How did one administrative professional follow a career path from executive assistant to vice president of an international training organization? Learn the three skills you can embrace for an engaging career.

I’ve been immersed in the role of the administrative professional for the last 17 years. In fact, my start in the administrative career was as a temporary professional for OfficeTeam filling roles at a variety of assignments in numerous industries –– medical, financial, media and more.

In this span of time, I’ve had roles where I shined and roles where I was quite the opposite of “shining.”

Here’s what I’ve learned and how it has contributed to my successful transition from executive assistant to vice president of Office Dynamics International.

Be observant

  • Pay attention to the things that are said. What do your leaders wish they could get done? What is of value to them that keeps getting pushed aside because they simply don’t have the time?
  • Pay attention to the things that they don’t say. Body language, facial expression, attitude, resistance –– what are these non-verbal cues telling you about your work environment and the leaders you support?
  • Pay attention to the surroundings, the people leaders care about and the things they value. These insights can prove valuable.

Remember that familiarity breeds complacency. Stay alert and on top of your game, no matter how long you’ve been in your position. When you pay attention to the points I’ve mentioned above, you’re equipped to fill a need simply by listening and understanding.

When I began working for our founder and CEO, Joan Burge, I would hear her say revamping a program was important to her and I could see that it would greatly impact her business if she invested the time in the program. Yet, she wasn’t getting to this important project. I picked up on her cues and stated that I recognized the importance of this project to her as well as the impact it would have on the organization. I asked what I could do to assist her in getting the project started. She hadn’t thought about how I could get involved, but after hearing the needs and being observant, I came to the table with ideas and the program rejuvenation was a great success.

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Be open to getting outside your comfort zone

Don’t ever let fear hold you back and keep you small. In order to continue developing professionally, there will come a time when you will be challenged. And that is a good thing, even if failure is on the other side of that challenge.

The most tremendous amount of growth and showcasing of any aspect of my skill set has taken place when I was doing things outside my comfort zone. Allow yourself to try new things and be surprised.

One of the most amazing parts of working with Joan Burge for the last nine years has been that she’s always had faith in my abilities and often challenged me with new projects or leadership roles. I was often terrified on the inside, but would say yes to the new opportunities that came my way because I believed I could achieve them. One of the most memorable examples was when she asked me to speak at our Annual Conference for Administrative Excellence. I had never written a session before and I would be speaking in front of 250 of my peers. It took a lot of preparation and skill development. I wasn’t amazing or perfect on my first go, but it’s given me the chance to develop a skill set I may have never otherwise had a chance to flex.

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Be engaged in your career

I grew from administrative assistant to executive assistant and then to vice president in my career with increased responsibilities as I transitioned to each new role. One of the most impactful things I did along the way was to “act as if.” This means to act as if I was responsible for the company. I believe, as administrators, we have great impact on the companies we work for. “What would Joan do?” was a mantra of mine for a long time.

My engagement has come from a genuine care and concern for my employer and the cause we serve. As you navigate your own career path, channel your engagement by finding what drives you at work. What are you most passionate about? Is it supporting others, the cause of your organization, or a genuine respect or admiration for the people you support?

Everyone’s career path looks different. In fact, our desires for our own career paths can be vastly different.

My parting tips for you as you reach for your career goals are:

  • Look forward with a plan in mind for yourself.
  • Be flexible with your plan.
  • Pay attention to the people and environment around you.
  • Always show up and do your best work.
  • Try new things, even if they scare you a little.
  • Find a cause you’re fired up about and let your passion show.

What steps have you taken that have allowed you to advance in your career? Share them with others below.

Jasmine Freeman is vice president of Office Dynamics International. She has been very involved in the marketing and social media side of the business, making sure the company and its founder and CEO Joan Burge are known and connected to administrative professionals worldwide. She’s a contributing author to three books: Life Choices: Putting the Pieces Together, Life Choices: It's Never Too Late and Amazon best-seller Who Took My Pen ... Again? Jasmine is also a TEDx speaker (check out her talk “From Zero to Silly”).