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black and white gift box with macarons and flowers

Next week is Administrative Professionals Day here in the US (as well as in Hong Kong and Malaysia!), which is a day set aside to celebrate admins everywhere, and we include virtual assistants in that group. And, boy, do they all deserve to be celebrated!

Over the years, we’ve heard about some terrific and less-terrific gifts admins have received from clients and bosses, and we were curious to know what kinds of gifts make them feel truly appreciated by those they support. So we asked them.

If you’ve come out of a corporate background, you may have typically offered “officey” gifts, like a business book, a day planner, flowers, or a lunch “for all the girls in the office.”  But we’ve gotten some very interesting information from them that we’d love to share with you to help you with what you choose to do this year.

Let’s start with the most-perfect gift of all.   You won’t actually be surprised, but it’s likely also not what you’re thinking. Things in this category are:

  • Respect
  • Kindness
  • Trust
  • Advancement
  • To be seen as professionals
  • Recognition
  • Appreciation
  • The opportunity to fully contribute

And all of them…admins want all of them every day, all year long. It’s clear that these are the sorts of “gifts” you can give that your assistant will value beyond any others. (If you need more about these sorts of gifts, I love this article!)

What you give on Administrative Professionals Day should be above and beyond what you do every day. If it isn’t, it misses the mark completely.

The thing is, choosing an above-and-beyond gift requires you to get to know your assistant. You can’t choose something “special” unless you know what she considers special.  If this hasn’t occurred to you before today, and you don’t really know her well, there’s always next year if you start getting to know her now. Or you could stalk her on social and figure it out. Pinterest is especially terrific for providing these sorts of ideas! We created a pretty special list at the year-end holidays that might spark something for you, too. Give that a peek.

But if you know her, chances are you’re already thinking about how to wow her with something.

In case it’s helpful—whether you know your assistant well, or less-so—here are what admins have told us are terrific, less so, and horrid gifts to receive, for Administrative Professionals Day or any occasion.

Gifts that have sent big messages of appreciation:

  • A gift certificate for a massage and another service of the assistant’s choice, at a well-regarded and luxurious day spa.
  • A gift certificate for two for dinner at a really great restaurant.
  • Tuition for a program you know your assistant has been dying to take that’s not work related.
  • Anything you know your assistant has been jonesing for but wouldn’t spend the money on.
  • Great tickets for two to a show, sporting event, or concert.
  • Gorgeous flowers—not your average bouquet. With a heartfelt note card of thanks and appreciation. You get bonus points if you hand-write the note card.
  • Artisan single-origin chocolate, gourmet salts, a home-cooked meal by a personal chef, or a subscription to a food-box service.
  • If you have an abundance of frequent-traveler miles, gift your admin with enough of them for airline tickets to somewhere she’s always wanted to go, or to upgrade tickets she already has.

Gifts that haven’t quite made the grade:

  • A card with just a signature, but no personal message of thanks or appreciation.
  • A cheap mixed bouquet of flowers.
  • Your company merch (mug or polo shirt with logo).
  • A gift certificate for such a small amount that the recipient needs to add her own money to the value of the card in order to enjoy herself.
  • Work-related supplies/items (although one VA said she was given a super-blingy desk set and she loved it, so if your admin would appreciate something like that, go for it!)

The worst-ever gifts:

  • No gift or acknowledgment of the day at all.
  • Anything, given late.
  • A wilted plant.
  • Anything health or weight-loss related (unless you know she’s deep into wellness and fitness).
  • An e-card. Nothing says you forgot or didn’t care quite the way an e-card does.

Some tips for choosing gifts:

  1. More than anything, remember this: choose something that your assistant will love. If you’ve never seen her eat or talk about loving fish, don’t gift her with a meal at the best seafood place in town. Any gift you give should be about her, not about what’s easy for you.
  2. If the phrase, “It’s not the size, but the thought that counts,” leads you to grab something…anything, last minute, and try to make it look thoughtful, forget about it. One assistant received a plant in a container shaped like a shamrock—clearly left over from St. Patrick’s Day. Her boss hadn’t even bothered to remove the sale sticker. Remember—a farce can be spotted a mile away.
  3. Be appropriate. Don’t do what one client did and send your VA a gift certificate to Victoria’s Secret.
  4. Make the gift meaningful and don’t be stingy. While a $1000 gift certificate to Nordstrom may not be in your budget, a $25 gift certificate seems a bit small to convey how valuable your assistant is to you. If you’re “going in” on a gift with several people, make sure the gift is not a single-giver-sized gift split multiple ways. Instead, pool your funds and make it one seriously bad-ass gift! If you can’t afford much, consider what you can give that would have more meaning than something that outwardly appears grand. One VA was thrilled with two bars of single-origin chocolate ($18—sometimes, it really is the thought that counts—well, that, plus the fact that the client knew what to buy by looking at her Pinterest boards!). One assistant shared that her boss had everyone in the department give her a single rose at various points throughout the day as they each shared their praise and appreciation for her. She was developing a wonderful bouquet when her boss came out of his office and gave her a hand-written card and one perfect rose. The meaning of the gift was self-evident, but she said that the experience of the day was worth far more than the flowers. What can you create that would have special meaning for your assistant?
  5. If you want to give her something nice that isn’t as nice unless it’s shared (like going to a show, a concert, or a restaurant), be sure to give her two, or enough money on the gift card to cover two, including taxes and gratuity where appropriate.
  6. Don’t put off until tomorrow the gift buying you should do today. It deserves your thoughtfulness and possibly a bit of shopping. With just less than a week to go, there’s no time like the present!
  7. Some people see Administrative Professionals Day as a trumped up “Hallmark” holiday. If you do, and you don’t see the point in engaging in blatant consumerism, get over yourself and do something terrific for the person who takes care of you. Again, it’s about her, not about you. And if you happen to know that she shares your view, do something nice for her anyway. She’ll secretly be thrilled, and that’s what matters.

It seems that the best gifts are those that are hand chosen, and heart-based, as the result of getting to know your assistant. Whatever you give, you want the message to clearly say that your assistant is special, valued, cared about, noticed as a terrific person, and respected for her contributions. If you genuinely believe your gift is a good indication of all that, chances are that your assistant will, too!