From Administrative Assistant to CEO: the 5 mindsets that got me there


In 2000, fresh out of university, I began my professional career as an administrative assistant. My job was to answer the phone, manage the calendar and keep the office 
running. Flash forward to 2014, and I am the CEO of my own business. The journey along the way included high-ranking positions in Afghanistan and China, working with people from all walks of life, and learning from professionals who I consider to be the ‘best of the best’.

How did I do it?

I always sense people want the blue print for landing ‘the job’ when they ask me this question but the honest answer is there is no blue print for success. But I can share with you the decision path that shaped my career path, and the mindsets that were my ‘True North’ no matter what position I held.

The Decision Path

I had a simple formula that helped me decide whether or not to take a job. The formula also informed when it was time to move on. The answers to these questions always informed my decision to begin a new journey:

  • Will it benefit society ?
  • Will it be intellectually stimulating?
  • Will I be able to bring my skills and learn new ones?
  • What factors for success (or progress) are present? Can we really achieve what we are planning?
  • What possibilities will this create for my future? Will it create more opportunities or will it shut doors?
  • Do I believe in the people leading the mission?
  • Do I have a fire in my belly?

The 5 Mindsets for Success

While the questions above got me through the door, these mindsets took me the distance because what you do is important but how you do things is what will set you apart.

1. Consistent quality. Without fail, what brought opportunities to me, what I became known and rewarded for was doing quality work consistently. For most people, 80% of your job will be filled with things you like doing. 10%will be doing things you loathe. 10% will be doing things that light you up. Bring consistent quality to 100% of what you are doing. To all of it. This is not to be mistaken with perfectionism. Don’t aim for that. Aim for delivering work that you are proud to have your name on. Don’t be sloppy. Don’t sacrifice quality for quantity. Do the best you can every single time.

2. Be the leader you want to someday be. Look around at the leaders you admire- the ones currently shaping your day-to-day life, and the bigger leaders shaping the world at large. Ask yourself:

  • Who inspires you? 
  • Who would you like to be like? 
  • Why? 
  • What qualities and characteristics do they possess that you admire?

Be that leader now. Don’t wait. You don’t need permission. You don’t need a degree or a fancy title or a fat paycheck to be a leader. Be that leader now. Bring the qualities and characteristics you admire to your life and work today. And every day.

3. Be the employee you hope to someday lead. Now that you know what kind of leader you want to be, imagine you are in a position of responsibility. You are in charge, people take direction from you, and they work to deliver on your vision, inspired by your leadership. Now ask yourself:

  • What are the qualities of the people on your team? 
  • What do you admire about them? 
  • When there are challenges, how do they react?
  • How do they show you the blind spots?
  • What is their work ethic like? 
  • How do they shape the work? 

All of those things – be them now. Be the person you hope to someday lead. This can be especially helpful when dealing with difficult situations, when having to rock the boat or take a stand for an ideal or an idea. Always consider if you were the leader in this situation, how would you want your team to deal with this? Proceed accordingly.

4. Maintain a beginner’s mind. Always. I have had many titles over the years and no matter the context, I always tried to maintain my beginners mind. I learned very early in my career that I didn’t know it all nor could I possibly ever. This terrified me until I realized the power of saying ‘I don’t know but I will figure it out for you’.

Beginners possess curiosity and an appetite for learning. My willingness to name my limits, as well as my desire to learn, outshined my lack in any area. My ability to look at not knowing with curiosity freed me from overwhelming feelings of terror of the unknown.

5. Cultivate perspective. Strengthening my ability to see different points of view in any situation, especially to learn to expand my perspective on a topic that I personally felt vested in or deeply passionate about, served me well. It is an invaluable skill to have as a social change agent. Fundamental, really. In order to change a situation, you need to be able to see what is possible. You need to be able to see how things could be different. You need to be able to see that not only is a new world possible, you need to see it from multiple perspectives.

I will be revealing a new e-course to help you develop this skill soon, but to get started on mastering this think about a current situation in your life that needs a solution.

  • Who is involved?
  • How do they define the situation?
  • What words do they use?
  • How do they feel about the situation?
  • What would the ultimate solution look like for them?

Keep an open mind, and ponder their perspectives. The view from there may just change everything.


PS If you aren’t on the mailing list- get on it. I will be opening up mentoring sessions and a new e-course soon. Don’t miss out. Sign up at


4 thoughts on “From Administrative Assistant to CEO: the 5 mindsets that got me there

  1. Jade

    I was wondering what advice you would share for someone who has been working since they were 18 (currently 24) and have been in and out of school. I had graduated high school and went to college after and obtained my associates degree, I work full time for a hospital (billing) and am currently looking for another position, possibly an admin assistant role. I want to continue my education as I feel it is something that can not be taken away from you, but sending out my resume and seeing bachelors required hurts a little especially when I have been working in corporate settings since I was so young,

    Thank you for your time!

    • Hi Jade

      Thanks for asking. My view is that if there is a job you would love to have, and you have the skills but not the degree- apply anyway. Many organizations will consider equivalent experience and degrees.Your task is to ensure you convey your skills, talent and experience in your cover letter and resume to help them see what you can bring to the job.

      I also suggest applying because honing your application skills will benefit you in the long run, and you never know where you resume will land. I got my administrative assistant job in the organization I dreamed of working in, without having applied to the position. I had applied to several other positions, was rejected, and yet my resume landed on the right desk enough times, it got noticed.

      I get from your message that you may not be clear on what you want or the direction to head in. I would suggest that you get clear on what you want and pursue that rather than spending energy chasing the wrong things. If you would like a free 30 minute coaching session with me come on over and book some time.

      Best, Jodi

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