In the corporate world, admins are told what to do by bosses. What to do, where to sit, when to eat lunch, what to work on, when it’s ok to vacation (or be sick), etc. if it's a "W" word, chances are a boss dictates it. Companies like that. They crave it. They believe that if they don't tell employees what to do, employees would do nothing. If you've been an employee with any integrity, you know that if left to your own work, you'd do a LOT, and maybe more than you'd do with someone breathing down your neck and controlling your every move.
In the administrative profession (corporate), it's not enough that the companies are telling admins who they have to be while at work. They've even convinced the organizations supporting admins that this is the way it needs to be. And those organizations are propagating a lie in support of what the companies (who advertise and support said organizations) want admins to do and be. It goes a little something like this:
It's really no longer enough for you to be a kick-ass admin. Now, to be a kick-ass admin, you need to run faster and harder on that gerbil wheel you've been on forever. You need to do more work, in many cases doing even non-administrative stuff that you shouldn't have to do. Oh, and you're not going to get paid more for it, either. But if you do this....if you keep going, and running, and don't complain, and continue to not make waves, or say no, or have standards, one day....ONE DAY....you really will be respected by the people you work for.
What those organizations ought to be doing is helping admins define for themselves who they want to be. They should be helping admins take control of their own profession, and tell the organizations what they'll do and not do. But that's never happened, and it's not happening now, and frankly, it would take someone of great vision, courage, and intestinal fortitude to stand up and make that level of change happen.
And many of you know that, intuitively if not consciously. It's what's led you here, to Virtual Assistance. It's what's called you forth to own your own business, and, at least on some level, to have control over your own life and work. You’ve become a VA because it allows you to use your great administrative skills to be successful in business on your own terms, defining yourself, rather than having a boss tell you who you are and what you need to be and do.
Currently afoot in our world is something as insidious as what's happening in the corporate world. IMO, it can only be called an invasion. The invaders are almost exclusively clients of VAs, IMO unable to afford professional support in certain areas, who are trying to get that support from VAs. And, when told by VAs that they don't provide that support, they tell VAs (and the world at large) that VAs should provide that support. They are saying that VAs, to be super successful, need to have certain skills, work in teams, be available whenever needed...I know you've heard/seen exactly what I have, and maybe much more.
Today's Bit O’Moxie has me saying what I’ve always said to anyone who claims that VAs need to have any particular set of skills—beyond terrific administrative assistance skills, or be available in any prescribed way: That’s just crap.
It’s crap for a number of reasons. Topping my list are these:
1. Clients (or people outside this industry) have no business telling VAs what they need to be doing in their businesses. I’m betting none of you have ever gone to the coaching profession, the real estate profession, or the speaking profession and told THEM who they need to be and WHAT they need to do to be successful, have you? Of course you haven’t—it’s flat out inappropriate. They define themselves, as should we all.
2. Clients who tell VAs what to do and how to do it are known by the IRS as...employers. If you want to own your own business, YOU have to call the shots and not let clients tell you who you are.
3. VAs who learn 500 new things every single day would still never know it all, or know how to do it all. So it stands to reason that, sooner or later, a VA is going to be asked to do something she's never been asked to do before and knows nothing about. Invaders would say that she should hustle and learn it so she can then provide it. IMO, the best VAs (and you all want to be the best you can be, I know) don't need to know it all or know how to do it all. Instead, they need to know how to get anything done—even if they don’t do “it” themselves. It follows, therefore, that there are no specific skills they must have in order to be successful. Of course VAs can do anything they want, BUT, they can also absolutely be successful without being able to do, or even update, web sites (or anything else, in particular!). To say they need to know how is....yeah... crap!
This invasion has become so prevalent that many VAs, especially those conditioned to being told by bosses what to do, are taking steps backwards...away from being business owners, and back toward buying in to what they're told by those whose opinions shouldn't count. Of course, invaders tell them that they "just want the best" for VAs. They offer their crap wrapped in the guise of helping the VAs be more successful. At the end of the day, however, they don't want to pay more for your upgraded skills, or the specialization you've developed, saying that those specialized skills should just be bundled in to the rest of your service offering.
Crap. Every word of it. As are their ebooks, classes, and programs that promise to lead you to the holy land for VA success. You don't need any of it. You know who you are. You know what attracted you to this profession. And I'm betting it's NOT what the outsiders (or the insiders who have bought into what the outsiders have said) are telling you.
You know what's the worst thing? If you buy into it, you are giving these people power you likely don't really want them to have. You are taking yourself right back to a place where you're on the gerbil wheel someone else is telling you to run on. Maybe if you want the illusion of being in control without really being in control that's ok for you... but I would ask you why, if that's what you're doing, you just don't go back and get a job.
I mean, like Neo in The Matrix, you took the pill that has led to a whole new life. But unlike him, you can go back to what you had before. And if you want to go, go. But if you want to stay? Consider how much you want this profession defined by people with absolutely no right to be defining it.
And I realize that I sit here and quite happily share my view of what you need to know/do/be and don't need to know/do/be. But I have standing in this profession. I have reason to say what I say--and it isn't to try to get you to believe you need to do work you don't have to do so I can get my business needs met for less money than I would pay otherwise to get it done. I have credibility--I formalized this profession in 1997, and I've helped hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of VAs be successful and call their own shots. You absolutely do have reason to be listening to what I say about this.
Further, if you think that VAs, as professionals building a solid profession that will stand the test of time, need to be learning something specific...or doing something specific...or be defined in a certain way, or not defined at all, then you should join the conversation about it. It's going on all around you, including here with me. Pick a place and share your well-considered views. But do not let outsiders tell YOU what you should be doing to be successful, cause.... c'mon and say it with me... "That's just crap!"