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Administrative Assistants Broaden Your Skillset

At our recent Annual Conference for Administrative Excellence, I surveyed 350 attendees about the topics they would like me to address at future conferences or training events. I wanted to know the areas the assistants were interested in growing and learning about.

We had each attendee write their idea or ideas on an index card; we collected the cards; and I read every single card, some of which had more than one topic listed. From the index cards, I created a chart.

What surprised me after looking at the list was that many of the requests had to do with the typical administrative skills or tasks such as: managing multiple managers, dealing with difficult people, managing stress, calendar management, and troubleshooting. I hardly saw requests for advanced competencies or areas of interest.

As we get to the end of this year and are on the cusp of a new decade, I want you to seriously give thought to your career. Make some time for you! Assistants are great at taking care of everyone else and not making time for themselves. While this is admirable, it’s not cool! If you want to be viewed as a strategic partner and considered an extension of the management team, you need to make time to look at your own development.

Here is my advice in step order.

  1. Over the next few months, make time to consider where you need to grow in 2020. Break it into two main areas:
    1. Soft skills
    2. Hard skills (be specific)

When it comes to figuring out your soft skills, enlarge your vision; don’t just look at the tasks such as meeting planning or calendaring. For example, what are the skills you need to be excellent at meeting planning?

  • Excellent communication skills
  • See the big picture
  • Attention to detail
  • Analytical skills
  • Critical thinking
  • Persuasion
  • Problem solving
  • The ability to execute

These will give you a clue as to the skills you need to develop.

  1. What is your learning preference? Do you prefer live classes or online? Think about how you learn BEST not necessarily what is easy and convenient. I surveyed our administrative conference attendees about their preference, and I was pleasantly surprised to see live classroom training still far outweighed live webinar, online courses, and blogs/articles. Personally, I prefer live classes or conferences over online.
  1. Take into consideration your budget. However, there are exceptions. Your organization may not have a budget for your training but that does not mean you can’t take training. Learn to invest in yourself. It is the best investment you will ever make.
  1. Research learning opportunities. When I started Office Dynamics 30 years ago, there was not one training company solely devoted to administrative and secretarial training. Today, there are hundreds of options for assistants to learn and grow.

At Office Dynamics, we offer A – Z when it comes to programs, courses, materials, and events. We have learning tools that accommodate every budget. Find what is right for you.

Word of Caution: While there are hundreds of choices for administrative assistants today, do your homework. Everyone out there does not know what to teach assistants. Some have never even been an assistant. Be a good researcher and get accurate information. Also, ask for referrals.

  1. Write a plan. This is the hard part and most people (of all walks of life) don’t want to take the time to write a plan. Yes, this is the most difficult part. However, once your plan is in place, it is easy. You can break down your plan to quarterly or monthly if that makes it easier.
  1. Find an accountability partner. An accountability partner is someone who will tell you what you need to hear and nudge you when you get complacent.
  1. Execute! Don’t make excuses. We all are busy and can easily say, “I’m too busy. I don’t have time for this.” Or a popular one for assistants is, “I can’t leave my desk. My executive just won’t function without me.” Believe me, they will be fine, and, in fact, they will appreciate you even more.

Make a commitment now to yourself. You deserve it!

Joan Burge

P.S. Some of the requests I saw from the survey that I liked were career pathing, diversity/inclusion, garnering respect, A. I., leading admin groups, and marketing yourself.

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