Have you been considering how you can extend your current role with new challenges? asks Kathleen Drum

I recently attended the Hays PA Conference in Leeds, where Tammy Tantschev, EA to the Managing Director of Red Bull Australia and New Zealand, gave an inspiring talk on the evolution of the assistant. During her talk, Tammy focussed on the growth of her role from business support to business partner and the exciting projects in which she had been involved (or had managed). As I looked around the room, I could see many heads nodding in agreement and some rather wistful looks.

Two points stood out for me: balance your ability with your ambition and don’t drop the ball on your day job.

Growing your role won’t happen overnight: you need a plan, and the support of your manager. But before you can be considered for bigger or different projects you need to get your current role locked down tight.

Take stock of your current responsibilities

Take a good look at your role. Do you have the capacity to take on new projects without making any changes to your current tasks? If so, great. If not – what can you do to free up the time you’ll need? The last thing you want is to gain extra responsibility without automating or removing some of the tasks you currently undertake. Without this you are setting yourself up for failure before you even start. Can you outsource, delegate or automate any of your current tasks? Do you actually still need to do all of your current tasks?

Sometimes we don’t even know how we spend our day or how long certain tasks take. Keep a time log for a week or two, writing down the tasks you do every hour (you can set a reminder on your phone or computer to assist you). As an administrator you will know that there is no such thing as a “typical” week, so any two-week period will do. At the end of the two weeks, review your log. Do any tasks stand out? Can you create a template for the tasks you do on a regular basis to make them easier for yourself and others? Are there any tasks that you do out of habit, rather than because they are needed? These are the points to raise with your manager.

Update your technical skills

Take a look at the computer packages that you currently use. Are there any where you lack confidence? Could you use a refresher course on PowerPoint or Excel to increase your competency? This would allow you to complete your current tasks more efficiently and free up some time to take on new tasks.

Identify your project

It’s important to start small, with something you know you can achieve. This will give you confidence to tackle bigger projects, and will also give your manager confidence that you can balance your workload. Be realistic with the time you can spend on the project; work out the amount of time per week you can allow and stick to it. It is also important to have an estimated end date – but remember to factor in any busy times in your regular work, such as year-end or holiday periods if you need to cover for other staff.

Get buy-in from your manager

Once you have selected a trial project, you will need to get buy-in from your manager. Pick your moment! You need a friendly, open discussion when neither of you are harassed or distracted. Lay out your case, detailing your evidence and your project of choice. It may pay to practice this with a colleague or friend to ensure you are clear and concise.

If, after all your effort, the answer is No, ask for reasons why. Work on resolving any points made. Remember that “No” often means “Not right now”. If you are serious about growing your role, address the issues raised and re-diarise a meeting for six months’ time. In the longer term, you may need to consider a change of role if there is simply no room for growth.

If the answer is Yes – Congratulations! You have taken the next step in your career as an assistant.

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Kathleen Drum is the Senior Editor of Executive Support Media. Her mission is to bring thought-provoking, timely and inspiring articles to administrative professionals around the world, empowering them not just to succeed in their roles, but to excel. As ... (Read More)

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