What’s In A Name?

Helen Monument, Interim Chair WA-Alliance, writes:

On 17th and 18th March this year, I attended ExecSecLIVE Global, the online event run by Executive Secretary Magazine. When it was over, I went for a much-needed walk. I was very happy that the sun was shining, as it really reflected my mood after being behind my screen for two and a half days.  What an amazing event it was with so many inspiring speakers, so many enthusiastic participants, so many old and new friends to network with.

I was particularly pleased with the buzz that started around my interview with Lucy Brazier on the WA-Alliance Skills Set Matrix. The chat was on fire with comments, questions and great words of encouragement. This tells me that we are absolutely right to announce this tool to the world right now.

Spring has arrived here in Europe, it was wonderful to be outside in the fresh air and I started to notice that things were growing. Green shoots on the trees and bushes and even daisies popping up on the grass. There were spring flowers everywhere. Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and crocuses each have their own conditions in which they thrive. They need the sun and the rain and the earth at different times of the year and in different degrees. They all have different names, but we see them all as flowers.

The name we give ourselves is very important to us, it gives us our identity. The WA-Summit surveys found that there are more than 160 job titles for what administrative professionals do. In the interview with Lucy Brazier, I spoke of Administrative Professionals, which is quite a mouthful, especially as I had to say it several times, so I shortened it to ‘Admins’.

There was a heartfelt plea in the chat window during the interview “Please don’t call me an Admin, I’m an Executive Assistant.” I can fully understand that remark, especially if you’ve worked diligently towards a certain position in the office hierarchy over many years and, of course, you’re proud of what you’ve achieved.

But whatever job title our organisation chooses to give us, it’s the content of our work and the skills that we need to excel in our role that are most important, as well as receiving recognition for what we do, and how we do it.

The Skills Set Matrix does not refer to specific job titles. It defines five levels of competence and the most common tasks that you can expect to do at each particular level as well as the all-important skills that are required.

The WA-Summit report on International Position Titles from which the Skills Set Matrix was born is based on research from our survey of over 3000 Administrative Professionals that showed:

Position titles are a crucial element as to how the business world operates. Yet, the careers of many administrative professionals, roughly 1/5th of the world’s employed population, are defined by job titles and descriptions that are inaccurate, ambiguous and varied within organisations and across the globe.

The information contained in the Matrix is intended to assist you as an administrative professional in understanding where you fit and how you can progress. It is also to assist your Executive, your HR Department, Recruiters and Educators to better understand the roles administrative professionals fulfil, the structure and range of tasks within those roles, and show a clear career pathway for those who wish to progress. It is certainly not intended to change position titles within your organisation or your country. Neither is it a ‘one size fits all’, which would of course be an impossible task. The report concludes that:

The most common title for administrative professionals is “Administrative Assistant” with “Executive Assistant,” “Receptionist” and “Office Manager/Administrator” as runners up. The title of “Secretary” appears to be in declining usage considering occupational data of the past.

This conclusion is affirmed by the decision of Executive Secretary Magazine to rebrand on its 10th anniversary and take on a new name: Executive Support Magazine. Congratulations to Lucy Brazier and her team for taking this step forward.

When we at the WA-Alliance talk about our community, we refer to Administrative Professionals, sometimes shortened to Admins for simplicity. It’s a purely overarching term that we use globally, so please don’t let that distract you from our main message, which is that we are all in this profession together, that we need to raise our voices as one to show Executives and HR Managers the value that we bring to their organisations.

4 comments on “What’s In A Name?

  1. Sophie Zammit on


    That’s sound great !

    It will be also good to get the notion of the salary range between these 5 levels of competence, so that then the Matrix could be very useful to position yourself and see how could be an elevator.

    • Admin on

      Hi Sophie,
      Thank you for your comment.
      We have intentionally not mentioned salaries in the Skills Set Matrix as there is so much disparity between countries.
      This is definitely a topic for discussion at the WA-Summit in May.

      kind regards,
      Helen Monument

  2. Cherie Leiker on

    Thank you for this report and your work on this. This information is beneficial for higher education in the USA. I am a professor at a community college preparing future administrative professionals. I am often asked by administrators why the certificate and degree offerings in my department use the title administrative assistant and if can I could call the offerings something better to attract the younger generation. This comment from them comes across as demeaning, yet their own admins at the college are called administrative assistants. The image of administrative assistants, et. al., needs a reboot that showcases the value of admins and the potential for a very rewarding career.

    • Admin on

      Hi Cherie,
      Thank you so much for your comments. It’s extremely valuable for us to receive input from education experts.
      I’m very happy that you agree with us that the image of the profession needs a reboot, particularly to attract the younger generation.
      Please continue to follow us as we aim to elevate the administrative profession.

      kind regards,
      Helen Monument
      Interim Chair WA-Alliance


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