Here at Executive Secretary, we are gearing up for a year that could change the world for Assistants.

Did you know that 2014 is the International Year of the Secretary and that we have just been appointed as Global Brand Ambassador for this extraordinary event? It’s 30 years since the last one and it couldn’t have come at a better time for Administrative Professionals.

Associations from all over the world will be using 2014 as an opportunity to voice what we all already know; that the role has changed totally in the last five years.

With the onset of the recession and the redundancies of thousands of middle management, Assistants suddenly found themselves taking on many of the roles previously carried out by the Middle Managers for no more money and often with no training – PR, Marketing, Accounting, Events Management, Knowledge Management and, scariest of all, HR.

It was only ever meant to be a temporary arrangement but there is nothing more permanent than temporary and, five years later, the majority of Assistants are still juggling at least one additional role alongside their original job and still haven’t had a pay rise, proper training or a change of job description.

Why is a job description that recognises what you actually do so important? Because otherwise you are not being measured properly against what you actually do, so in an annual appraisal situation you will never get the pay rise or the recognition that you deserve. And, equally, the skills gaps will never be brought to the fore, because it will not be clear exactly what it is that you do and therefore where you need help.

The truth is that Assistants are no longer a stereotypical subservient support network. More often than not they are responsible for several key areas of the business as well as a strategic business partner to their manager – admittedly with different skill sets to their Executive but those skill sets are no less valid.

Belbin, a psychometric testing system, looks at how team members work best together. It concludes that each team works best with eight different types of person in it. Indeed, some companies take Belbin so seriously that when hiring a replacement, they will only hire someone that matches the eighth of the team that is missing.

Most Executives sit either in the “Shaper” or the “Plant” categories. Shapers tend to be either entrepreneurial and great leaders, but couldn’t finish anything if their lives depended on it, or arrogant with few communication skills.

Assistants on the other hand tend to sit either in the “Teamworker” or “Completer Finisher” categories. In other words, you complement the skill sets of your Executive totally and neither one of you could operate without the other.

The International Year of the Secretary is a great opportunity to shout about what you actually do and to change the perception of the role not only in your own company but across the world. It is a very short window of time in which we can all do our bit to fight for a better understanding and recognition of Assistants as professional business people – not just a support mechanism.

There is a role to play whether you just want to take and share details with your company, or attend one of our events (our Executive Secretary LIVE event this year will come under the banner of International Year of the Secretary) or if you wanted to put your organisation forward as an ambassador in your country. If you would like to get involved, please email me and we’ll get details right out to you.

In addition, I am happy to come and speak at or Chair events anywhere in the world for the next 12 months for no fee, as long as my travel and accommodation is paid for. In 2013, I have had the honour of visiting 21 different countries. I hope to beat this in 2014 in my quest to spread the word. Just email my Assistant Matthew at if you have an event that you would like me to attend.

I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible in the next year.


Lucy Brazier, OBE is one of the world’s leading authorities on the administrative profession. Author of ‘The Modern-Day Assistant: Build Your Influence and Boost Your Potential’, she is the CEO of Marcham Publishing, a global force synonymous with world- ... (Read More)

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