Several weeks ago, I had the privilege of delivering the keynote at the Annual Dinner and Awards evening for the Victorian Chapter of the Australian Institute of Office Professionals. Sue and I had a great time, with one of the highlights being our meeting with Vanessa Ashby, who won the Victorian Office Professional of the Year award that evening. What a great lady.

Married with two beautiful children, she was working in a job she truly enjoyed before she had her first child. After the second, she felt ready to get back into the workforce and was confronted with the common dilemma faced by many mothers – family versus career. How could she have both??? A career that would leverage her considerable talents and contribute to her personal growth and sense of contribution and which did not compromise on her commitment to be the best mother she could be for her kids and allow her to enjoy as much of their childhood as she could.

A friend knew of an entrepreneur who travelled a lot and as such was looking for a “virtual assistant”, someone who would take his calls, make his travel reservations, manage his calendar, help with book-keeping etc, and who he would be dealing with mostly via phone, email, etc. with “no strings attached”. Would she be interested in a discussion? An introduction ensued. The opportunity was really appealing but she felt daunted about having to invest in setting up a home office with all the requisite facilities, not confident that she could drum up enough business to justify the investment. So she said she’d “think about it”.

When she got home, the more she thought about it and the lifestyle it would afford her, the idea started to grow on her. Putting on some of her own entrepreneurial thinking, she decided that there must be many other “travelling entrepreneurs” out there that could do with the help of a virtual assistant. Excited by the opportunity, she checked out the classifieds and responded to a job opening which was seeking a casual Personal Assistant, selling to them the virtues of a “no strings attached” virtual assistant. The response was affirmative – she had her first client! Emboldened by this, she contacted the entrepreneur and signed up her second client! Her business was well underway and “The Exceptional Assistant” was born.

Today, Vanessa runs a thriving business. She has clients she loves, who are passionate about the work they do and best of all, she loves the flexibility it offers her! Doing what she loves doing best and getting well-remunerated for it! How’s that for a win-win!

Vanessa exemplifies someone I regard as a High EQ professional.

Some of her strong emotional competencies include:

  • Accurate self-assessment – knowing what she wanted and what would give her joy.
  • Self-confidence and Initiative – although she had doubts, she exercised her independent will to overcome this fear and to take massive action.
  • Drive to Achieve – she started with a vision of what she wanted and when the opportunity arose, took proactive steps towards the attainment of the vision. Instead of thinking “I can’t” and focusing on all the reasons why she couldn’t (e.g. “what if I don’t get enough clients?”, “how can I justify the setup costs?”, “I don’t have the experience to do this”), she focused on solutions (“how can I create a situation where I minimise the risks and optimise the upside?”) and finally, backed herself to make it work.
  • Adaptability – to the changed circumstances in her life and a different way of working, without compromising on her outcomes (to create value for her clients) and her values (integrity, service-orientation, passion, commitment, etc.).
  • Social awareness – instead of asking “how can I find a job”, she asked “who could I create value for?”, “who would value my talents and contributions?”.
  • Service-orientation – her mindset of seeking to “create value” and to help others resulted in her meeting her own needs as well.
  • Trustworthiness – a critical asset of someone who can be trusted to work by the hour and “virtual”-ly.
  • Collaboration – her relationship with her friend was instrumental in getting her the initial contact. Remember that we are never meant to reach our full potential “alone”. We need to make ourselves accountable for our success and results, but leveraging our network and allowing them the gift and joy of knowing that they have contributed to our success is a huge part of life.
  • Influence – creating a win-win proposition for her clients.

I hope you enjoy this story and that this inspires you to continue to think “how can I” whenever you’re faced with a dilemma. Pursue your dreams, you are worth it!

Wishing you the very best you deserve,

Dominic Siow