This article was originally published in Executive Secretary magazine and is reprinted here with permission.
An administrative assistant’s primary job is to support his or her executive in any way possible – whether it’s organizing a board meeting or making travel arrangements for a business trip. The nature of our job means our professional needs frequently take a backseat to those of the executives and teams we strive to help and make successful. While we’re an extremely dedicated and selfless bunch, there is one area in which you should always be the priority: your career.
When it comes to your career, you need to be the main priority. You need to innovate. You need to be the CEO.
Being proactive about advancing and strengthening your career is key to being professionally satisfied, confident, and successful. To demonstrate this point, I’m going to share a little bit about my own journey as an administrative professional.
When I got my first job out of college, I didn’t even know what a career was, really.
I moved from job to job, advancing from receptionist to secretary to administrative assistant to marketing coordinator. I was advancing up the job title ladder, but I didn’t have a plan. It was just a job, and things were happening to me instead of me proactively making them happen for me.
Then I was approached about an executive assistant position supporting the president of a national technology company that had just entered into bankruptcy. This job was the best and worst thing that had ever happened to me up to that point. I was working for the absolute best boss I’d ever had in the most toxic work environment ever. After nine months, I realized my executive wasn’t going to be there very long. So I started looking at my life and my job from a different perspective, and putting together a transition plan. I decided to transition from corporate life to working independently as a virtual assistant. At this point, I finally had a vision of what a career and career planning might look like for me. For the first time in my working life, I had a plan and I could see how I was going to get to the next level and beyond. It was one of the most empowering and energizing shifts in thinking ever! That was when I became the CEO of my career.
Taking control of your career isn’t something that will happen overnight, especially if you’ve let it slide for a while. However, I challenge you to do the same thing I did with your own career. How are you approaching your career right now? What do you need to change about your approach moving forward to be more happy, confident, and successful? What would it truly mean if you claimed the title of CEO of your own career? What would you do differently? By answering these questions honestly, you can take the first step in taking charge of your professional life.
Innovate Your Way to Success
Innovation is key to the success of any admin – and being the CEO of your career – but to achieve it, you have to continuously evolve, improve, and polish your professional experience, skills, and knowledge. You have to stay on top of your game and consistently engage in strategic activities that develop and advance how you think, work, and approach your career as a whole. Failing to do this will make any admin obsolete – and possibly unemployable.
So, how do you use innovation to advance and strengthen yourself professionally and get a grasp on your career? Think like the CEO of a company.
1. Consider yourself the product or service. Just as a CEO is responsible for the success of a company’s product or service, you are responsible for the success of your career. This is important to remember as you take the reins of your career.
2. Create a plan. Your professional plan is the roadmap for what you want to accomplish and how you’ll go about achieving it. Are you aiming for a higher salary, increased responsibility, or bigger role within your current company? Or do you have your eye on a dream job? Regardless of where you’re aiming, you need to map out your plan for getting there.
3. Lead, don’t follow. Stop simply managing your career and lead it instead. This means you have to be proactive about marketing yourself during performance reviews, online, and to your colleagues. Use tools such as a professional portfolio, blog, and even social media sites to promote yourself professionally, demonstrate your skills and experience, and network with others inside and outside your industry and field. Innovators implement, and you must be able to lead yourself if you want to advance your career.
4. Find support. Just as an executive relies on the support of an admin and his or her executive team, you need support in your professional life. Establish an advisory board of trusted and respected colleagues, mentors, and other professionals who you can depend on for support and honest advice and feedback. Then when you have a challenging professional dilemma, decision, or situation, reach out to your board for help.
Develop Your Personal Brand
You probably wouldn’t buy a product that was poorly packaged and marketed. Likewise, an employer isn’t going to be interested in someone with lackluster professional appeal. Your personal brand needs to fit your title as CEO of your career. This doesn’t mean you need to wear a formal business suit every day. However, your professional wardrobe is part of your brand. Thus, it means you need to package yourself in a dynamic, informative, and consistent way.
So what exactly makes up a personal brand? Here’s a short list:
- Professional portfolio. Creating a professional portfolio is a great way to develop your brand and showcase your professional talents, abilities, and experience to current and prospective employers. Think of it as a look book or catalog of your brand.
- Personal appearance. As I mentioned earlier, how you look – including your attire, makeup, hairstyle, and accessories – is a reflection of your brand. This is why it’s important to carefully consider what you wear to work, an interview, or in any professional setting. Like it or not, people base their opinions of you on how you look, and if you look messy or unorganized, they’ll think you are professionally, too.
- Online presence. Any type of digital presence – such as a website, blog, or social media profile – you create is a piece of your personal brand. Keep this in mind, especially when posting to social media, as anything and everything you make public online is a reflection of who you are – regardless of whether the subject matter is personal or professional.
When someone hears your name, what do you want him or her to think? What’s the first thing that will come to their mind? Developing your personal brand will allow you to differentiate yourself from other admins, demonstrate your commitment to your profession, increase credibility, and bolster respect. Remember this: If you don’t proactively brand yourself, others will do it for you. That’s a gamble you cannot afford to take.
When you choose to be the CEO of your career, you’ll find more success and job satisfaction in your work, and be poised and prepared for opportunities that come your way. It will take work, commitment, and time. However, the process is a worthwhile one for admins who want to achieve their professional goals, remain relevant to their industry and employer, and improve their skills. Remember, you are the CEO when it comes to your career, and nobody can make it successful but you!
© 2014 Julie Perrine International, LLC
Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity. And request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at www.AllThingsAdmin.com.
This article first appeared in Executive Secretary Magazine, a global training publication and must read for any administrative professional. You can get a 30% discount when you subscribe through us. Visit the website at www.executivesecretary.com to find out more or to get your 30% discount email firstname.lastname@example.org and tell them we sent you.