Helping executive assistants break through the limitations of their role and advance to their next level with confidence

Kate Minogue, Executive Assistant Career Strategist
Executive Assistant Career Strategist

A Trick for Exec Assistants to Figure Out What They Want To Do

When it comes to your career, do you know what you want?

Having a career you love starts with knowing what you want to do. But what if you’re not clear on that? How do you go about figuring out what you want?

As an Executive Assistant, it can be particularly challenging to figure out what you want to do. You’re likely a person with a lot of different skills and interests, with the ability to build relationships with all kinds of people. Even though you could do a lot of things, what you actually want to do might not be obvious. 

If you’re unsure of what you want to do, this post is for you. Here I’m going to share one of my favorite tricks to begin tracking down what you want.

Noticing the Pang

One of my favorite ways to begin figuring out what you want is what I call noticing the pang.

It starts like this: you read or hear about someone doing something really cool. You’re totally admiring this person’s skill, courage, art, accomplishment – when all of a sudden you feel a mysterious pang.

It feels like a twinge of wistfulness, longing, or even mild envy.

The pang is the feeling you get when you see something you want, and don’t have.

Now, the thing about the pang is that it’s uncomfortable.  It’s a yearning for something. It feels like an ache – like missing someone you love who’s far away.

And that, right there, is the secret: the pang has just showed you something that you love and want to experience! But that thing you love is far away from where you are now. And that gap, between where you are, and where you want to be, hurts.

What Is The Pang Telling You?

When you feel the pang, how do you know what’s causing it? What exactly are you seeing that you want?

It might be instantly clear – like when you hear about your friend traveling to London on business – and you instantly recognize that you’d like to travel internationally for work, too.

But other times, it’s harder to tell the exact meaning of the pang. It might not make any sense at all at first glance.

When you’re not sure what’s causing the pang, write down as much as you can about what you saw and what you felt. Begin to keep a record of the circumstances where the pang begins to show up. Look for patterns. Even though you might not see the meaning immediately, you’ll start to notice the common threads over time.

Staying Open To The Message In The Pang

When something hurts, the most natural thing in the world is to try and stop the pain. In the case of the pang, what you want can seem so far away from where you are, that it seems impossible to ever get there.

And trying to get there might involve doing things that are totally outside your comfort zone. It may very well involve taking some risks. “SCARY!!” Shouts your brain. “DANGER!!” “DO NOT ATTEMPT BECAUSE YOU WILL FAIL!!”

Don’t fall for this! Your brain has good but misguided intentions. It’s trying to keep you safe by protecting you from the risks it perceives in going after what you want.

But this, my friend, is one of the leading causes of that career-killing syndrome called Playing Small.

So you while you may be tempted to ignore the pang, instead try this short practice to benefit from what it’s trying to tell you.

Practice: Interview With The Pang

When you feel the pang, take 5 minutes to quickly jot down the where, when, what, and who was involved. Be as specific as you can.

Next, pretend you’re interviewing the feeling of the pang itself. Imagine that you’re asking a series of questions to the pang, and that the pang can answer you back with its own thoughts, words, and feelings. When you answer as the pang, pretend you actually ARE the pang, speaking back to you.

This works best as a written exercise. Or, you can have a friend be the interviewer, and you can answer out loud, as the pang. Like this:

  • You ask: “Pang, what are you trying to tell me?”
    Pang answers: “Well, I’m trying to let you know that you’re bored and wanting more!”
  • You ask: “Pang, what do you want me to do?”
    Pang answers: “I want you to set up your own meetings and lead a team, too!”
  • You ask: “Pang, is there anyone you want me to speak with?”
    Pang answers: “You know, you haven’t talked to our old pal Anne in a while. She has a new job that sounds cool. I’d like to hear more about what she’s up to these days.”
  • You ask: “Pang, where do you want me to go?”
    Pang answers: “I’d like you to get up from this desk, walk out into the fresh air, and move your body for 5 minutes.” 

The answers may surprise you. Try not to judge what comes back – the game is allow feelings, intuitions, and insights to arise from a place deeper than your logical mind.

I Wished That I Could…

Last but not least, fill in the blank of the following statement:

“When I read/heard/saw this thing that made me feel the pang, I wished that I could:


Don’t think too much about the answer and don’t edit yourself. Just allow your hand to write any answer it wants!

Have you been feeling the pang lately? I’d love to talk with you about where you are and where you’d like to go. Here’s where you can get on my calendar for a free Discovery Session. Let’s talk about what the pang has been telling you, and how I can help you find it!


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