Mentor, Coach, AND Advocate - Yes You Need All Three

January 27, 2020


As a multi-faceted, amazingly-organized Super Hero (a.k.a. Administrative Assistant), you’re uniquely skilled at orchestrating the minutiae of behind-the-scenes details, implementing ways to make things better than how you find them, and ensuring your boss always shines in the spotlight. You’re really great at finding solutions to challenges and conceptualizing new ideas -- especially when others believe all options have been exhausted. You meticulously manage multiple, concurrent priorities with ease, confidence, and grace. While you're a lead-by-example professional committed to serving as a collaborative, resourceful member of an organization’s team, sometimes you need administrative support beyond simply an assistant assisting you. To sustain your enthusiasm for your chosen career, and because your role as is both exciting and exhausting, it’s imperative that you identify, embrace the wisdom of, and incorporate three key individuals into your career – a Mentor, a Coach, and an Advocate.

The Mentor

A mentor is a colleague who can guide you, teach you, and help you overcome hurdles and squash seemingly-impenetrable obstacles. Your mentor is someone who has accomplished in his/her career what you seek to accomplish. It’s that person at your office whom you admire, want to emulate, and am inspired by. Your mentor can either serve as your overall role model, or can be that “go to” professional who excels exceptionally well at one thing you want to master. For example, maybe there is an established executive assistant at your company who is talented at orchestrating and launching special events without a hitch. They would certainly have necessary, high-valuable skills that, as your mentor, they could help you hone. Being personally mentored by a colleague who can show you the nuances of navigating decisions with your executives will enable you to glean priceless pointers you’ll never find in a book. Here are some things to keep in mind regarding a mentor:

  • You can have more than one mentor (identify the attitudes, behaviors, and skills in others that you admire and ask those individuals to mentor you regarding their particular appreciated talent).
  • Be crystal clear about what you want your colleague to mentor you regarding (you don’t want to create a situation where your mentor thinks he/she is responsible for providing administrative support over everything you do).
  • Observe and listen more than you talk (your mentor is meant to guide and teach you; that’s hard to do if you find yourself talking more than he/she is).

The Coach

On those hectic days when it seems like you have a million things to do and no time to get them all accomplished, your joyful, upbeat, and motivating coach will cheer you on and encourage you not to get stressed out or to panic. Your ideal colleague-coach will keep you grounded, keep you laughing, and keep you moving forward. A coach can objectively see things about your work habits or disposition that you might not readily be aware of. He/she can give insight into areas you might want to tweak and improve upon to help you move forward in your role and career. Here are some traits to look for in a coach:

  • You want to choose a coach who is optimistic, positive, and has a great disposition (a naysayer, a Debbie Downer, or a constant complainer is not a candidate for a coach).
  • Your coach should be the “go to” person you can count to give you support with his/her encouraging words when you feel like throwing in the towel or that you just can’t take on one more project.
  • Choose an individual to coach you who is not a “yes” person, but rather an experienced professional who has the ability to see the big picture while understanding that getting to the goal line takes one step at a time

The Advocate

Just knowing that someone at work is looking out for you when you’re not there creates a sense of calmness and confidence that can’t be experienced by someone who works in a silo. Your advocate can help raise your profile internally (and, would come to your defense if needed). Your advocate rallies for you and your ideas when your initiatives warrant praise or support. It’s wise to look for someone “up” in your organizational chart, and whose executive style and work vibe matches yours (or where you want to be). Here are some things to look for in an advocate:

  • Your advocate should be willing to speak up about your accomplishments to other colleagues.
  • The ideal advocate is someone who never gossips but advocates for administrative support roles and functions by being kind and caring (you want someone who will speak up for you even behind your back).
  • Your advocate should be a strong, assertive (not aggressive), fair-minded, and articulate individual (you don’t need someone who will throw a punch first and ask questions later).
  • Don’t overlook your boss; with the right relationship, they could help you take on new projects or initiatives that help you progress in your professional goals.

As awesome as you truly are and strive to be, there is always room for an inspiring Mentor, Coach, and Advocate in your life. By understanding the differences in how these individuals may support you, you can get the most out of the relationships, and your opportunities for growth.

Join the Conversation

Welcome to the ASAP Circle, a community platform for peer-to-peer conversation on trending topics, professional challenges, and shared experiences. We even have designated spaces for weekly Tuesday Coffee Breaks.

Start Connecting Today!

American Society of Administrative Professionals

Producer of

APC  EA Ignite