The strength of an assistant lies within the diversity of the role argues Sisii de Winter
Administration Assistant, Gatekeeper, Office Manager, Receptionist, Secretary, HR Manager, Procurement Specialist, Interior Designer, Facilities Manager, Event Planner, Travel Agent, IT Support, Diary Coordinator, Nanny, Personal Shopper, Copywriter, Project Manager, Book Keeper, Social Media Manager, Communications Manager, Counsel and Advisor, Client Relations Manager, Guest Experience Specialist.
The aforementioned duties and responsibilities are ones I and many other Assistants have juggled under the one ‘Assistant’ hat. In many cases both past and present, the diversity of the Assistant role has been considered a hindrance. I, again alongside many others, have found myself in positions where I have struggled to summarise what it was I did, what was my speciality, my ‘skill’, and subsequently, felt that my value and USP (Unique Selling Point) was somewhat diluted.
However, the strength of an Assistant, in fact, lies within their diversity.
Assistants are industry chameleons. We are one of the few positions that are department neutral. The multifaceted nature of the role allows us a broad oversight that, with an adapted mindset, is our unique strength. When the role of an Assistant is accepted and most importantly established with an entrepreneurial approach, an incredibly exciting window of opportunity opens. It’s a role that is open to continuous negotiation as we can be and are our own change makers.
The Jack of all trades
Assistants are the bridge, the glue. We aggregate responsibility for the benefit of overall business delivery. “…and any other duties as required” is undoubtedly found on the majority of our existing and future job descriptions. But rather than consider this the doormat of the specification, see it as the goldmine. The ‘fountain of knowledge’ is a label we should wear with pride. It’s a master manual to the internal business operations and we should feel empowered in being the accessible conduit of information as a representative of those we support and inspired as to what opportunities that can provide us.
The role of an Assistant is evolutionary
It is one of the few roles that is not restricted by department barriers or hierarchal structures. The opportunity lies within the nature of our somewhat solitary position. We therefore need to collectively feel empowered by our department-neutral position, not excluded.
Assistants can drive innovation through our own learning and growth. It’s our time to think both critically and creatively – we have access to all areas of the business and therefore are in the objective position to review the progressive potential and contribute as desired. We are progressing from being not only the ‘yes’ person, but also the ‘why’, the ‘how’ and the ‘when’.
The primary function of the role – to enhance the delivery of the Executives we support – remains our lifeline, our priority and our constant. But it’s down to us to evidence and communicate to them that this scope can expand beyond a secretarial remit. It’s not about abandoning the administrative hat we wear but accepting that it is just one wardrobe staple of many, and we have the ability to add extensively at our own discretion.
The role is expanding
With the development of technology and the platform of awareness and comparison everyone now has access to, it’s a competitive time for both businesses and employees. As Assistants, it’s vital to set ourselves apart. The introduction of virtual assistants and artificial intelligence may in some cases take over the primary administrative clerical ‘lifeline’ of our initial role, but they cannot overtake some of the industry-independent skills we have worked hard to develop through emotional intelligence, enthusiasm and insight. As Assistants, it’s an opportune time to enhance the proactive, collaborative and intuitive attitude we have by nature, and look beyond the pigeon-holed scope.
It’s currently a unique period of time where Assistants can capitalise on a wave of ambitious change, on a new understanding and period of growth. Assistants across all industries have come together to create a voice and emphasise the impact we have on both businesses and the people within them. All roles should be open to negotiation to elevate strength and the concept of diversity should not be confused with dilution.
The understanding, impact, scope and receipt of your value is in your discretion. One of my favourite lines of inspiration summarises this intent perfectly:
Assistants should not just join the dots but create them.