EA’s must usually “go to war” for every penny to spend on their development (a generalisation but more prevalent than is acceptable) so how do you work around this?
Identify a field that you enjoy or have an interest in and find a mentor in that field. This mentor should be accomplished in their field of expertise and willing to spend some time with you. This could be in the form of a weekly half hour Q & A session, attending a subject specific meeting as an observer, sharing their non-confidential correspondence with you (using Bcc) etc. You will benefit from all these interactions and slowly build your knowledge in the field to the point where you can make a meaningful contribution and suggestions, put your hand up to assist with projects etc.
Being helpful outside of your normal scope of work is a great way to get exposure to new things. Time is not an EA’s friend but a little help goes a long way. If you volunteer to assist the HR department with proof reading the organisation’s internal newsletter you will be in a position to ask questions around intended meaning and clearer understanding of the content. Similarly putting your hand up to assist the finance team with formatting of the integrated report will give you an insight into the legalities of corporate governance and reporting requirements. The internal newsletter may be published once a month and the integrated report only once a year so they will not take too much out of your day for any sustained length of time.
Networking and social events are a great source of inspiration and learning and are often free or very affordable. Don’t limit your attendance to EA related events although these are vital for your sanity and career growth. Consider your personal growth and value add to your organisation if you attended a writers’ gathering or wine and food pairing event. If someone is looking for a plus one, put your hand up. You will learn something new and you never know who you will meet that could lead to a mutually beneficial relationship in the future.
Make time to READ!! It is not always possible to read everything that comes across your desk in detail but even a quick speed read could produce a gem that catches your eye and ignites a spark of interest for future expansion. If you find a gem like this, source articles, books, webinars etc. and delve a little deeper to ascertain if it was a genuine interest or a passing fancy. Train yourself to read every night before you put out your light. You may be dog tired and need to read the same paragraph again tomorrow night but no one is keeping score and there is no prize for finishing first.
There is a treasure trove of free training opportunities which Executive Secretary very kindly shared in 2015 and they continue to share every opportunity they come across. Most of them are web based, “complete in your own time” training modules and if your company sees you are committed to your own development to the extent that you will DIY, they just might be prepared to cave occasionally and fund your attendance at a conference, seminar or workshop.
The bottom line is … do not leave your destiny in someone else’s hands. Put your hand up, reach out and take responsibility for your own growth and future. You will get recognised which could ultimately lead to you winning the war 😊
I have a passion for the profession and firmly believe that it is first and foremost a service industry. You need to be passionate about providing a service that will benefit others.