SiSii De Winter is an Executive Assistant at STH Group and writes to develop the perception of the assistant.
According to Glassdoor, the position of the Personal and Executive Assistant is now considered one of the top 20 professions in the UK today. Traditionally support professionals are viewed as administrators, whose work is built on reactive tasks.
Yet when assistants are applying for positions, executives are seeking ambitious individuals, with a growth mind-set, fuelled with emotional intelligence, with stead-fast and diplomatic communication styles. It seems that the role of the business support professional has evolved to become an integral part of the machine, having left-behind the days of the glorified photocopying, typing, tea makers.
Historically, assistants are reactive and are pivotal in the role through aiding the day-to-day functions of an executive. With their adept approach to ongoing within the office, assistants have developed their position to a strategic role, that is proactive to the needs of the office.
This developed job description of the assistant is one I know many others in the industry share, however, the profession hasn’t quite overhauled its original perception. Many assistants are still often being asked ‘what they intend to do next’. We now have the ability to utilise demonstrable skill sets to prove longevity in the role of the assistant. Just as Marketing, Sales, Finance teams etc have durability, evolution, and change, so does that of a business assistant.
A simple place to introduce this approach is to reflect on the current “reactive” tasks that assistants undertake and consider whether there is the capability to build in proactive behaviour. Below are some personal examples of traditional duties that can be developed:
Rather than simply just collating Board and meeting papers, learn to copy-write or contribute to them. Consider and propose agendas in advance for ease and efficiency of your executive. This rewards others with time and grows your knowledge and skill-set.
So much of an assistant’s position is built around adding value to the overall company and business functions. Does your executive have time to consider internal development? Research, encourage and deliver change initiatives such as improved internal communications, employee engagement ideas or CSR opportunities. Many executives are not able to give time to non-revenue creativity.
Event management shouldn’t be limited to bookings and guest list. Take on the budgeting and pre-event briefing, contribute to the innovation and delivery of the event which you do as a representation of those you support.
As assistants we are in the unique position to have the ability and aptitude to contribute across a business. It is down to us independently to emphasise and pursue this – attend meetings, do research and be creative – consider what your executive or team members may not have time to execute and take it on. Consider the capability and impact potential of a CEO.
It is not limited or given an end point in creative influence and delivery of a business. As such, I believe those who support them - closely – i.e. us, cannot be considered to have one either. It is up to support professionals to influence the perception of the assistant role.
It’s a position that requires insight, understanding and subsequently influence of leadership styles and behaviours, subsequently developing an ‘upward management’ technique.
Support professionals have the ability to exercise and deliver our own strategic thinking, ultimately maximising our professional contribution. Each individual attribute enhances the support professional’s ability to create their own independent professional influence within the work place.
We are living in a fast-developing era where there are constant new professional innovations; it is time to ask whether the executive has time to review culture and reputation enhancing initiatives, and how the assistant can help with a hands on approach..
How can the assistant, as a company affiliate, ensure the professional environment is suitably driven and innovative? It is the assistants prerogative to develop skills that technology simply cannot overtake. I have always had a strong belief in the progressive potential of this role and had the good fortune to work alongside executives and teams - past and present - that have granted me the scope to grow it.
There are numerous groups, courses and conferences available to assistants to grasp the tools and insight to shape our own role and have independent influence within whatever industry and executive we have aligned with – however the drive must come from us.
We are ambassadors and should not just ‘join the dots’, but create them.