starts with a little self-reflection and understanding your strengths and weaknesses. It is work taking the time to really think through your strengths in the first instance. What are your strengths? What do you uniquely bring to the table?

And then ask yourself, has your team actually seen the full breadth of your skills? Do they know what you are capable of? Are your strongest skills actually being used?

While logging your strengths, take the time to write down some of your weaknesses. How are these weaknesses holding you back from seeking out growth opportunities? It could be that you lack self-confidence, and that means you don’t put yourself forward for projects. You could be too detail orientated or a perfectionist, leading to work taking longer to complete leaving less time for interesting projects.

Suppose you need to improve a few areas before looking at growth opportunities. Put a plan in place to start finding opportunities to grow in your Assistant role.

Consider your strengths and weaknesses from all angles. You need to understand completely before stepping up to show your team more of what you’ve got.

Lastly, once you have analysed your strengths, think about aligning your strengths with your Executive and your organisation. Where can your strengths add value?

Make time for strategy

Often for Assistants, we have to find the opportunities to grow or develop these opportunities ourselves. That means understanding how the organisation works, how it makes money and who the key players are. You have to be aware of your environment and stay alert for the right opportunities.

You do have to shift your focus away from your day to day work. Finding new growth opportunities isn’t about picking any extra project and adding it to your to-do list. It’s about identifying strategic opportunities for the good of the organisation.

Which opportunities are those? Ask yourself these questions to pinpoint where you can help your Executive, team or organisation –and your career in the process:

  • What do you know about the business, company, or industry that only you can see?
  • What are some possibilities your organisation or team haven’t explored yet, and why not?
  • What gaps do you see?
  • What business objectives are you most passionate about, and which of those are you uniquely qualified to help with?

Embrace the opportunity to meet teams other than your own if that’s where you can best contribute. Going out on a limb to forge those relationships is another sign that you’re interested in growing beyond what you already do.

You also need to make strategic decisions to not go through the motions without questioning the impact you are making in the business and your career. Trying saying regularly – is this work I’m doing strategically aligned? Is it moving the needle? If the answer is no – you need to question why you are doing the work. It certainly won’t be leading to growth opportunities.

Finding opportunities to grow in your Assistant role

Look outside your role

All companies have projects that cut across lines of business, hierarchical levels and departments. Find out what they are, and maybe more importantly, who’s involved. If you are unsure how to get on a cross-departmental project, the first step is to find out who is involved and ask for regular updates on the projects so that you can feed that information back to your Executive. Once you are known by a few project leaders, it is easier to ask if there are any opportunities to get involved.

It is always worth looking to see where you can develop new skills, expand your network and see big picture processes.

Sometimes within organisations, there aren’t many opportunities to add your name to a project or take on new initiatives. Sometimes you have to create the opportunities that will allow you to raise your profile. For example, one Assistant I know set up a series of lunch and learns for those who wanted to know how to use MS outlook more effectively. This raised her profile in the organisation and her network. The more you can build your personal brand, the more chances of joining strategic initiatives and stepping out of your day-to-day job.

You’re ultimately the best (and only) person to represent your own interests to your Executive, so you have to proactively manage up and tell your Executive how you want to grow in the role.

A good manager will keep you top of mind for upcoming projects that match your interest and skill set – or they’ll tell you why they think you’re not ready for those opportunities just yet. Either way, you will be proactively managing your career advancements and your expectations.

What is falling through the cracks?

One of the best things an Assistant can do to really help move the organisation forward is to get things done. Move projects forward to completion and not stop until those tasks are finished and off everyone’s to-do lists. In the first instance, when looking for growth opportunities, ask yourself – what is falling through the cracks? Where are your colleagues struggling to get things finished?

Look for busy, stressed colleagues.

Look for the people who need help, be it in other departments or within your team, and offer to lend a hand.

Ensure that you don’t get taken advantage of, though or support colleagues who will attempt to have you do their extra work and then take all the credit. Learn to identify and avoid these people!

Also, be sure not to overwhelm yourself with other people’s work. If you’re risking neglecting your own responsibilities, you’re going too far.

Bit saying that, if you can push their work forward – for the good of your Executive or your team, lend a helping hand.

Is there an area in your business that is lacking experts?

At the moment, there is certainly a shortage gap around remote working and making sure we all understand the technology that lets us communicate outside of the office. Can you upskill in these areas and then initiate projects that will help move your organisation forward?

As I’ve always said, being proactive is the key skill for Assistants moving into a strategic role.

Sometimes you can’t wait for someone else to give you the green light. Take the initiative, and do what needs to be done before your Executive asks you (or someone else) to do it. Start by identifying tasks that are falling through the cracks and completing them. Your foresight will be appreciated.

We have a great template that gives Assistants examples of different tasks that will really impress their Executives. You can download it here.

Delegate and automate

Delegation doesn’t always come easy to Assistants. When we are handed work, we often forget that we shouldn’t always be the person who does the task. Sometimes others in the team or our Executive’s direct reports should be taking on the work.

When you are doing all the work and really stretched, it’s hard to ask yourself if you focus on the right things. Instead, as hard as it may be, it is important to create some time in your diary so that you can plan your time effectively, create space for strategic thinking, getting yourself up to date on what is happening in the business and connecting with the key players in your organisation.

You are allowed to say no and say no to people who ask you to do things that do not align with your objectives, your Executive’s goals, the business strategy, or your growth.

To free up some time in your schedule to dedicate to growth projects and opportunities, you need to get on the technology train and start to automate some of your tasks. What are your most repetitive tasks? Can you make your administrative tasks more efficient by using apps or software that automates the procedure? Are you using technology to help manage your time and to-do list?

There is a lot of software available for Assistants to utilise that will help free up time.

Finding opportunities to grow in your Assistant role is much easier if you are willing to manage your professional growth purposely. You have to sell yourself and your ideas. That is how you grow in your role and, ultimately, build your partnership with your Executive and move the business forward successfully.

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