Look outside your role
All companies have projects that cut across lines of business, hierarchical levels and departments. Find out what they are and, 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 opportunities that will allow you to raise your profile. For example, one Assistant I know set up a ‘lunch and learn’ series 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 you have of joining strategic initiatives and stepping out of your day-to-day job.
You’re ultimately the best (and only) person to represent your 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 in 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 yet. Either way, you will proactively manage your career advancements and expectations.
What is falling through the cracks?
One of the best things an Assistant can do to 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 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 responsibilities, you’re going too far.
But 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?
There is undoubtedly a shortage gap around remote working and ensuring 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 critical 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 tasks that impress their Executives. You can download it here.