I spent last week on vacation camping in Maine. It was wonderful to get away from all the “gadgets” that comprise my day as a virtual assistant. It was good to “detox” and get back to a more a peaceful, quiet existence.
After I returned home, life returned to normal. I was running errands one morning, when a whole flock of Canadian geese started to cross the road. This particular intersection is very busy due to the fact that it borders on two shopping centers, an ice cream shop and it is an intersection of 3 roads.
Naturally all of the cars stopped to let the geese pass, even though the light was green and people were on their way to work. The geese took their time crossing and didn’t even bother to look at the cars or their drivers.
The drivers just waited for the geese to pass. No one tooted their horn or made obscene gestures. The drivers waited for the geese to pass, as if the drivers were afraid of the geese or afraid to offend the geese.
As I was sitting there, waiting, it reminded me of the similarity or division between administrative assistants and virtual assistants. When I go out and socialize or attend an administrative function, I often get mixed reactions, when I say that I’m a virtual assistant.
Sometimes, someone will say, “I’m one, too, because I work from home”. Just because that person works from home doesn’t make her/him a virtual assistant. They’re working virtually – period. They’re not a virtual assistant.
Some administrative assistants will say that their office or manager could not survive without them in the office. They have to be there at every minute, because the manager absolutely needs an assistant. There’s no way they could work from home.
When I hear this kind of talk, I usually just smile and ask them what happens when they take a sick day or vacation time. There’s usually a moment of silence, then the justification starts. They tell me that the office is a mess and it takes them 2 weeks to straighten everything out.
Again I smile and say, but the office/business did survive, while you were away. If I’m in a devilish mood, I follow up with, “Is your desk right next to your bosses? In the same office?” They get the message.
Why are administrative professionals afraid of virtual assistants? It can’t be fear of the unknown, because both administrative professionals and virtual assistants use the same skills to get the job done. I believe it is geared to the physical world we live in.
Our cellphones have become our alarm clocks, calendars, verbal and visual communications, entertainment, filing system for email addresses and phone numbers and much more. We have become so physical. We brand ourselves according to the kind of car we drive, the designer clothing labels we wear, our hairstyle and our interests.
All of this makes us very physical in our ability to communicate and survive in an ever-changing world. The idea that anyone can work from home using all of this technology remains a mystery to many people including small business owners, who could really benefit from this virtual profession.
Trying to get this idea of working virtually with a person you’ve never met and cannot supervise, is like trying to pass a camel through the eye of a needle. It’s just incomprehensible.
Right now, I’m going through the difficulty of trying to explain this same scenario to potential clients. I’ve tried several different analogies, but this one seems to work best. When potential clients balk at the idea of working with a virtual assistant, I simply ask them how many customers they have online.
I usually get an approximate number as an answer. I then tell them that they trust the internet to be up and running 24-7. They expect the internet to be flexible so they can change their business offers and freebies. They let the internet handle all their financial transactions and yet, the business owners have never met anyone working for their internet company, their online bank, their credit card company and they totally trust them to handle sensitive information and money for their business.
I ask them how they can doubt the effectiveness of a virtual assistant, when they engage the internet and internet banking in their business every day and depend on it for sales. It is an eye-opener!
Virtual assistants do not necessarily displace administrative professionals. They simply perform selected tasks independently saving the businesses money on office equipment, wages and benefits.
Just like the drivers and Canadian geese, administrative professionals should not be afraid to associate or work with virtual assistants. Each of these specialties has their place in the world and working world. They all need to be respected for what they do and what they stand for.