My Journey From Corporate Employee To VA

The evolution of ones’ career is fascinating to me, and I love hearing inspiring stories of how people changed things up, or followed their passion.

I also cringe when I hear people complain about being caught in jobs they are completely not suited for, are exhausted, have dreaded commutes, unhappy co-workers and unhealthy work environments. Yikes! I can relate, because I experienced just that.

For 15 years as an Administrative or Executive Assistant, I sampled many variations of the corporate world by working in union and (very) non-union environments, government, the oil and gas, pharmaceutical and health and wellness industries. So you could say I have a wide range of experience of clocking 9 to 5 with every type of work environment you can think of. Not that it was all bad; some of it was fabulous, and I’m very grateful for all the fulfillment and character building it gave me.

What hit me around 2006 however, was that I was already working “virtually” by supporting managers and directors in other satellite offices in different countries. The idea of “remote” administrative assistance started to appeal….

Then a fork in the road opened up and I moved to a small town brimming with creative and progressive entrepreneurs working from home with clients all over the world. While working as a secretary in a stressful civic environment, I grew increasingly envious of their lifestyle. “How do I do that?” I would ask myself. Ah the creativity, the freedom, the change of routine… With the support of my partner and a big writing project for a local community website, I finally proclaimed “I can do this!” and quit my union job, to the dismay of coworkers who’d been there for 25 years. Reckless? Courageous or naïve? The journey began.

In 2008, as I stepped out of one world and into another, the concept of virtual assistance was taking off like wildfire. It was the honeymoon phase of all things social media and new possibilities of working online, and I took courses to niche myself as a copywriter and social media marketing assistant. With writing as my first love, it was refreshing to work with such a variety of clients, all trying to keep up to the demand for online content, and trying to figure out Facebook for business. I jumped at the opportunity to write articles, blogs, press releases, media kits, landing pages, and complete website content. Through word of mouth – I never advertised, I supported fitness gurus, Feng Shui consultants, motivational speakers, community websites, and other marketing companies looking for anyone to write, write, write!

In some ways, I started before I was ready, and learned as I went. I believe the “start before you’re ready” mentality is an essential flipside to the same coin of “be prepared”.

First branding myself as Virtually There Admin and then later Virtual Asset, I soon realized it wasn’t all roses, and leaving the corporate world didn’t guarantee happy-ever-after. Scenarios took me by surprise such as unpredictable, distracted and disappearing clients, yes – disappearing as in, after one year of working together towards the launch of their website and a hundred hours of writing the entire content – poof gone, (only to re-emerge several years later doing something completely different).

And my boundaries? I was still working on that. I didn’t have a union or HR department backing me anymore, and ensuring I wasn’t being taken advantage of. I slapped my forehead a lot in those early days.

But here I am today a little wiser, with the resurgence of appreciation for the recession-proof VA lifestyle, whether part-time or full-time. It’s how I’m able to stay creative, flexible with my work day and have work/live balance on my own terms. It keeps me nimble without feeling trapped by a dull routine and boredom. Being a VA demands that I think outside the box, and I’m continually inspired by what my clients are doing with their passion. And it’s cool to be a part of that, and support them in ways that makes a difference. The journey continues.

Have you made the transition as well? Drop us a line and share your experience. We'd love to hear your story!

Shari Montgomery

After fifteen years of navigating the corporate world, Shari jumped aboard the growing trend of virtual assistance in 2008. Building on her administrative experience, she carved a more flexible path with her VA work, supporting dynamic entrepreneurs. With niche training in copywriting, social media marketing, proofreading and editing, she has had the privilege of working virtually alongside amazing entrepreneurs, inspiring creatives, and business professionals to get their work out to the world. She is pretty stoked every day to be part of the virtual workforce movement.
Shari Montgomery

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