I have been working with brand in the PA context since 2012, I have met some of the most dynamic and intelligence people working as assistants during this time, yet the misconceptions about the profession persist.
Have you ever been asked…”so (add your name here) when are you going to get a real job” or “why is an intelligent person like you doing a job like this?” I have, on numerous occasions and I found it very offensive indeed, sad part is that I know some of you have experienced this too. Technology and a multitude of factors has changed our role and our lives and yet for many business people (in their minds at least) we are still the people who type, answer the phone, make the tea and make no other real contribution to the team, WHY?
Well that is the big question! How have the stereotypes persisted when we have evolved so much? I don’t think I have the answer to this. I think that this view stems mainly from the patriarchal nature of business and the fact that an assistant is in a service or caregiver role.
But why is service seen as something less? Why are assistants in some cases expected to be subservient and in extreme cases treated like children, who should be seen and not heard? I think this is a legacy of an outdated mode of thinking that hasn’t kept pace with where the world economy is going.
We stand at the brink of what is being called “The Connection Economy” and in this new economy people want to trust, they want to speak to a person on a phone not follow an electro voice prompt. People are returning to a need for meaning and connection. If we want to remain relevant in the new economy, assistants and all employees will need to add something special, unique and deeply human to what they offer (emotional labour). If they don’t, their manager will simply find someone cheaper. So you are either premium or cheap…in the race to the bottom or the race to the top.
Which brings me back to the idea of our profession’s brand. Are we on the cusp of a big shift? Can we change the narrow view of the masses who don’t get what we do and definitely don’t value it? For me the answer has been and will always be yes!
So how do we shape this PA role brand?
By following at least some of these ten steps I believe we will get closer to the brand that we really want for our profession. We will entrench the idea that what we offer has value and that we are strategic business partners who make our executives and teams more efficient and perhaps more importantly, happier. Let’s go and do the work!