In the course of interviewing for my latest research, an assistant said to me this week, ‘Isn’t it ironic, when we are one of the most trusted roles in an organisation that we fail to trust ourselves when it comes to advocating for ourselves’.
It gave me goosebumps and cause for thought. She was absolutely right.
Assistants are among the most reliable, dedicated, and trusted members of any team. Their contribution goes far beyond scheduling meetings and answering emails; their trustworthiness is evident in their ability to handle sensitive information, make crucial decisions in the absence of executives, and act as the bridge between multiple stakeholders. So why doesn’t this trust extend to themselves when it comes to self-advocacy?
Many assistants grapple with self-doubt when it comes to advocating for their own needs. The same individuals who expertly orchestrate the daily operations of the company hesitate to advocate for training opportunities, career growth, and recognition initiatives. Why does this paradox persist?
The self-advocacy challenge that assistants face is multi-faceted. They often downplay their achievements, attribute their successes to luck, or lack the confidence to ask for budget for professional development. This can stem from a variety of factors, including imposter syndrome, fear of being seen as demanding, or simply putting the needs of others before their own. In a role that centers around service, asserting their own needs can feel uncomfortable or unfamiliar.
It’s crucial for assistants to recognize that advocating for oneself is not synonymous with self-centeredness. Instead, it’s a testament to their commitment to growth and their desire to provide even more value to their teams. As organizations evolve, so do the roles and expectations of assistants. By seeking out training opportunities, voicing their career aspirations, and participating in recognition initiatives, assistants can continue to elevate their contributions and expand their impact.
Organizations play a pivotal role in fostering a culture of self-advocacy among assistants. Leaders should create an environment where assistants feel safe expressing their needs, discussing their goals, and seeking out opportunities for growth. Open lines of communication, mentorship programs, and clear pathways for advancement can empower assistants to step into their own potential.
In the journey toward becoming even more indispensable members of their organizations, assistants must recognize the power of their own voice. By embracing self-advocacy, they not only elevate their own careers but also strengthen the very foundation upon which the organization thrives.