Adam Fidler shares his thoughts on the dangers of using dated language when it comes to talking about modern assistant roles
We’ve got to get better at being more selective and precise when using language and words to describe the role of the PA or EA. I still get rattled when I see articles about the role of an assistant, which I have no doubt were well-intentioned but actually take us backwards.
Often, PA and EA-related articles are littered with stereotypical language that does nothing whatsoever to change perceptions of readers (who are often non-PAs), of the true nature and essence of the role of a high-level PA. Yes, the stereotypical words are used as a comparison of what the role used to be, but can we not accept that using those words in that way only reinforces what we are trying to move away from?
I wrote the EA Manifesto where I avoided any secretarial language whatsoever. That was intentional to show the world and those in the profession that we must avoid ‘secretarial’ speak at every opportunity, as it takes us back to what we have worked so hard to move away from. I therefore make no apologies for my views and strive deliberately to continue to push the perception of the assistant role in a new light.
“In the corporate personal assistant world where professionalism, status and credibility are key – the oldfashioned words that were once used to describe a secretary have no place.”
My students, for example, are taught never to describe themselves as ‘secretaries’, ‘gate-keepers’ or ‘o cewives’ (yes, we still get that one from time-to-time), and I encourage all PAs to be careful not to use the wrong language, even in good faith.
In the corporate personal assistant world where professionalism, status and credibility are key, the old-fashioned words that were once used to describe a secretary have no place. If we continue to articulate the PA role with unhelpful language, then why do we expect our bosses or employers to think and speak about us and the role any di‑ erently?
You could start by looking at your job description; does it only use secretarial language, or does it contain the management qualities that employers are now seeking?
Remember your word is your wand – meaning the way that you describe yourself transforms your self-perception and that becomes the way that others see you. So, getting the language right for assistants really is paramount on so many levels.