Recently, something reminded me of a conversation I had a while back with a colleague.
She was frustrated by an interaction she’d had with someone in a networking group and wasn’t sure what to do about.
The person had asked what she did. She answered that she was an Administrative Consultant and attempted to relate some of the tasks she helped clients with.
The person’s response was “Oh, so you’re a virtual assistant?”
She wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that because she most vehemently did not want to be associated with that term whatsoever.
In all honesty, some people aren’t worth your time. And the person she was talking to was obviously an uncouth ninny.
On what planet does anyone dictate to you what your title or term is, especially after you have just told them?
(That was a rhetorical question. The answer is it is never anyone’s place to call you anything except what you have instructed/informed them to call you.)
However, a big part of the problem was in how she was describing what she did.
At the time, this colleague was resistant to pinning down a target market, and the kinds of things she said she did were so broad, vague, and generalized that it’s no wonder people were confused and wanted to lump her in as a VA.
That term has become a garbage dump for “anyone doing anything.” It’s basically branded itself to mean “cheap gopher.”
She got caught up in reciting lists of tasks instead of having the more abstract conversation about how she helps clients through the expertise of administrative support.
If you’ve found yourself in a similar conversation, and you deign to indulge in it with someone, here’s how you could respond in order to better educate said ninnies:
THEM: “Oh, so you’re a VA?”
YOU: “No, as I mentioned, I am what is known as an Administrative Consultant. That is something different and more specific.”
THEM: “But aren’t you basically an assistant?”
YOU: “No, that’s not an accurate way to understand the business-to-business relationship I have with my clients. Let me ask you this: As a coach/attorney/accountant/designer/(insert their profession here), are you an assistant to your clients?”
THEM: “No, I’m their coach/attorney/accountant/designer/(whatever their business/profession is).”
YOU: “Exactly! That’s how to understand my relationship with clients as well. You and I both run businesses that offer a specific service and expertise. We both assist clients, but that doesn’t make us assistants, right? What each of us does doesn’t matter. The fact that we run independent businesses, each delivering a specific service and expertise is the important thing. For me, I happen to be in the business of providing administrative support. But I’m not an assistant because 1) assistant is a term of employment and I am not an employee to my clients in any way, shape or form, and 2) I don’t act as an assistant to clients. I am a business owner and professional who provides a specific service and expertise to my clients; they turn to me for my expertise in providing ongoing administrative support and guidance. And the term we use for someone in that specific business is Administrative Consultant.”
This is how I have had similar conversations in the past. But what I’ve found is that once you a) stop calling yourself an assistant, and b) stop describing your business and the service you provide and how you work with clients in assistant-like terms, people get it, and you aren’t going to have to deal with too many ninnies after that.
Have you ever found yourself in a similar conversation as this colleague? How did you navigate it?
Thank you for the advice; will definitely follow it! My experience thus far is when I see the term ‘virtual assistant’ being put into the context of Siri, Google Now, Cortana and Alexa—AI-based software that appears to be expanding within the computer world. That bothers me; I don’t think it’s something to brush off. Like you stated, we are business owners and professionals providing specific services to clients. Respecting (and presenting) it that way is a must.