Feeling undervalued and how to make a change

One of the many challenges I often hear from Assistants is that their Executives and the broader organisation do not understand the role and work that Assistants undertake. Assistants are renowned for completing their tasks and ensuring everything runs smoothly. This often means that Executives don’t see the work that goes into ‘making things happen’. A side effect of this challenge is that Assistants can often feel undervalued and underutilised. Assistants get on with the job, but there is so much more they can do, and they are often unchallenged and underemployed. Feeling undervalued and how to make a change.

I know I certainly felt that in my Assistant career. At times, I felt very undervalued. My skills were not taken into consideration, nor my experience and education. It left me feeling discouraged and unmotivated.

In my case, I felt undervalued for many reasons, and I know that many Assistants will relate to that feeling at the moment. Many of us are still working from home, and we don’t have that instant contact that we once had in the office, where you could see the work that needed to be done and put yourself forward for projects and tasks. Or you could make the problem disappear and move on to the next challenge.

I was an Assistant during the financial crisis in 2008, and although I was not working to my total capacity, I didn’t want to rock the boat or put my head above the parapet when so many people were losing their jobs. Instead, I did the work that was asked of me to the best of my ability, but I didn’t say I was unmotivated.

In the long run, it didn’t serve me well. I was bored, and it took quite some time to get out of the rut I was in and actually use my skills again and rebuild my confidence. It took me a while to play catch up and work again at my full potential.

What to do when you feel undervalued in the Assistant role?

I know this will resonate with a lot of Assistants. I hear it a lot. Assistants who have done everything right have a lot to offer but, for various reasons, are not fulfilling their potential.

So, what can you do when you feel undervalued and how to change?

Take stock

When you feel undervalued, taking stock of where you are in your role and what you are doing is imperative. Make a list of all the tasks you do, and then list all the tasks you would like to work on. It is worth looking at your job description when you joined the organisation. Are you working on everything you were told was part of the job? Once you have analysed where you stand, you have the information to decide about your future. Our guide for new Assistants covers some areas that Assistants should be responsible for in their day-to-day work.

Is there more to do in the role and the organisation?

Once you have your list of tasks you want to work on, now is the time to look for things to do proactively. When you feel undervalued, you have to take some personal responsibility and carve out work that you enjoy, motivating you. I know it can be tiresome asking for work, but especially now, everyone is overwhelmed, and a proactive person who takes on additional responsibilities will be appreciated.

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Speak up

I know it isn’t easy telling your Executive you feel undervalued. It is a challenging conversation, and often Executives can take these conversations quite personally. It is always best to approach any discussion like this with information and data so that your Executive can see you’ve done your research and you can work together on a solution.

In my experience, the conversation tends to go one of two ways. Your Executive had no idea you felt undervalued, and they promised to give you more challenging work. Or they sympathise with the situation, but the role doesn’t require more than you currently do. If you know you can do more work, but the opportunities are not available, that is a different matter, but it is worth speaking up if you are being overlooked.

Do you want to be an Assistant?

The Assistant role isn’t for everyone. The position is dynamic, and there are many opportunities, but you have to be proactive and make the job your own. A lot of monotony comes with the role and repetition of tasks, which is not for everyone. When you take stock of your current situation, take the time to question if the role is proper for you. If it isn’t, that is okay. As an Assistant, many transferable skills will help you land your next career move.

Do you have the skills and qualifications to help you move out of the role or into another field?

I’ve had a few roles with little scope for additional work. They were traditional Personal Assistant roles, and the parameters for more challenging work were narrow. I was bored, and after many months of asking for more work, I concluded the role wasn’t for me. And again, that was okay. I found something else that was more challenging and motivated me. I also started Practically Perfect PA in that role. If you feel undervalued, can you take the time that is not being utilised and use it to gain skills to help you move out of the role or into another field?

Feeling undervalued can have detrimental effects on your confidence and well-being. I spent too long feeling underutilized and looking back. I wish I had acted sooner. It is frustrating, but you have options. Shine a light on your skillset and speak up for yourself or take your skills and knowledge where they will be appreciated.

Feeling underappreciated can be crushing on your confidence and self-worth, as I painfully found out. It is difficult to confront this issue head-on, but know you have options.

Finding a way to highlight your unique skills and voicing your desires can lead to growth and appreciation in the workplace. Remember, feeling stuck isn’t forever – take action today so you don’t spend too much time looking back and wishing you had done something sooner.