Welcome to Career Corner: a monthly blog series from ASAP that offers career advice from seasoned professionals, in response to questions from administrative and executive assistants.
A recently asked question in our Circle Community space centered around executive assistants being asked to perform secretary-based functions rather than higher-levels tasks. For instance, an EA may be instructed to fulfill lunch orders and refill printer paper rather than use their entire scope of skills and work more strategically alongside their Exec. So, what's an EA to do when they feel under-utilized in their role?
We brought this question to Alicia Fairclough, former executive assistant and founder of EA How To, as part of our "Ask an Admin" series. In February 2024, Alicia will also be hosting a live ASAP course specifically for EAs called The Essential EA Toolkit.
Watch Alicia's video response and read more below!
Alicia Fairclough: Not being utilized to the best of your abilities is something a lot of assistants can relate to. This issue stems from working with an executive who doesn’t know what you are capable of, doesn’t know how to work with you, and/or has a tendency to not want to relinquish any control.
More often than not, an executive will feel it will take a lot of time and effort to get an assistant up to speed and they feel they don’t have the capacity (or desire) to make that happen.
As an assistant, part of your job is managing up and demonstrating what you are capable of in a really proactive way. This isn’t going to happen overnight, but in incremental steps, one task or project at a time.
I recommend identifying the skills you possess that are not being utilized and the tasks you would like to take on. This will help you articulate your capabilities and interests when you discuss the issue with your executive.
Maybe you’re a slide design superstar and you would like to take responsibility for the All Hands deck and eventually the board packs. Perhaps you aren’t being asked to take Board Meeting minutes and you can start by doing the minutes for the leadership meetings and other committee meetings to demonstrate your abilities. You could look for a project that could use your assistance, even if it is in another department. Taking the initiative to seek out higher level opportunities will go a long way.
It’s really important though that you ensure you’re performing well in your current role. Demonstrating competence in your current role is vital to your executive being open to you taking on more challenging tasks and projects.
In short, show them how great you are, communicate with your executive, and proactively seek opportunities to demonstrate your abilities. There are countless tasks and projects that will benefit from your expertise. As you do this, keep note of the outcomes and follow up to get feedback from your colleagues. This will come in handy at appraisal time.
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