Owning Your Professional Development as an Executive Assistant

Published: 2017-07-28


A framework to help you take responsibility for your training strategy                              

IMA is Your Network For Sharing And Learning

IMA – International Management Assistants is a global and high-quality network of management support professionals. IMA organizes two main events per year: The Training Day in spring and the Annual Conference in fall. We are looking forward to this year’s conference on Business Ethics and Integrity on 29 September at Marriott Hotel The Hague, Netherlands.

It will be a journey covering different aspects of Business Ethics and Integrity. A journey of learning. A journey to meet like-minded management support professionals. A journey to form new relationships, and strengthen existing ones.

Do you want to join us and attend the Business Ethics and Integrity on 29 September at Marriott Hotel The Hague, Netherlands, but do not know how to obtain funding?

Julia Schmidt and Angela Parker want to guide you through some steps that will help you in having your development training funded or deciding to fund it yourself.

The framework

Make a self-assessment to identify the short and long-term improvement areas. You are refining yourself for your current position and for the future. Ask yourself how successful you want to be.

List your improvement goals and make a strategy to attain the objectives through learning and development. Align your training plan with the goals of your department and executive.

Do research by considering the quality of the different training offers you get.

Check the seminars, workshops or conferences that are covering the topics related to your areas of improvement.

Select according to dates, duration, location, prices and possibility to network. Check both your calendar and your executive’s diary. Avoid choosing events having dates conflicting with important scheduled activities in your organization.

Ask for referrals by contacting people in your network who have attended the events you are interested in. The recommendations will be part of your argumentation plan.

Prefer training events offering real networking opportunities. Two or three coffee breaks are not enough to make people connect and share knowledge, ideas and experience. Remember that sharing your knowledge is key for professional development.

Think about bringing to the workplace something new that you can put immediately into practice after the training session, as PowerPoint tricks, Outlook best tips or EXCEL-formulas. Consider training events offering workshops with practical activities and exercises. It is an excellent way to show short-term return on investment (ROI).

Highlight the topics in the event program that motivate you, as a speaker whose book you have read, professionals from your industry that you want to connect with, strategic persons that can mentor you or the presentation of smart tools that will boost your efficiency. See the whole picture and study all the possibilities. The “motivation modus” will play a crucial role during the presentation of your training case.

List all the advantages you will get from the selected training events. Align them with the goals you have identified. Rate the advantages according to the most important goals. Remember that this approach works best when you combine your needs and goals with those of your organization so that your growth contributes to corporate objectives.

Formulate your business case by presenting your goals, the improvement and training plan, the advantages and the training events you have classified. Include the ROI (return on investment) analysis. Present your case using the communication style preferred by your executive. It can be orally, showing the figures and best offer for prices. You can either edit a fancy power point presentation, a word document including the program for the events or an e-mail presenting the information with bullets and adding links to the events’ webpages. Be smart! Choose the best moment, which can be either your one-to-one meeting or the performance review. Show that you have taken in consideration the company’s interests.

Be prepared to negotiate the best way to get the training funded. Have a plan B (C, D…). If your company cannot pay the whole bill, present alternatives. You can maybe pay the hotel stay, or fifty percent of the total. Be creative! Be results-driven! Find a win-win solution.

Do not give up, if you get a big “No”. Ask yourself the following: Why would I throw out all the great research I did? How about financing the training myself? If you are sure that your training plan is adding (will add) value to your career, go for it! Show that you have plans B, C and D and go for a training that you can afford. Have you considered saving some money monthly to invest in training? It can be very gratifying being your own boss and taking ownership of your own development. Check whether your personal training expenses are eligible for income tax credits.

Evaluate the way you presented your business case. What might you have done differently? Formulate your case in a better way. Ask peers in your networks how they are getting development training funded by their employers. Collect good tips and try again next year.

My advice is be responsible for your own professional development, ensure you have the skills you need now and take opportunities to expand and grow those skills whenever you can so that you are ready for the next opportunity that presents itself to you. (Eth Lloyd)

 Angela’s story

Julia asked Angela to share her story about her professional development opportunities.

JULIA: How do you associate training and development with your responsibility to renew your perspective by reflecting on new ideas and ensure efficiency?

ANGELA: I think continued training and development is paramount to keeping my skills up-to-date and acquiring new ones. In doing so, I look at what is going on at my job and which skills I could use to do it more efficiently. Until about three years ago, I paid for all seminars and courses completely out of my own pocket. I did so because, for one reason or another, my then-employers did not believe in developing the skills of their staff. Nevertheless, I felt that I owed to myself to learn to be at the top of my game. The expertise and the skills I acquired in the seminars helped me land my current job. My current employer is very supportive of life-long learning. They have paid for seminars on travel risk management, intercultural training, international contracts, corporate law as well as a summit for high-caliber EAs and PAs. I will attend another international event funded by employer later this year. The knowledge I have acquired there helps me to do my job better every single day. At these events, I have connected with some wonderful people from all over the world which is really good, because my colleagues travel to many different places and it is always beneficial to know that there is someone to call on for tips and support. I am a member of IMA (International Management Assistants) and the institution that held legal seminars is a corporate member of IMA Germany. We, therefore, received discounts on both seminars. The upcoming international event will be funded by my employer whilst I contribute the travel expenses because I will combine attending the conference with a vacation. In addition to discounts for my IMA-membership, I also use early-bird rates to save my employer costs. I already have some topics in mind that I want to learn more about in order to support my executives better, and will propose these to them shortly.

JULIA: Do you have a lifelong learning strategy?

ANGELA: Having been a part of the work force for 30 years, I have always just looked at what I wanted to accomplish at certain points along the way and then set about acquiring the relevant skills. When after the birth of my first child I started to work as an assistant, I learned most of the skills on the job and subsequently looked for seminars that would help me become better at what I was doing. Among others, I earned certificates as translator for technical English, correspondence and business, and attended events for management assistants. Being part of professional networks such as IMA and attending the high-quality yet affordable trainings offered by them is a good way to acquire new skills along the way while networking with like-minded professionals who often inspire me to further add to my skill set. To me learning is something I do every day – mostly informal, sometimes formal, because my role evolves every day and I must evolve with it.

JULIA: How do you put into practice and share what you learn in training events?

ANGELA: I have always looked for training and seminars that I am certain will have an immediate practical benefit for me and my employer. The travel and law-related seminars that my employer have paid, have been very helpful. The law seminars have given me great insight and already saved my employer some money, which would have otherwise gone to our lawyers. Moreover, I met some great people and have recommended trainers to my executives. My executives and my colleagues are very pleased with the way I apply the knowledge I acquire at the seminars, because they greatly benefit from it. I share my knowledge with them and with fellow assistants at networking events. Moreover, I recently became a member of IMA Germany’s mentoring team and look forward to applying my learnings in the mentoring sessions as well.

Click here to find information regarding the IMA Germany Mentoring Program.

Julia & Angela are looking forward to meeting you in The Hague!

Visit the conference’s website for more information regarding IMA Annual Conference 2017 - Business Ethics and Integrity.

This article is adapted from the post Yes! You Are Attending The Training Day!

About Julia & Angela:

Julia Schmidt is Executive Assistant and National Chairman of IMA (International Management Assistants) Norway.


Angela Parker is Executive Management Assistant and former National Public Relations Officer of IMA (International Management Assistants) Germany.

Julia and Angela wrote this post in collaboration. Julia and Angela are enthusiastic IMA-members. They want to bring IMA – International Management Assistants to YOU and create sharing & learning platforms. 

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