June 24, 2010

Setting Administrative Assistant Goals

An administrative assistant asked in a discussion forum about how to respond when asked by your manager to set goals for yourself within your company; what do you say when you don't want to move up in the ranks? I responded to that admin professional, but I want to share my response here for you to read too in case you find it beneficial if you have the same question.

I said: "When your manager or executive is asking you for goals, he or she is not necessarily talking about your personal career goals (though that's a possibility). Managers are often talking about performance goals or ones that affect the workplace. For instance, what goals can you set to help your manager or executive meet his/her goals? What goals can you set that will help meet company goals? Set goals that benefit the company and your manager or executive, not necessarily your personal career goals.

Be clear about whether your employer is asking you for your personal career goals or performance or workplace goals (or perhaps he/she is interested in both). I find sometimes people mix those up.

If it's personal career goals, I'd first wonder the "why" of the question. Am I being asked because I'm working in a company culture where it's expected everyone at every level (including admins) should be planning to grow and advance in roles within the company? Or am I being asked out of curiosity? Is someone trying to determine how I feel about my administrative career?

There are always ways to expand the role and responsibilities of a current level administrative position without rising in the ranks. Talk about ways you want to expand and grow in your current role to aid your executive's and company's goals. Emphasize that train of thought and not that you do not want to move up in the ranks"

In response to another person's reply with goal suggestions, I also added some input about being specific with your goals. I mentioned that a good goal is often measurable. So if you set a goal like, "to learn as much as I can about the organization," you're thinking too generally. How will you measure your goals or know if you met them? For instance, how will you know if you met the goal of "to learn as much as I can about the organization"?

It's better to be specific most of the time. You can start with general ideas like that but dig deeper to find the specific goals. For instance, someone suggested a goal could be "to identify areas in which I can add value to the organization." That's general, again. Dig deeper into the idea of "to identify areas in which I can add value to the organization." That's still a goal in the research stage. You want to find a specific "area" and then you can start setting a related goal for it. Dig deeper to find and set the goals.

Someone mentioned the possibility of using those "general" goals to fall back on "when put on the spot" by a manager asking for goals. So that brings me to this point: I receive many e-mails from administrative professionals "put on the spot" by their own doing; this is because they wait for a manager or other boss to ask them to set goals, or they start thinking about goal setting the day before the goals are due to someone requesting them (such as for usage in a performance review).

It's at that time I get the e-mail with a panic tone from that administrative professional: "My goals are due tomorrow. Help!"

I can't emphasize enough how important it is to be thinking of goals year-round so you're never "put on the spot." Anticipate that you will be asked at some point in the year to set goals.

And if you're not asked, you might want to be proactive and take the approach (especially during performance reviews) of discussing and setting some goals with your manager's or executive's awareness. It's a good career move. But goals also can keep you inspired and focused on the job and in your career. Goals can set you apart too as an "advanced" level administrative professional.

However, if by chance your manager does put you on the spot and says, "Let's talk goals," don't be put on the spot. Get your manager's input but tell him or her you'll have to put thought into the matter and get back to them at x date. Good goal setting is not done instantly.

I offer a goal-setting publication specifically to help administrative assistants and executive assistants set goals. Many of my clients have told me it has helped them to brainstorm goals and think about goal setting from a different perspective. This publication in which you can learn about setting goals for administrative assistants and executive assistants is sold at this URL:

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It is called The Basic Guide to Goal Setting for Administrative Professionals and it is intended to help you with personal or professional goal setting as an administrative assistant or executive assistant.