Four Questions and Answers About Being More Successful as an Administrative Professional
By Karen Porter
Question: What do the best administrative professionals have in common?
Answer: Continuous learning. The best administrative professionals never stop learning and implementing what they learn as appropriate. They are humble enough to realize they don’t know it all and never will in any of our short lifetimes. They also realize they’re dealing with ever-changing external factors such as workplace environments and needs, up and down economies, and people of differing personalities and motivations whom they must work with to achieve mutually desirable results but whom they can’t control (perhaps affect or manage at times, but never control or predict).
By continuous learning of new soft skills and hard skills and refreshing older ones, these administrative professionals stay dynamic and successful in a world of change. In fact, some of the best assistants I’ve met — ones who have been on the job 20 to 30 years (or more) are often the first ones to jump up and tell me they are always open-minded to learning more and are pretty sure there are better ways to perform their job duties and manage parts of their careers or tasks and assignments that even they haven’t discovered yet.
Question: Do you need to be an extrovert in personality to achieve on the job and career success as an administrative professional (versus an introvert)?
Answer: No. Those are both irrelevant labels when it comes to achieving success as an administrative professional. If you’re labeling yourself, you’re thinking in a small-minded way. Think bigger to achieve all you want in your job, career, and life.
You simply need to know how to be most effective in your job, what results you want in your job and/or career, and the correct ways to self-promote yourself in your career or at work on the job. It’s about know-how and implementation personalized to you, not whether you’re prone to talking aloud a lot or not or enjoy being the center of attention (which isn’t the definition of extrovert but basically what some admins are suggesting when asking if I’m quiet versus visibly outgoing can I still be successful in my job and career) .
It’s about working with what you have and who you are to reach your potential and the results you want. Learn techniques and strategies that work for the authentic you. No one common path exists for every executive assistant, administrative assistant, or secretary; but there is a path for each individual administrative professional to achieve his or her own definition of job satisfaction and success.
Question: Can I be successful as an administrative professional by just working hard at my desk (nose to the grindstone as the old adage goes)?
Answer: Anything is possible. It depends on what results you’re looking for on the job and in your career. And how do you define successful? Plus the path to success can vary from work culture/workplace to work culture/workplace. For instance, if your whole company or office only has two people (i.e. you and your manager), then things may be different for you versus someone in a more populated work environment. Lots of factors come into play in achieving success.
But overall I’d say the answer is no. Rather than just work hard, you need to work on what matters. I reiterate that point throughout my learning materials for administrative professionals now and again because there is a big difference in being busy versus working on what matters (on the job or in your career management).
Additionally, if you’re looking for anything like advancement or salary increases, you need to be visible in the right ways.
To summarize and simplify this, I’ll just say that “invisible administrative professionals working on things that don’t matter won’t achieve success to their satisfaction.” So you need to be the opposite of that statement if you want outstanding results and satisfaction in your administrative career.
Question: Can I be a successful administrative professional by learning as I go on the job?
Answer: In order to keep learning new skills, refreshing old skills, and bringing in a sense creativity to your job and career management, you need to proactively reach out and tap into outside knowledge resources. Otherwise you’re working and learning in an insulated environment — nothing new in equates to nothing new out. It’s stagnation. (Some would even call it working with a closed-mind.)
Successful administrative professionals strive to be dynamic in their actions and thoughts. They seek out new sources of skills training and professional development and actively and willingly invest time and money strategically in their job and career development. This is instead of trying to prove that they can learn just what they need on the job when it’s needed or through free resources only. These admins are one step ahead of the “average” administrative professional or one who is reactive and waits for things to come to or happen to them. It’s a long wait for the “average” admin while the successful administrative professional consciously participates in and progresses in his or her job performance and career.