Stereotypes of the profession still exist says Claire Lister; so how can we encourage the next generation?

In a recent survey undertaken by Pitman Training, British school leavers and young people were asked about their career aspirations and dreams.

Here are some of the findings for 16-24 year olds:-

  1. What interests do you feel passionate about but you don’t feel you’d be able to pursue as a career?

Music                                       49%

Fashion                                   35%

Technology                             25%

Sport                                       21%

Working with celebrities          14%

  1. Why?

The Top 5 barriers to pursing interests

  1. Don’t have the necessary qualifications (49%)
  2. Wouldn’t know where to start (46%)
  3. Don’t have the confidence (37%)
  4. Fear of failure (35%)
  5. Have no one to guide them in that path (30%)
  6. Stereotypes get in the way…
  • Almost 3 in 5 (58%) young British people (aged 16-24) believe that working in administration or accounts is boring and old-fashioned and 59% of 35-44-year-olds agreed
  • Almost 4 in 5 (79%) young British people (aged 16-24) agree that working in retail is an easy step into employment
  • Over 90% of 16-24-year-olds did not feel able to pursue a career in interests they are passionate about.

These young people fear failure and not having the right qualifications, and feel there is not enough support to help guide them down their dream career path. The good news is that they feel with the right support they could achieve their career goals. The worrying news is that many seem stuck in their approach and dismiss administration or accounting roles as ‘old fashioned’ and ‘boring’ whilst, as we know, these jobs can in fact be the perfect way into any industry. Interestingly 35-44 year olds actually scored higher on the stereotype question, highlighting that it isn’t just young people entering the job market that feel this way.

As an EA I know you’ll disagree with the stereotype revealed, but I would like you to ask yourselves if you’re making the most of what the industry offers you. Are you connecting your career to your dreams? Are you tapping into a passion with the industry you work in? Why is it that even in this day and age any roles related to admin are seen as ‘boring’ – have we as an industry not done a good enough PR job to improve its reputation? How are people connecting to these stereotypes from the dark ages?

So young British people love music, why not work to become a PA within a record label or to a musician directly? You’d love to work in fashion but are no designer – an EA to a CEO of a leading retail brand brings with it an immersion into the fashion world, and opportunities to have a starring role. It really astounded me that so many young people had not considered administration or secretarial work as a route into their industry of choice.

The role of an EA is truly what you make of it. The opportunities are there for you to engineer your own career – to drive your development in a certain direction and ensure that your passions are being connected to your career. I know EAs are some of the hardest working professionals out there, so I’d encourage you to give yourself something back – to be clear with yourself on what excites you, what elements of the job you love and would like to do more of, and what elements you can see within the wider business that you’d like to get your hands on. Can you connect your passions to your career? It’s there for the taking.

All of this sounds far from boring and old-fashioned – it sounds positively inspiring – and I hope that as the industry evolves we manage to pick up some of the next-generation workforce to take with us for the journey. The role of an EA is an exhilarating one, and I hope you continue to evolve to make yours something that truly excites you.

Claire Lister is the former Owner of Pitman Training Group ( Pitman is a market leader in the PA and secretarial training industry, delivering exceptional results for tens of thousands of students each year. Pitman also provide ... (Read More)

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