In our lives as Administrative Professionals, we are excellent at making time for everyone else. We constantly juggle crazy schedules, calendars that look like an unwinnable game of Tetris, continually re-prioritizing top priorities and tasks, and somehow manage to carve out time (where literally none existed 5 minutes before) for all of the people that we support. However, we never seem to have the same clarity and objectivity when we look at our own careers, calendars, and workload. We appear to get beaten by that Tetris game whenever we think about carving out time for ourselves. I have often wondered why that is. I could go into a very long dissertation about why that is a common practice in our industry and why it is a ridiculous, unproductive, and archaic practice that you should drop-kick out the window right now, but I will try to restrain myself! Instead, of focusing on the "why we don't" right now, I am going to hone in on the "why we should."
By the time that you finish reading this, I hope that my personal experience will inspire you to make the decision to make yourself a priority, choose to purposefully carve out time for your career development, push past the barriers, and get in the game.
A little over a year ago, I had just decided to take the leap of faith, do what I love and am passionate about and pivot my career. I went from being the C-suite level Executive Assistant to training, mentoring, and coaching other Executive Assistants and Administrative Professional's, and I could not have been more excited! That is until I experienced two back to back unexpected deaths in my family and my own personal health crisis. It was quite a lot to work through, and so I decided to take a hiatus from my new career and focus on me. Recently, I decided that I was ready to jump back into my passion of teaching, educating, and mentoring Executive Assistants and Administrative Professionals. I was excited and thrilled to get busy and dive in head first. However, I knew that stepping away was going to bring its own challenges and would require more than a little work. What I was not expecting was how much the industry had changed in just one year! When I left, Melissa Nourigat, owner of Office MVP's and the AAOP LinkedIn group was under 130,000, and now she had well over 200,000 members. Tae Lee and Susan Schofield from Travo were just ramping up and look at the incredible explosion they have experienced since then with their amazing travel tool. Phoenix Norman started shaking up the industry up and taking no prisoners. Stacy Leitner and Lisa Olsen with Admin to Admin had completely stepped up their game and were successfully introducing a whole new concept to administrative training. I quickly realized that while I was on the sidelines, the industry had made a shift. A pretty exciting, incredible, and long overdue shift, but a change to be sure. I was in new territory, where did I fit, what did I want to say, and how did I want to say it? It was clear that my game plan was going to change quite a bit. So now what? What was I going to do about it?
There are two courses of action that I could take... I could choose to either allow myself to be intimidated and silo myself in OR I could decide to confront the challenge head on and go all in. Honestly, this applies to almost every experience I have had in my 20-year career as an Administrative Professional.
The choice is almost always the same... Go all in or stay silo'd in. There is rarely room for the middle road.
Personally, I do not like barriers and believe me I have had my fair share of challenges and hurdles to get past in my career. My career started as an entry level receptionist when I was just 18. I was a single teenage mom, struggling to make ends meet, had zero experience, and not many prospects. Trust me; there were no cheerleaders shaking pom-poms in my corner encouraging me to "take the hill" of life and telling me that this would be the beginning of a career that I would excel at and learn to love. Years later, when my son was diagnosed with the big "A" word (Autism), I had to figure out how to simultaneously get him the help he needed and successfully support a C-suite level executive and make it all work seamlessly.
I share all of that to say, that I get it. I have been there; I know what it feels like to be silo'd in... Wishing for more information, more knowledge, more time in the day, and more resources all while desperately needing a break at the same time.
I did not always know what boundaries to push, what questions to ask, when to step outside of the norm and suggest something entirely new, and when to make connecting with others in our industry a priority. So what did I do after this long hiatus? I went back to the one thing that has always worked out for me. I reached out. I reconnected with people who had a passion for the same thing that I did to get a new perspective. I wanted to hear what was happening in their world, what were they working on, and listen to what they were excited about. Why? Well, because I am an agent of change. Getting a fresh perspective from others ignites a fire in me to make a difference and make the mental adjustments that I need to so that I can break down whatever barriers are in my way. So that is exactly what I did.
Recently, I was able to win at that elusive game of Tetris for EA's and grabbed breakfast with someone who inspires me every single time that we chat... My dear friend, Danielle Zamora. She is a networking goddess and a heck of an advocate and mentor to Administrative Professionals. Now that I have pivoted my career as an EA coach, trainer, mentor, and speaker... She is a valuable sounding board for me, and hopefully, I am for her as well. I always walk away from our conversations empowered, invigorated, and excited about this industry and the strides that we are collectively making.
As incredible as it sounds... None of our careers reside in a fairy-tale land of unicorns, cupcakes sprinkles, with floating rivers of melted chocolate where our professional lives are a breeze, obstacles are non-existent, our business partners are always perfect, and we go skipping into the office every morning.
My point is this. Our industry has changed. It is changing. Moreover, if I have anything to say about it... It will continue to change. We have to change along with it or be left behind.
Making the time to connect with others in this industry is not a waste of time! In fact, more often than not you will walk away with ideas, suggestions, and a game plan to improve your work processes and your ability to hone in on areas of development. If this is your career and not just a job to you, then you are desperately missing out if you are not making the time to connect with other Administrative Professionals and actively benchmarking. We are a community; we need each other.
Ask the questions, learn the best practices, share you expertise, make the time to hone your craft, carve out the time, BE the change. GO ALL IN! We are waiting!