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7 Must-Do Actions to be Successful in Your Career as an Administrative Assistant

So you already have achieved great success in your career and are a pretty savvy assistant. So what’s next for you within your career? Well here are 7 must-do actions of success-minded assistants. See which ones resonate with you; which ones you can do more often and with more consistency.

  1. See yourself in a new light, starting today! What are your secret dreams and visions for who you want to be or where you want to be a better person at work? Do you wish you were more confident? More assertive? A better communicator? Better managing conflict? Picture yourself already having and emulating those qualities. The mind is attracted to what you put in front of you.
  2. Remember, perception is a powerful thing – and you can alter yours at any time. Administrative Professionals Week and April is the perfect time to think about your career as an administrative assistant, executive assistant, and secretary. Typically our perceptions are our reality. So do you really see yourself as a strategic business partner? I mean 100% belief. Your actions will let you know if you do or not. One great example is an assistant requesting a daily meeting with his or her executive to review the upcoming day’s top priorities and more. Whether these morning meetings take place in person or over the phone they are vital to the executives and assistants team success.
  3. Have the courage to update old, unproductive habits. This applies to all generations, not just the seasoned assistants, especially the part about unproductive. I personally coach assistants one-on-one where I sit at their desk for 2 days and observe their work behaviors. Yes, this can be daunting for the assistant. However, my goal is to help them eliminate habits that aren’t serving them well and introduce new processes, procedure and protocol that will help them be more successful.
  4. Look for change – and avoid fearing it. Change is in hyper mode this year. I’m not sure what is in the air, but assistants everywhere are going through some type of change whether it is losing a job, moving to a new job, promotion or change in their personal life. Don’t wait for change to happen to you. Learn to be a catalyst for change in your organization and it will catapult your reputation.
  5. Improve work systems and work-flow. Avoid accepting “what is.” Your brain will not look for new answers as long as you accept what is. As you approach your day and throughout your day ask yourself questions like, “How can I streamline this process? How can I make this simpler? Do it faster?”
  6. Strive for excellence versus mediocrity. Anyone can have mediocre performance. It is a small group of individuals who strive to be extraordinary. Think about how you can take an extra step or go the extra mile. How can you deliver over-the-top customer service to your internal and external customers?
  7. Dare to cross boundaries! Let nothing hold you back from success. Yes, that is scary and can be dangerous. But you will never know what you are truly capable of if you don’t step out, take a chance, or do something that scares you.

This blog is part of our 2017 Blog-A-Thon. Please leave a comment or share the blog for your chance to win one of our amazing giveaways! The more blogs you comment on and share, the more chances you have to win. If you’d like to learn more about our Blog-A-Thon you can do so here. Hint: Subscribe to our blog in the upper right-hand corner so you never miss a blog.

Joan Burge

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65 thoughts on “7 Must-Do Actions to be Successful in Your Career as an Administrative Assistant”

  1. It is very true that any impression we make or perception others develop of us begins with how we view ourselves. I know that I am my own worst critic at all times, however, I am trying to be my own loudest cheerleader just as often! There have been times that I have made adjustments in my own habits or processes to make something easier for me and someone else has noticed and adopted the procedure for their own purposes too. That is a really nice feeling.

  2. Number 5 has me thinking. I have always thought if it’s not broke don’t fix it. This encourages me to consider that if it’s not broke, maybe it can be improved.

  3. I love all the whole list! I really take #4 about change and try hard to overcome “fear” towards any change. Once I identify the reason(s) for the “fear(s)” as Joan describes in her book and list what is the worst that can happen – the reason(s) becomes a challenge with opportunity to succeed rather than an emotion. All good advice to help you Look For Change!

  4. These are all good points. I am currently focusing on the first one. It is hard for me but I’m getting better.
    Thank you for the info.

  5. I have posted this article in my work area wall just left of monitor, this way as I am looking at my monitor – I can see it. This way I can remember to practice these behaviors each day. Thank you Joan.

  6. “Remember, perception is a powerful thing – and you can alter yours at any time.” YES! It is a choice how to look at things and choosing a positive outlook really does make for a better environment.

  7. Great post. I like the idea of doing something that scares me. Also, if I visualize myself speaking clearly and confidently, I usually do. It’s basically mind over matter. We can achieve anything we set our minds to.

  8. Thanks for such ‘meaty’ topics, Joan! No fluff here, this is the real deal—and so am I. Thanks for the reminder / nudge / validation for continuous improvement!

  9. My favorite line was, “Your brain will not look for new answers as long as you accept what is.” Wow – I’ve never thought of that.

  10. “courage to update old, unproductive habits” – It is so easy to just go with the flow. We end up in a rut with nothing new or exciting to drive us to better engagement. We tend to shy away from change but improvement on existing isn’t change, it’s just better. I need to step back and see what can be improved upon, then approach it with a renewed excitement.

  11. These are great tips to follow, and re-confirm that administrative work is always on-going. I can appreciate that there is always something that can be done, and always room to improve.

  12. Paula Lohrman

    Numbers 1 and 2 hit home with me today. This job literally fell into my lap and I am blessed to be here. I realize now that I am the perfect person for this job, and I have skills and strengths that a few short months ago I didn’t even know I had. I CAN DO THIS! Thanks for the reminder!

  13. Sharon Chaplain

    Since I’ve been moving from company to company the past few years, I’ve found that many “old timers” (those who’ve been in the same position or same company for 10 plus years) are very reluctant to try anything new or change outdated/non-productive practices. If people look at it in the mindset that things must change in order for the world to get better and for people to grow and learn, maybe it would be easier to adapt. Whenever I’m resistant to change, I remind myself of the past-do I really wish things hadn’t changed? Haven’t things gotten better since we’ve implemented/automated this? The answer is usually yes.

  14. Excellent blog today! Have always practiced numbers 2 through 7, but need to work on number 1; secret dreams and visions. I am very task-oriented so being introspective is something I can improve. Thank you, Joan!

  15. I’ve been practicing…not practicing, actually doing the majority of the points listed. However, since reading this I realize I’ve become stagnant and need to change things up again. Charge!

  16. When you think Joan Burge can’t get any better in the Guru business, she does it again! With more accurate and beneficial advise for all of us Administrative Professionals. Nothing but gratitude to have you as a leader in our industry!

  17. Sharon Scrivner

    All seven are right on target for me! I need to work on each and every one. Thank you for my next deep dive thinking topics.

  18. Kymberly Brown

    I love the Posts by Joan and really enjoy reading the Posts from the Admins! #2 REALLY hit home for me if I need to move my career to the next level (2017 Goal). It was like Joan was speaking directly to me, “So do you really see yourself as a strategic business partner?” I do, but I haven’t broken that barrier yet with my new managers of nine months. I have added “Huddle meeting” to my calendar to remind me to at least touch base with them first thing in the day. We do have weekly 1:1’s but this will be good for me and for them!

  19. This post could not have arrived at a better time. I appreciate the positivity and the great ideas. Thank you for your continued support and encouragement to Admins everywhere!

  20. I am a cross between and admin and an accounting person. I don’t completely fit into one or the other but love the ideas that come from the blogs.

  21. Thanks, Joan. You are spot on, as always. All of these actions resonate with me, because I like to look for ways to break the routine nature of what I do by asking “what else?” or “what next?”. It keeps the job fresh and relevant. My company recently announced changes to our senior executive structure and two of our SVPs will be leaving the company soon. The admins to those executives are now in limbo, so I think sharing this blog with them might help them to focus on preparing for their own “what’s next?”.

  22. Thank you for the ‘continuous improvement’ prompts — 39 years and counting in this profession!

  23. These are some great ideas. I am always looking for ways to streamline my work load. I am working right now on creating a procedures manual for some of the different tasks that I do. Some projects are annual or biannual, so it is easy to forget what needs to be done; a procedures manual would certainly help with that.
    Thank you for all the great blogs. I enjoy reading them.

  24. Like the concept of #1. And, #3 has me thinking. I can already see some changes that should be made!! The others are part of my daily routine/thought process.

  25. Alexandra McCoy

    I use to be afraid of change, but now I welcome change. Change opens my mind to new things and new ways of doing things.
    Excellence – wow what a word. We all should be striving to operate in excellence everyday and in everything we do! After all we make our bosses look GOOD!

  26. Great article Joan. My morning didn’t start off to well but reading the first line in the first point your article made it a bit brighter. “See yourself in a new light, starting today!” I thank you for that.

  27. I really like this post. Attitude/perception can make all the difference. Thanks for the reminder. There are many things we do at work just because it has always been done that way, but I need to improve systems to make it simpler.

  28. Good Morning and a HAPPY Wednesday to ALL.
    Yeah Joan!!!
    Let’s look fear in the eye and run it over, this is our time, this is our year.
    Thank you for the inspiration Joan, may you continue to be blessed with good health and a happy life.
    History will be made 🙂
    Have a great day filled with success.

  29. Thanks for posting these. The first one really hit home for me. This has given me the encouragement to articulate the who I want to be.

  30. Debra Forster

    These are great reminders for us “seasoned” Assistants. Even though I’ve been in this field for over 30 years (and still love it!), this year I am really focusing on points number 3 and 5. I no longer accept the phrase “that is how it’s always been done”. That process may have been great at the time, but we should always look for improvements.

  31. I use to fear change, but as I get older, it truly is fun. The fear of the unknown plays a big factor in not wanting the change. I now look forward to change as it is a new learning experience to improve myself and help others around to accept what is going on in today’s workplaces. If you do not change, you do not grow. You are left behind and that advancement you may have wanted has been given to someone else, because you would not change.
    Thank you so much for these words. It is time to wake up and embrace today.

  32. I LOVE this posting, but # 2 hits home for me. We always need to put our best face forward, as we never really know who’s in the vicinity during our interactions with others! Perception is somebody else’s reality!

  33. I have been working to brand myself this year by truly thinking about my image and how I would like to be seen. This is causing me to look at myself and my role in a whole new light! I’m excited to see what the future holds!

    1. Kymberly Brown

      Beth,
      Just a comment, I changed my brand this past year by just updating my appearance. Most people dress pretty casually where I work (high Tech company). I started by losing 12 lbs, and updating my wardrobe little by little, plus I was able to wear “new” clothes I hadn’t worn in a while. Updating my clothes, and yes, I hit the Goodwill, made a difference. I have had many women comment about my appearance but more importantly the statement I have made I see in some of the women and the way they have updated “their” appearance! I always feel more respected by being thoughtful about how I appear. Quoting from someone above…Perception is somebody else’s reality!

  34. These actions are spot on. My company is going through changes right now and will be keeping the “best of the best” assistants. Those who do most/all of these actions will definitely stand out above the rest. I plan to be in that group 🙂 Thanks for sharing this!

  35. Rhonda M. Strong

    Love this! Our true success (or failure) is in our own hands. In today’s working environment, we MUST stay on top of the rapid changing technology and continually look for ways to do things better, cheaper, and more efficient than ever before. Never has the work environment seen so much change as it is seeing in 2017! We can’t afford to miss a beat!

    To our success!

  36. This post has come at a good time. I often have a hard time seeing my AA position as a “career,” but since I’ve been in the field for more than 15 years, I guess it really has become my career (!) and that I should learn to take it more seriously. I do look for ways to improve myself and skills and have often wondered if a certification would be worth it, but I’m not sure if it will make any difference to a new/potential employer, esp when there are less-experienced AAs who are still capable but who will work for less money. Do employers really value 10+ years of AA experience? Regarding change, our organization is undergoing a restructuring and subsequent layoff, which can be frightening, but I’m hoping the end result will be satisfying. Regarding improving work processes and striving for excellence, shouldn’t that be the norm and expectation? Why settle for mediocrity? I often look for ways to streamline processes and take things to the next level. It always makes more work for me, but in the end, the process becomes easier. Thanks again for the tips. Please keep them coming!

  37. Great tips! I’m looking to make a change by taking the CAP exam in the fall. I’m hoping it helps others see me as more focused on my career.

  38. This is so refreshing and great reminder to take that deep-dive look at ourselves. Change is also scary but we have to move forward and embrace it! If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got! If you are happy with that thought process and where you are at, then you can expect nothing more, but in order to grow ourselves, change is a necessity and shouldn’t be viewed as a scary thing, I see it as an exciting new adventure full of surprises and lessons to learn!

  39. It is so important not to get complacent. Complacency can lead to disengagement which is not good for you or your company. Keep moving forward, keep improving and keep engaging – even if those around you are just putting in their 8 eight hours. Being proactive and open-minded keeps the job interesting and others on their toes.

  40. Great advice Joan. I plan to put several of these items into place, including offering up not just one solution, but two for challenges that come up. By doing so,even if the number one solution is not approved, the second one with more compromise could be accepted.
    I also plan to become more assertive in meetings going forward. I have become a shrinking violet for the last few moths due to extreme conflict within the office meetings, but my executive believes my voice is important and has encouraged me to speak up, even if the comments are met with some resistance during the tumultuous meetings; she will have my back.

  41. Improve work systems and work flow. Our company has doubled in sales volume and work projects in the past 18 months, and while that is great for the bottom line, it has increased my work load to three times what it was! I have been operating in rush-mode for quite some time, so improving how things are done and streamlining procedures is something I need to do.

  42. Excellent list. #5 is important to do with new technology coming out all the time to help save us time. Thanks, Joan.

  43. I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural Learning At Sea conference a couple of weeks ago and we discussed a few of the must-do actions in our training sessions. There are several of these that resonate with me and will hopefully move my career to the next level.

  44. Barbara Corley

    This post fires me up! I recently saw a quote that says “You did not wake up to be mediocre”. I’m working to make that my mantra for 2017 and focusing on how I can do things better and work smarter, not harder.
    I’ve been following Office Dynamics for about 2 years and I finally see myself as having a career and not just “a job”.
    Thank you for re-igniting the fire in my belly!

  45. Renee O'Gorman

    I love this blog! I am practicing a lot of these behaviors already and the one that resonated the most to be was accepting change & not being afraid of change. Change is all around us & we need to embrace it & face the challenges with an open-mind. That is how we grow & become even more proficient in our role as Super Admins!

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