Without support, a table is a floor. Though easy enough to conceptualize, it is potentially one of the most trying metaphors to truly believe as an administrative professional and for an organization to acknowledge. Days of calendar management and event coordination tend to take a considerable toll on the administrative professional who yearns to become something greater but feels overlooked. I, however, have a thought to offer: the perceived value and opportunity for growth in your position can be changed today, starting with you.
The Backbone of Organizational Success
Administrative professionals can be one of the most important pieces in a company’s puzzle, with the potential to provide stability to every facet of an organization. Many times, they are the member of the team who connect with clients and customers first, offering an initial impression, which is crucial to success. They are often required to work in tandem with multiple departments throughout their career and can boast extensive knowledge of colleagues, customers, and the inner workings of a company that others may fail to consider. Why is an executive on edge today? What is the name of a client’s newborn? Does the marketing department respond best to email or voicemail? I bet the administrative assistant knows. Becoming the critical underpinning of your team involves a mindset adjustment by both you and your organization, which you can play an integral role in shifting.
Viewing yourself as a leg to a larger table does not always afford you much grandeur or excitement. In fact, it can often feel like all the action is happening above the table and you are stuck holding everything up underneath. Some days, it may seem as though you are the only segment of the table putting in effort, and even in those moments, your accomplishments appear menial. Feeling undervalued, you may wonder if your responsibilities fall into categories of least priority or question their usefulness in your journey. The myriad of tasks that some feel offer no fundamental value, I have found to present impactful opportunities. Seemingly mundane responsibilities can be the finest teachers of patience, humility, and detail-gathering, which ultimately help guide you through years of supporting others and career growth. During my 13 years as a support person, I have learned that the administrative professional’s success hinges most highly on attitude and mindset. If you accept a task believing that it is insignificant, this energy will persist during the task, reflect in the attention and detail you apply, and in the end, rear its ugly head as you present the final, usually half-hearted, product.
A Great Administrative Professional Supports
If you choose to view each task as a challenge, your results begin to change. In my earliest days as an Executive Assistant, I was occasionally tasked with picking up coffee for the team. I always made certain all orders were written down so that at a subsequent time, I would be steps ahead. I introduced myself to the baristas, widening my circle of connections in my community, and delivered the coffee back to the office on time, every order correct and still piping hot. I truly found a way to care about the work I was doing, supporting teammates and clients alike, knowing I gave my best each day. I carried this mindset with me while conquering various endeavors such as conference planning, recruiting, and leading development. Over time, this work ethic granted me trust and respect amongst my peers and eventually led me to the position I hold today. I continue to learn and support my team, looking back fondly now on those coffee runs. Whether you are procuring coffee for a meeting or conducting it yourself, a great way to construct an advanced state of mind is by first focusing on the support aspect of your role.
A good assistant assists; a great assistant supports. What, then, is the difference between assisting and supporting? When you offer assistance, you are offering help. Sometimes, this is seen by absorbing a task for an overwhelmed colleague. Other times, it is maintaining a calendar for another professional or simply making copies for a presentation. Though these are necessary responsibilities that should not be taken lightly, to conclude your efforts here would be ill-advised. Working to add support, not just assistance, to your repertoire of skills will set you apart in the profession. The administrative professionals who understand their vital role as support people often bring more to the table than others could ever dream of. Supporting is assisting with the intention of promoting growth either for an individual or an organization. Supporting can be teaching, stabilizing, or producing above-and-beyond results. It can be practiced by spending additional time on a call with a customer to grasp their situation or by illustrating clear and concise ideas that you feel will bring additional insight to a project. Imagine your department is tasked with learning a new CRM system that you have previous experience with. You can choose to highlight this knowledge and offer support in the form of explanation and guidance.
There is a meaningful relationship between aiding in someone else’s growth and the growth you will see in yourself during this exchange. Advancement in the administrative profession can vary widely, with examples such as acquiring more responsibility, being given additional autonomy, or taking on a new venture entirely. Some of the most influential mentors are those who begin their careers as Executive Assistants and retire at the same desk. For these professionals, it is less about how tall your table is and more about what you bring to it every day. Consistency of communication, years of company knowledge, and rapport with colleagues and customers are all attributes that an organization would be remiss to take for granted. There is no end to the amount of support a skilled and passionate administrative professional can provide, making growth in this field always possible, whether presented by new opportunities or honing your skills in your current role.
How Administrative Support Drives Efficiency
Adopting the mindset that you are supporting, not just assisting, those around you can change not only the way you view yourself but also the way others view you and your role. How can you teach an individual a new skill that enhances their value to your organization? How can you obtain details of a client or customer that ultimately provide them with a better experience? How can you deliver results that will boost your company’s credibility in the future? Becoming a go-to person for knowledge and encouragement will earn you trust and respect, leading to countless opportunities for growth. By obtaining this trust, you also provide evidence to substantiate the idea that administrative professionals are a key component of a company’s success. Without the skillset and support you offer, a multitude of gaps can be created that are exceedingly laborious, if not impossible, to fill. These cavities often cause instability and confusion amidst an otherwise competent operation. Recognizing the worth of your role as a support person can lead to organizations and individuals further acknowledging the impact administrative professionals have on a company’s energy, growth, client base, and reputation.
Regardless of title, pay, or position, supporting those around you will always be necessary for true success in your ever-evolving career as an administrative professional. Applying your supportive nature and skill, all while fervently believing you are an asset to your organization can send you across the landscape of your profession toward the horizon of success. You will become invaluable to your colleagues and connections and, in doing so, help lift the floor high enough to become a table we can all proudly gather and grow at together.