Ten years ago, the role of a personal assistant was heavily centred around administrative skills – typing, minute taking, diary management and so on. Now, as we enter a new decade, it is safe to say that the role of the PA has evolved along with technology and a shift in working practices.
Today, the duties of a Personal Assistant stretch far beyond admin – they are now taking on more and more responsibility in the lives of their bosses, clients and the companies they work for.
The role of a modern PA is constantly changing, and no one knows it better than PAs themselves. In this article, we highlight some key skills and top tips that will help you excel as a PA in 2020.
1. Project Management
Taking responsibility for projects is a great way to show that you can bring more to the table in your PA role. Offering to manage a project that would otherwise be the responsibility of your boss or team can contribute to overall efficiency whilst boosting your own skillset. Projects could take the form of anything from employee engagement, design and implementation of business support processes or event management. Whilst putting your time management and organisation skills to the test, you will also develop a commercial awareness that is essential if you ever want to become an EA.
2. Technological Efficiency
The technological landscape is always shifting, so keeping up with changes in technology is important, as is building on your existing skills. For example, your Microsoft Office skills should be flawless and it’s highly beneficial to stay up to date with its various programmes. However, you should also embrace any new technology that might make your administrative tasks easier and free up your time to be involved with the operational and commercial side of things.
As a PA it is all about who you know, so make sure to do plenty of internal and external networking. 2019 PA of the Year winner Sarah Hodson stresses the importance of a support network, “whether it’s within your own team, a PA Network Group or your own ‘Black Book’ of contacts – much of the job is reliant on who you have contacts with.” Attending networking events is also beneficial, so make sure to keep in the loop on social media to find out when they’re taking place.
4. Relationship building skills
As well as networking with others in the industry, building relationships with bosses and clients is highly important in being a successful PA. Customer interaction and making people feel valued is crucial. Get to know your clients on a deeper level: research their business, follow them on social media and find out whatever you can to be able to confidently strengthen your relationships in the future.
5. The ability to think ahead
Anticipating future issues before they happen and providing a solution is a very valuable skill to have. This will demonstrate that you know the company inside out and you will also be adding to your own professional achievements if this ends up being a way you can reduce costs and increase efficiency.
6. Push yourself professionally
Committing to your own professional development is essential for making the most of your career. Say yes to events or opportunities for training and development, no matter what it may be, and actively seek opportunities which build on your professional skills and knowledge. Legal PA of the Year 2019 winner Joanne Wilson says that continuous training is crucial in her success as a PA. Joanne says “Learn as much as you can. If there is training on it, do it. You never know what this may lead to in the future, no matter how trivial you think it may be.”
7. Be Inquisitive
As a PA, you have a truly unique perspective of the business for which you work, with an insight into all initiatives and activities. Therefore, if you have an idea or a query, don’t be afraid to speak your mind! Keeley Lawrence, EA to the CEO of Sky makes the valid point; “Never be afraid to ask the dumb question – it’s usually the most important and no one else will ask it.”
With the role of the Personal Assistant constantly evolving, staying informed with industry developments, pushing yourself to learn and building on your existing skills is key to reaping the rewards from your PA career in 2020.
Visit the SecsintheCity blog throughout the year to stay up to date with the latest news, events and careers advice for PAs, EAs and office support professionals.