By Vivian Mensah
Vivien has 18 years’ experience in the admin profession. She began her career as a receptionist at Astra Zeneca PLC, a FTSE 100 Biopharmaceuticals company where she proceeded to hold Senior PA and Project Co-ordinater roles and is currently EA to the EVP there. She is committed and passionate about her role as an EA who champions and advocates the value and impact the PA role brings to the organisation, team and individuals and was responsible for introducing lunch and learn sessions for the PAs at AstraZeneca.
Career progression – Where do I start?
How many of us in the admin community have had some form of performance management engagement this year, last year or never – before you answer bear in mind that this can be classified as any of the following: Performance planning, Performance coaching or Performance problems.
We should all have a performance plan – whether or not it states “I want to remain in this position/post for the rest of my career” or “I want to become the CEO in 5 years” – that can be referred too, rewritten, amended, adjusted and referred to.
Many of us want to have longevity in the admin profession, we want to progress as far as our skills, capabilities, personality and leadership traits will take us. We have ambition and we have aspirations.
So, does the below sound familiar?
Admin: ‘I would like to speak to you about my career progression’.
Manager: ‘Career progression? But you are an admin’.
Career progression for admin professionals is available, achievable and deserved but it is up to you to remain focused, work hard and try to excel in everything that you. Always try your hardest and strive for success. If this is not recognised in your current role, it could happen in your next – be open minded and look to create those opportunities. You may need to move teams/departments/organisations to realise your full potential. You need to prioritise what is important to you, is it the career satisfaction? Enjoyment? Challenge? If you simply sit and wait for someone to take notice and offer you something better/a step up or put you forward for that EA/project management position that you have always then you may be waiting a long time.
There are many paths that we can take to avoid that but like most things sometimes it may take time, could get bumpy along the way and not always straight forward.
It’s not always easy to bring up the subject of career progression topic but a great opportunity to seize for that is your mid-year or year-end appraisal. I worry about two things here: that some of you may not even have appraisals or having to wait half or a full year to talk about investing in yourself which in turn will be beneficial to the organisation in so many ways – a motivated, highly-engaged employee who is likely to stay committed within the organisation.
For your first of meetings I would suggest the following:
Preparation, preparation, preparation. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of preparing for your meetings. Sometimes you only get one chance, so make it count!
Goals and Objectives:
Write down your goals and objectives as these are fundamental to accomplishing what you need to. Goals are long term aims that you want to accomplish and objectives are measurable, concrete and tangible.
Knowledge is Power:
You must become an expert in your field, e.g.progressing from a PA to an EA
Find out all is there is to know about an EA – how does the role differ to the role of a PA
What aspects of the role interests you? What are some of the challenges you expect to face in the role?
Ask if you can shadow an EA for a couple of hours or a day?
Ask an existing EA in your organisation or network to mentor you.
Schedule sufficient meeting time and advise your manager in advance of the topics and content you would like to discuss this with her/him.
Planning is essential to improve the odds of a successful outcome so go prepared – research relevant course/mentorship schemes/internships/in-house training etc.
Ensure that you have an open, honest and realistic discussion about your career progression because this might be your only shot in a long time to discuss training courses/mentorship etc.
So you have had the discussion and you have the green light (yippee) to enrol on some courses/mentorship schemes. This is really great news! It demonstrates that your manager believes in you and is investing time and money in you – Yes! You! Repay the compliment by scheduling regular update meetings to keep your manager up to date with your progress, experiences and whether it meets the objectives.