At a coaching workshop recently, I was asked what I do in my role as EA.
Anyone who has been in a role like mine will understand that, although this seems like a relatively easy question, it isn’t. Knowing how to encapsulate the myriad of tasks I routinely do, at the level at which I do them, in a way that does me justice has always been a challenge for me. We tend to resort to using the infamous catch all; the easy answer which, whilst isn't untrue, is one of the main reasons that PA's and EA's get lumbered with the title (and the associated stigmas) of being “the admin”.
I do admin. Just the admin. Oh, she’s our admin. It brings a certain picture to mind, doesn't it.
For me, I see the 16 – 18-year-old. Fresh out of school, eager to please, but never really having been the high achiever, happy to take home £13k for doing 8 hours of filing and making copious cups of tea. Now, that’s not to say that filing and making a brew is below me – as a seasoned coffee drinker, I’m regularly found putting the kettle on.
You know what I mean though – the term “admin” in no way demonstrates the top-level involvement of the PA/EA. It doesn’t suggest the direct input or impact my role has on the business. The support I give to the team, the influence I have on the company and our clients, the relationships I forge and maintain, the lengths I go to and the sheer effort and graft I put into my working day each and every day.
Just the admin.
This doesn’t portray a person who reconciles the financials, who creates contractual agreements, who ensures that every correspondence that leaves the office is 100% correct, who facilitates every meeting, who arranges global logistics, who project manages every job awarded, who makes sure what needs to be done is done, smooths those wrinkles, who minutes, documents, drafts, creates, reviews, liaises, proofs, books, confirms, schedules, reschedules, responds, knows. No – that isn’t just the admin.
That’s the Exec Assistant. That’s the Project Manager. That’s the company’s right-hand man (or woman, as is the case). The calm from chaos creators. The doers. We are the ones who know. Need to know something? Debbie will be able to tell you that. Because it’s my job to know. It’s my job to have a handle on it all. It’s my job to keep all the plates spinning. At the same speed. At the same height. For the same amount of time. Simultaneous. And dammit, they're going to look pretty while they do too.
You could say that it's just semantics.
The choice of words here can paint a very different picture. That picture can also impact in a whole range of very different ways. When asked what i do, i could have gone with "I do admin". I wouldn't have been lying, but i also wouldn't have valued myself as i should. I doubt the trainer would have valued me as he should either.
That is the power of words. A single word given in response when asked to tell the world what we do can make you an Astra or an Aston Martin, a Shiraz or a Chateauneuf du Pape. I know which I’d rather be.
Words are our weapon. If we want the world to value us, we must value ourselves first. We must recognise our worth and own it. Words here are our war-paint. They can limit us, hold us back, keep our spirits dampened or they can elevate us. They can raise us up as the champions we really are. Turn the duckling into the swan.
So, what do I do?
I am a process professional, a project manager, a project delivery specialist. I am a business developer, master of organisational delivery. Systems, planning, management, time, brand, professional capacity. Admin doesn’t tell you any of this, but that is what I am.
Words are my ally now – they are the platform from which I will shout “I am so much more than admin”. I just didn't quite realise it.