Mentoring isn’t just for people in senior roles, it is an essential part of developing as a reflective administrative professional
As PAs and EAs, we are used to having non-stop working lives where we try to squeeze everything into one day. The phone rings, visitors arrive and depart, meetings come and go, reports need to be written and prepared and then there is the diary to keep up to date. Over time, this can create a working life where we are constantly ‘on the go’ and don’t build in time to reflect upon, and develop our practice as administrative professionals. As a result, we continue to repeat negative behaviours, fail to learn new skills, and ultimately harm our own personal and career development through the loss of self-perspective.
All too often, it isn’t the job that is the problem, it’s the way we choose to handle aspects of our role. We need to choose to be part of the solution to re-commit to our careers. Evaluate achievements to date: What are you directly responsible for? What can and can’t you control, and how does this impact your areas for development?
From personal experience, I appreciate the significant value that being part of a mentoring relationship holds. I found my mentor, who had been an Executive PA in a major bank, through the Institute of Professional Administrators (recently incorporated in the Institute of Administrative Management). The initial contact via telephone involves the identification (by you) of those topics you wish to focus on, an exchange of CVs and a conversation to ascertain if you and your mentor can develop a mutually beneficial and supportive relationship.
Mentoring is common-place amongst the senior executives that we support and the top leaders of industry frequently quote how much they value the opportunity to discuss matters with a mentor. As PAs and EAs, we also operate at a senior level in our organisations, and should learn from our executives that mentoring can have a beneficial impact on our working lives and future career progression.
A mentoring relationship can take any form which is agreed between the mentor and mentee. Established methods include face to face meetings, telephone meetings, and increasingly, Skype conversations or web discussions.
Successful relationships involve an agreed level of contact, either weekly fortnightly or monthly, and it is beneficial for the mentee to set the agenda in writing, over email, a few days ahead of the meeting so the mentor has time to prepare for the topic under discussion.
Those early mentor conversations will involve many questions from the mentee, plenty of talking and welcome advice from the mentor, and then an action plan for the mentee to take forward in advance of the next conversation.
Over time, in a successful mentoring relationship, the balance of conversations alter so that the mentee will question less, suggest more and bring draft ideas, not concerns, to discussions. The mentee tends to develop an increasingly pro-active behavioural style, different to their initial re-active style by anticipating possible challenges at work, and developing strategies on how to deal with them ahead of schedule. A balanced relationship of mutual support and friendship then evolves.
The benefits of mentoring are unlimited and may include:
• influencing the behaviour of your Executive and Leadership Team by increasing your effectiveness at a senior level;
• an improvement in work relationships at all levels;
• the evolution of your leadership skills;
• raising respect for you as an individual, and the administrative function in your organisation;
• re-discovering the enjoyment of your role;
• the opportunity to re-gain a sense of perspective at work;
• energising your PA/EA career; and
• meeting new contacts through confident networking.
In fact, whatever topics you choose to focus on will benefit from a non-judgemental and confidential discussion with your mentor.
So, take a deep breath and ask yourself, ‘Am I stuck in a rut?’ Schedule time in your diary to review your behaviour and commit to thinking about your administrative practice. Mentoring is a really effective resource for PAs and EAs to become a reflective practitioner, improve your enjoyment of your current position, increase your colleagues respect for you and develop your future career.