In this extract from The Executive Secretary Guide to Building a Successful Career Strategy, Julia Schmidt explains why we all need a clear strategic plan for our careers

As Executive Assistants, we are daily juggling multiple roles, managing people, delivering under pressure, solving problems and allowing our executives to focus on the core business. Very often, due to all our daily work obligations, we do not allow ourselves time to see the big picture and ask ourselves how we can be strategic in getting what we want. Being strategic means taking the necessary steps to go further in our profession, to become better than we are today and to gain new victories.

I wanted to write a book to really help Assistants understand the need for purpose, ownership, collaboration, alignment, and execution to succeed in the workplace. All this is achievable by having a clear strategic plan to help you attain your goals and become a better version of yourself. I wanted to explore the theories about strategic planning and how they can help us apply the theory in building our career strategy. This book is all about building YOUR career strategy.

Business strategy is all about choices. You must have a clear choice of WHO you are going to serve, and a clear choice of HOW you are going to serve those clients. My view is that as Executive Assistants, we serve our managers and executives (our direct clients) and consequently all of the company’s external customers. In addition, we are serving ourselves. We give meaning to our careers and lives through work.

At the end of the day, if you do not think about a strategy that will guarantee you a place in the future of work, then your career will have no future. The skills needed in the labour market change quickly. Therefore, it is crucial that each one of us engages in lifelong learning to achieve fulfilling and rewarding careers. It is not merely about remaining employable but also about maximizing our employment opportunities. People say that life is short. The time to create a successful career is even shorter. Work and career are significant elements in life. Creating a life that matters encompasses a range of factors – physical, emotional, financial, social, career, community, environmental, creative, and even spiritual dimensions.

Who is this book for?

This book is for you, if you believe in the importance of planning your career together with your manager or executive. This book is about creating alliances that will minimize the gap between organization strategy and your career strategy. Experts in strategy planning know that one of the most critical tactics in building a culture of accountability around the most important strategic questions is to involve a larger part of the organization in a discussion on how the company is doing on strategy and execution.

So, my understanding is that every Executive Assistant should do the same regarding her or his professional development. Are all employees involved in the strategic planning? Yes! Is your team of executives involved in your career strategy planning? Yes, of course! We need to involve our executives and managers in the process of building our career strategy. By doing that we will create win-win situations. It is all about aligning the big picture with the employee’s day-to-day tasks, and effectively being able to connect individual work to the strategy of the organization. What we put in our work performance, every single day, is a result of what we have accumulated in terms of expertise, skills, and years of personal and professional experience.

This book is for you, if you want to become the CEO of your career, and simultaneously be a co-leader in helping your organization attain its strategic goals. You are part of the game and it is not a solo game. Are you a millennial? A Gallup report “How Millennials Want to Work and Live” reveals that millennial career happiness is down, while disengagement at work is climbing. So, make your involvement in the strategy planning a source of job satisfaction. As many as 71% of millennials are not engaged on the job and half of all employees plan on leaving within a year. “Millennials don’t just work for a paycheck – they want a purpose.” “Millennials are not pursuing job satisfaction – they are pursuing development.” Do you think that only millennials are seeking career development and job satisfaction? The answer is “No.” During the last few years, this “millennials’ way of being” has become a general rule for many professionals. Most “nonmillennials” are also driven by purpose and development. We are learning it from colleagues, friends and millennial leaders. In reality, we are all hungry for feedback, appraisals, and professional growth.

A call to action

I want this book to be a call to action. I want you to understand that you shall not let the bosses keep carrying the responsibility alone for our job disengagement. I want you to become the CEO of your career, to take creating opportunities for growth and learning, involving your managers in your career journey, and aligning your career strategy with your company’s strategy. This is what I have learned in the last fifteen years and will be sharing with you in the coming chapters.

It takes time to plan your career and you need to understand that you have to invest time in that process. Also, you must remember that planning needs consistency and active engagement. If you have big goals and great dreams, you have to find out how to accomplish them. This is what I want to offer you with this book: the opportunity to sit down, evaluate your needs, look at all alternatives, assess your skills set, re-discover your dreams, define your priorities, and start planning for the future of work. If you have the predictable things under control, you will be able to manage the disruptive ones with more confidence. I want you to go through several self-assessment exercises.

Use this book to discover and define what drives you professionally, find out if you are on the right path, expand your career goals, create your purpose and vision and provide yourself with appropriate challenges. Take a pen, some post-its and a small notebook that you can easily carry with you. Get inspired by the career development conversation you are going to have with yourself, and that will allow you to build a successful career strategy.

Before we start

I have some tips for you that will help you get the most out of this book:

  • Schedule time to read the book;
  • Take time to answer the questions;
  • Write down any ideas that may occur to you while reading;
  • Be open, direct and honest with yourself;
  • Share with others what you will be learning;
  • Value your strengths and acknowledge your weaknesses;
  • Be willing to step outside your comfort zone;
  • Create your own career strategy tool-kit;
  • Take the lead;
  • Hold yourself accountable for your career strategy;
  • Be ready for new win-win situations.

Building a successful career strategy

My model is based on five steps that are directly related to how business strategy planning is normally created and executed. The book is broken down into six chapters. The first chapter sets the stage to help us understand WHY strategic thinking is more relevant than ever. The second presents a guideline on how to define your purpose and make it the fuel that will release the energy you need to keep your strategy in motion. Chapters three to five explore the vital elements in any strategic planning – alignment, execution and how we can make success happen. The last chapter provides some inspirational quotes on strategy execution. They will keep us inspired on the way and remind us that commitment and high performance are the keys to success.

Let’s start our journey. Take a comfortable seat. Let me introduce you to the five steps to building a successful career strategy by combining personal and professional goals, and the six chapters that I hope will inspire you to build a better future for your life.

Career Strategy stages

Final Words

There aren’t any final words. The final words are the ones you will choose yourself and own. In fact, this is just the beginning ~ Julia Schmidt

The best day of your career journey is the one on which you decide that your professional career is your own, and that you can have as many people as you want in this journey with you. I hope you are going to do great things with everything you have read in this book.

Start your journey now! Your journey is determined by your choices.

Get on the road again, if you feel lost. It is never too late to become the CEO of your career. Remember that it is YOUR journey, decisions, actions, assessments and learning. All adversity will help you learn, find new solutions, take new paths, stop and use time to reflect and check your roadmap. It will not take a few days or years. The journey will not bring you from one place to another one, but many times to more than one place – also to unexpected places. Your career trip is your life road – it is a long distance and often in challenging circumstances. It is no ordinary trip. It is your unique life.

Owning your career journey is about identifying your performance criteria, understanding what to do to attain the expected outcomes and making the right decisions. I want you to know where you are going and to find the best roads to take you there, where you see your success.

I wish you a successful and sustainable career!

Julia Schmidt is an award-winning Executive Assistant with over 20 years of experience working in different industries. She is known for being a passionate advocate for people development and in helping others succeed and embrace their leadership skills. ... (Read More)

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