In 2008, I received a scholarship to continue my Master degree in Information Security in U.S. As part of the preparation, the Ministry of High Education gathered all the scholar students and took them through 1 day orientation. The minister of High Education back then started the day by saying a word that resonated with me until today, “You are Not a student, You are an Ambassador of your own country, so do right by it”.
Through the day varies people from the ministry of high education went through what to watch out, our image today out there, and how the way we act, behave, and talk will print an image not about a person but about the image of every person from my country.
When I moved to U.S. few months later, I realized how true those words are. Regardless of the fact that I was american by birth, people thought always of me as “Muslim Arab”. Anything I do is count on both Muslims, and Arabs, not only my country. What a huge weight to have on your should. Weather I like it or not, I am an Ambassador for both. What make that representation even heavier, is that people already had bad impression about my people based on the few they encountered in the past, as time passed by people who got to know me, would tell me things like it is a true pleasure to know you, we have always thoughts of people from your country as …, but as we get to know you, we think otherwise.
So, what does this story have to do with virtual assistants ? A lot, lets face it, no matter what country you are from, there is some stereo type about it, and people will expect it always to be true and I do apologize for sharing some of those example stereo types, if you are from Gulf country like Saudi or UAE, that you are luck rich person who is not bright, if you are from Nigeria, you are scammer, if you are from India, you are not honest, …. and the list goes on and on.
Where did these Stereo type come from ? from interaction, I meet someone from India, based on how he act, I judge the whole country. Now, I am very diverse person who travel aboard a lot, so it probably not the case with me, but it is the case with at least 90% of the world population.
Now, that we all live in a connected world, and you can meet people from cross the globe with a single click, work for someone on the other side of the world. You are NO longer just a virtual assistant, You are an ambassador for your own country.
No matter what your country is, your client, will always identify you in his/her mind by your nationality, if you are a slacker, you may give the client that everyone from your country is, if you don’t hold high work ethics, he would think, everyone from your country is. What make things worse, when the client struggle with 1 issue cross multiple virtual assistant.
Many virtual assistant with low to none work ethics think it is okay, you may never work with that person again, well think again. That client will start using phrases like ” People from country x” are lazy, or has no ethics, … etc. Word of mouth are the fastest way to spread news. Now you just bad mouthed your whole country.
The good news, that just as bad words fly, so does the good words, so as a virtual assistant, who want to drive more business to people in your country, hold yourself to high standard. You are not just doing “A Job”. Here are few things that you can do as a virtual assistant to print a great image about your country :
- Respect Time: In western country, when someone says lets meet at 9 am, it mean 9 not 8:59 and not 9:01.
- Take Initiative: Don’t just lay back and wait for client to reach you out.
- Communicate Often: Better to communicate more than to under communicate
- Don’t cheat your client: Don’t abuse your time by doing things you are not suppose to do while you are on the clock.
- Be Honest: People appreciate honesty more.
- Be accountable: I encountered various Virtual assistant who think it is okay to walk over a client anytime they feel like it, it is never okay. You should always be concerned how the work will be done.
- Be Responsible: your job is not done by doing the minimum, but by doing the maximum. If your client assign you a task, understand how can you do it right.
- Don’t take a job you can’t do right: It is okay to say No, and it is okay to say I am over whelmed, accepting things you can’t achieve is the worst thing you can do as a virtual assistant
- Don’t be a shortsighted: a big mistake many virtual assistant think of relationship as temporary with the clients or companies, the truth couldn’t be any further. Smart people build connection, dumb one just get by. You never know what a good relation can do to you, I have freelancers I worked with for years, and until today I still recommend them for others.
No matter what job you do, or where you do it, remember you are drawing an image for both you and your country, so decide how that image should looks like.