Helen Monument shares the details of the new World Administrators Alliance campaign, “The Career Behind the Job”

The World Administrators Alliance has launched a campaign to increase awareness of the administrative profession as a conscious career choice. The campaign aims to elevate the perception of the role, to obtain the acknowledgement it deserves and enhance the value and relevance that the role brings to the bottom line of businesses and organisations.

Why Now?

At the 2021 WA-Summit, a discussion group on “The Future of the Profession” produced a paper recommending actions for the WA-Alliance to create an awareness campaign. The Career Behind the Job aims to raise that conversation and to influence the positioning and the evolution of the profession by creating a realistic understanding of the unique role of the administrative professional.

We aspire to:

  • Elevate the perception of the role to obtain the acknowledgement it deserves
  • Promote the profession as a career of choice
  • Inspire the younger generation to understand the lifelong personal and professional growth the role gives
  • Influence stakeholders such as HR, executives, recruiters and trainers to understand the diversity, scope, value and impact of this unique role
  • Encourage associations to take collective responsibility for a proactive and long-term approach to positively influencing perceptions of this career

The World Administrators Summit surveyed over 3,000 administrative professionals from 61 countries and revealed some startling statistics about the profession. With more than 160 different job titles, it’s no wonder that there is confusion and misunderstanding about the role. Over 70% of people surveyed felt their organisation didn’t understand the role or the potential impact of using their skills and talents properly.

This discussion has been going on for as long as I have been in the profession. Assistants are crying out for recognition for what they do. This cannot just be once a year during Administrative Professionals Week, where managers can pat each other on the back for remembering to send flowers to their Assistant. Each country is different, and the culture of the country has an enormous impact on how the role of administrative professionals is viewed. Sadly, in some countries, the stereotype still prevails. Everyone working in the profession is seen as a ‘dogsbody’, expected to sit behind a desk, waiting to be given a task by a manager, not to take the initiative or be proactive. It’s an uphill struggle, and if that’s going to change, then it’s the people doing the job who must effect that change. But how do you bring about a culture shift? Well, very slowly it seems. But we all have a part to play.

United We Stand

A first step to gaining recognition is to stick together. If you don’t have an Assistant network in your company, now is the time to create one. Get together with the other administrative professionals in your department and talk about the benefits of forming an in-company network. Cathy Harris shows in her book The Executive Secretary Guide to Creating an Internal Assistant Network how to do this and the value that it can bring. Show your company that you are serious about your profession and that you want to make a positive contribution to the success of your business:

“The creation of internal Assistant networks within organizations is a perceptive, innovative resource tool to improve communication, create standards, provide training and development initiatives and give the Assistant the opportunity to always be ahead of the game.”

Wow, I’m Good!

We don’t say this often enough – not even to ourselves. The ‘people pleaser’ in many administrative professionals causes us to make sure that everyone else is getting what they want first, often to the detriment of what we want or need. When you get thanked or complimented on an amazing piece of work, if your response is, “I’m just doing my job” or “It’s what I’m here for” or “It’s nothing,” then you are selling yourself – and the profession – short.

If we constantly play down our successes, we will never be taken seriously. We need to be seen and recognized for the skills we apply to our role. I have had many Assistants working in my teams throughout my 30-year career and have heard them complaining that their business ‘has no idea what we do’, but when I challenged this and asked, “Well, do you tell them?”, the answer was always negative: “I prefer to stay in the background” or “I don’t like talking about myself.”

Eth Lloyd, former Chair of the WA-Summit Advisory Council, authored a paper in 2003 called “Valuing Ourselves So Others Value Us” in which she talks about how we tend to deflect praise: “…this is considered humility and is often thought of as a nice quality. It also has the effect of reminding others that we are not of high value. Within our own roles we need to be sure that we don’t over-do humility. We need to be able to accept praise and not be afraid to say, ‘Thank you, yes I enjoyed being able to use my skills in collaborating with people in that situation.’ That is graciously accepting praise and reinforcing the skill that you had been able to use, often a skill that no amount of paper qualification can show.”

We need to get over ourselves! Professor Maja Jovanovic gave an inspiring TED Talk called ‘How Apologies Kill Our Confidence’. She says we should own our accomplishments and ‘stand in that light’. Nobody likes arrogance, so start using language that you are comfortable with to talk about your successes and show your business just how valuable you are.

Be a Role Model

There’s a saying – if you can’t see it, you can’t be it. It’s the responsibility of every administrative professional to be an ambassador for the profession. Show the younger generation and educational institutions the world over that our profession is a serious career choice, one with a great future.

The WA-Summit paper ‘Identity and Image of Administrative Professionals’ states that “…although professional development is essential to improve the perception of our profession, our own attitude toward this profession is equally, if not more important. Having confidence in our competencies and personally defining our role rather than allowing others to define it are both essential for removing the perception of ‘anyone can do it’ that is so often found.” This global guideline for enhancing the profession gives you many valuable insights and guidelines to help you to become a role model and ambassador for the profession.

In Administra, the WA-Summit’s world action plan, there are also guidelines on how you can do this.

  • Invite younger colleagues to a local association or network meeting (as your guest), a seminar or professional development opportunity, a webinar or conference and help them build a business case to have your workplace pay for it.
  • Talk to your local college about the Global Skills Matrix as a valuable guide to a clear career pathway showing the levels and the required skills to achieve each level.
  • Offer workplace experience to administrative professional students.
  • Be a mentor to someone more junior in the role, show them the ropes, help them with their development.
  • Let your professional attitude shine through. Building your reputation as a dedicated, trustworthy Assistant will inspire others with the positive impact that you have on colleagues, stakeholders and your organization.

There has never been a better time to focus on the value administrative professionals bring to employers, to highlight and recognise the range of roles, the depth of expertise, the high degree of responsibility, accountability, influence and autonomy exercised within the career.

Follow our campaign on social media, share our stories and use our hashtags #TheCareerBehindTheJob and #MyCareerOfChoice when you talk about this topic on your own social media channels. Join us in our campaign to elevate the perception of the role to the level we all know it deserves.

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Helen Monument inspires and encourages Assistants to be the best they can be by sharing 30 years of experience as a management support professional. Her career has taken her from Secretary to Office Manager and Business Support Team Leader, so she ... (Read More)

3 comments on “The Career Behind the Job

  1. Catherine Middleton on

    Great article Helen, it aligns with the messages I have been espousing for years, ie the importance of support staff understanding the value they bring to their roles and their organisations. As you and I both know support staff are the backbone of any organisation.

    Loved it.


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