Admins on the Rise: Changing Industries
For anyone who’s ever tried to break into a new industry or role, you know that change can be hard! Even when you are confident in your ability to ramp up in a new industry, it can be difficult to communicate how your previous experience applies. Plus, is the grass really greener in that other industry?
Seeking to understand how people have successfully approached these transitions, and what they found once they got there, Maven hosted an event on March 29th called Admins on the Rise: Changing Industries. We were honored to have over thirty executive assistants in attendance, including our esteemed panelists:
- Jill Agnello, Chief of Staff at Viator
- Mackenzie Allen, Executive Assistant at Founders Fund
- Leigh-Ann MacMullen, Executive Assistant at Nerd Wallet
- Maria DeFelice, Executive Assistant at The Information
We traded stories, advice, laughs, and numbers while also raising money for a worthy cause, The Women’s Building in San Francisco.
Here’s what we learned.
Figure out your audience and speak to them directly
Mackenzie: “Ask yourself, who is my audience, and how can I speak their language?” She thinks about what they’re looking for and specifically draws out what she’s done that relates from her experience. Start-ups are looking for someone good with change and willing to get their hands dirty; finance CEOs are focused on someone they can trust to deal with confidential information. “I’m guessing at what my audience wants to hear, but it’s educated spaghetti.”
Maria: Do your homework: reference an article about the industry or research what the CEO is interested in, and it shows that you care. “It pays off ten-fold.”
Leigh-Ann: “You may not have the title, so dig into the experience you do have, and show you have the chops to handle the role.”
Your future is in your hands
Jill: Certain aspects of the EA role are the same in all industries, but that’s just the baseline. “You’re in control of your trajectory, and it’s up to you to take it by the reins.”
Mackenzie: “Find the pieces in each industry that pique your interest.” Ask yourself what the gaps are in the company and how can you create value. For Mackenzie, at her previous start-up role, this meant taking on marketing. And now, at the VC firm, she’s working with business development. “That’s how my role starts to shift.”
Mad Men or The Office, you decide
Jill: “Finance was fabulous to me.” They compensated her well, paid for tuition reimbursement, and she enjoyed being part of such a polished EA group, but it was much more hierarchical and buttoned-up. She wanted a “change of space” by moving into a more creative environment. With a start-up, it can be a scramble to figure things out, but her new role has “a flexibility and adaptability that finance didn’t.”
Maria: “There is something beautiful in knowing you are going to get an answer to your ten questions” with an established company, but “start-ups have more flexibility with what you can do.” Working in start-ups and finance can be equally fulfilling, but they are completely different roles in many ways.
Best piece of advice for those about to take the plunge
Maria: “Create an Excel pie chart of how your executive uses their hours in a week; figure out where they’re spending their time and what they need to do differently to accomplish their goals. Also, knock on the door ten minutes and five minutes before the end of a meeting.”
Leigh-Ann: “Talk to your boss about work styles and the best ways to communicate with one another.”
Mackenzie: “Figure out the bigger level of what they’re working on and what they want to achieve long-term, then help them navigate towards that vision. Surround yourself by people who are the best at what they do.”
Jill: “Find a way to break the ice. These roles can be intimidating and you might feel timid, but have confidence and rib them with a little something that pulls them down to earth.”
Thank you again to all who participated and attended! Admins on the Rise: Changing Industries helped us better understand the ins and outs of industries and, most importantly, gave us tangible tools for navigating our own transitions.
We at Maven are happy to provide a space and programming where admins can continue to learn from and support one another. Stay tuned for details on our next event in June 2017!