Category: Career

I used to work for a really – and I mean REALLY – demanding boss. She always wanted everything that she had just assigned me done yesterday, and she constantly showered me with new projects that I was not ready for or that I did not have enough training to complete. However, in her defense (sort of) she was always willing to put up whatever money or time was necessary to get me the skills I needed in order to get her stuff done – as long as I learned on my own time, and did it fast.

As you can imagine, this situation quickly became untenable. I was stressed out, and even when I wasn’t officially working, I was unofficially training – off the clock, of course. My husband and kids never saw me, and when they did I was usually in a foul mood because I was tired, irritated and under a lot of pressure. I felt like I was always running behind.

Finally, I snapped. I couldn’t take it anymore. I still feel like I was totally justified in the earful that I gave that woman when she berated me for not completing a project properly – and early – because I had not yet completed the course that I was taking that would teach me how to manage the software. And I hadn’t completed it because of something else that she had assigned to me last-minute! Needless to say, I let her know just how much of a nightmare boss she really was, and then I hung up on her and that job…

…which left me in the unenviable position of being unemployed. However, I spruced up my resume and set out on a job hunt. I was in for a big surprise. All that training had paid off! I had more qualifications than I could have dreamed of, and there was not a single interview in which I was forced to say “I’m sorry, but I’m not familiar with that system.”

This is not to say that you should take loads of abuse and work yourself to the bone for no pay in order to build your resume, but I do think it bears pointing out that sometimes, a little unpaid overtime can pay off big time. I have a decent boss now who doesn’t usually hit me with surprises that I can’t handle, but if he does, I always check to see if the training is available and workable for me before I tell him that I can’t do something. Because in the end, the more you know, the more you are worth.


Category: Career

When it comes to office politics, most of us would rather steer clear. After all, who wants to spend their days wondering what people think, trying to manipulate people into doing things and conniving in general, right? Of course, not all office politics are all bad. Sometimes being involved in the office political scene is crucial to advancing your career. One way or another, office politics will affect you. So you need to be sure you never break the cardinal rule of office politics because it can land you in serious trouble.

Most people think that the driving force behind office politics is gossip. And in some offices, it may feel like it is. However, the real politics are not what people are saying about each other, but rather what those things lead to. For example, if everyone thinks that "Jim" is a lazy slacker who cannot be trusted, then he may be less likely to get a promotion if he is going up against "John," who everyone knows never misses a deadline. This may be the case even if it is gossip and reputation that have forged these personas for the two men, and in reality John is a slacker and Jim is always on time. In order to combat a negative situation like this one, you may have to suck it up and get involved.

When you dive into the fray, you may be tempted to air all of those opinions that you have been judiciously holding back since you resolved to stay out of the office political game. However, that is the one thing you must not do. Being involved in office politics is as much about what you do not say as it is about what you do say. This means that you need to appear confident and positive at all times. This helps you exude an air of productivity and will make people want to be around you and work with you. That will be immeasurably helpful to you as you seek to advance professionally.

Indeed, watching what you say - and keeping it positive - will pay off in many ways. Do not say bad things about people however tempting it may become. Not because it's unpleasant (though it is) but because it's a bad idea. You start talking about one person, and suddenly your audience knows that you might talk about them too. So "keep your nose clean," as it were and do not indulge in office gossip and badmouthing. Your professional career will thank you!

Category: Career

If you are like me - and, I think, probably most other people as well - then you likely believe that the simple act of setting a goal is automatically productive. After all, it gives you something to look forward to, something to aim for, something to focus your efforts and your endeavors and to keep you on track when you otherwise might get distracted.

However, I have found through my own experiences that goal-setting is not quite that simple. After all, there are many different types of goals. There are short-term goals and long-term goals. There are goals about how much you want to get done at work today, goals about accomplishments for the week, and goals for a lifetime. And if you leave any of these goals out, you have a gaping hole where a goal should be that can sideline all your efforts and prevent you from ever reaching the seriously lofty heights in terms of professional or personal accomplishments that we all have hidden in our hearts.

When you are setting goals, it is important to make sure that you hit every single aspect of the goal and how it impacts your behavior in order to set a goal that will actually help you be effective, efficient and productive in the long term.

First, when you set a goal, always set another goal on top of that one. Otherwise, once you achieve that goal, you could find yourself stalled. For example, if you set your goal today to be to finish "that project" by the end of the day, if you finish at 11AM instead of 5, you will likely find yourself tempted to relax for part of the day, rewarding yourself for a job well done. While you deserve the reward, wasting hours at work will not make you feel better about yourself or help you accomplish bigger goals like professional advancement.

If your goal is to finish that project by the end of the day, give yourself an addendum about what you will do next. For example, you might say "My goal is to finish that project by the end of the day so that I can get started promoting it for the meeting next week." This way, you have provided yourself with a goal for your goal and avoided accidentally ending up wasting time as a result of a job well-done.

Category: Career

As a professional, it is vitally important to have your own set of goals. After all, having a clear view of what you want to accomplish is the best way to insure that you remain focused and productive regardless of your area of expertise. However, sometimes your goals may not be exactly in sync with those of your employer. While it is perfectly acceptable to have personal goals, you also need to make sure that you are keeping your company's goals in mind as well in order to be the best employee possible and create a positive work environment.

When you are setting your own goals, be sure to align them with those of your employer as well. You may even wish to keep a copy of the company goals on hand while you are setting your own. For example, if your own personal goal is to advance in your levels of responsibility, which will result in more valuable work experience and a higher salary, then you might consult your employer to find out how best to achieve this goal in terms of the company's aims. It may turn out that there is a project that has gone unfinished because no one had time to complete it or another specific task that could accelerate the accomplishment of your personal goals while benefitting the company as well.

It is always wise to ask your employer outright how you can support their goals. This leads to improved communication between the two of you and also will make it clear to your employer that you value their success as well as your own. In addition, an immediate supervisor probably also has personal goals in addition to the company goals. Helping that person achieve their own personal or professional aims can aid you in your own professional climb and help you establish a reputation as a truly helpful and valuable member of any team.

Once you have set your own goals and aligned them with the company's goals and your immediate supervisor's goals, re-evaluate your target one more time. This is important because it will help you insure that you do not allow your own goals to be lost in this process. You will feel most fulfilled - and be the best and most productive employee possible - if your aims and those of the people you work with all work together for a positive end result.

Category: Career

altIf you are any type of administrative assistant - virtual, on-site, part time or otherwise - you may be tempted to allow yourself to consider your role in the company as a "just" role. This means that you think of yourself - or allow others to think of you - as "just a secretary," "just an administrator" or "just an assistant." However, when you are truly involved and effective in your role as "just" any of these things, you are, in reality, absolutely indispensable to the company.

This type of "just" mindset is extremely unhealthy. Not only can it lead to under-appreciation of your efforts should supervisors and other co-workers follow your lead, but it also can contribute to a deep seated workplace dissatisfaction. After all, if you start out each day thinking of yourself as someone who is not very important, then spend the entire day working very hard on important things, you will inevitably find yourself feeling depressed and negative about your situation.

In truth, administrative assistants of all kinds are the literal backbone behind the company. They see that things get done. It is your responsibility to make sure that everyone is not only where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there, but you are likely also responsible for hundreds of other small details that no one else can be trusted to know or relied upon to remember. As a result, you are integral to the success of every account and team within your business, and you must remember that each and every day as you work on making every team a working and fully operational part of the larger business machine.

Virtual assistants struggle with the "just" misconception just as much as other types of administrative assistants and some even more so because they have to deal with people that they may not actually ever see in person. It is easy to feel removed and unnoticed when you are working in an environment that may necessitate communication only by email and other impersonal means. As a result, it is very important that you have a firm hold on your own value to yourself and to your company. If you cannot get past the "just" mindset, then it is possible that you should consider another line of work that will be less stressful on your own psyche and enable you to perform past "just" and all the way to your full potential.