My very good friend and fabulous Executive Assistant Stacy Price shares her thoughts on starting a new job… enjoy!
We’ve all started a job and had the ‘I wish I had known sooner’ moment. I have had 5 jobs over the past 12 years and pride myself as being an experienced new joiner. But when I started a new role 4 months ago, my experience counted for nothing!
It seemed that being the ‘go to’ person meant I should be up to speed on company policies and procedures, office etiquette and in-house systems as soon as I started. Within my first week I was being asked and expected to assist the team with various admin tasks using systems that I had never used or had training on. Although my colleagues had been there longer than me – years in fact! – I was made to feel that I needed to know, even though they didn’t!
I had to adapt and do it quickly to keep up with the fast pace and never-ending questions. Have you ever been in a situation where you are worried to ask for help? I decided that enough was enough and I could not bury my head in the sand. I was new, and I had questions which needed to be answered. Even though my team members didn’t know the processes, I searched out other PAs in the overall department, and invited them to a ‘get to know each other’ lunch. At last, the ice was broken and I no longer felt I needed to search for the answers myself. I had peers that I could turn to.
I also felt far less competent due to the systems that the company used. It had not occurred to me that a large organisation in the 21st Century would be using anything other than Microsoft Outlook! But as diary management can count for a large part of your role – and it was 80% of mine – you have to take matters into your own hands. To get up to speed with this new system, I spent my evenings on Lotus Notes Help and the Internet researching the Do’s and Don’ts. Whilst researching on the Internet I actually found an ‘I Hate Lotus Notes’ Support Group which I found amusing. I was not alone!
So much of what we do is automatic, like riding a bike, so using my PA skill set really helped me in those initial months. Being proactive and organised made it easier to cope in situations that could have developed into confusion and panic. It was not the tasks at hand that were of concern, as I could do these with my eyes closed, but it was learning and understanding new systems and processes which were time-consuming when I had strict deadlines to adhere to. A PA should have excellent judgement and initiative when required; seeking out help from established PAs in the company is a great example of this.
PAs are increasingly assuming responsibilities that were once reserved for managerial staff. So the pressure to maintain these expectations whilst trying to learn and make an impression in a new environment is tough. I started to feel far less competent or have far less skills than what I had thought. I had moved from a role where I felt first-class and appreciated and now I felt ordinary.
For me, this new role has been an excellent learning experience. After 4 months, I am now so knowledgeable on the organisation’s processes; I have created a new joiner guidance pack to share my knowledge. This pack is now provided as training and orientation for all new staff into our team to ensure a seamless transition into their new role. I also created a questionnaire that I provide to all new joiners. As a result, there are fewer questions on how to complete a process and people are generally feeling more informed about the workings of the team.
So whether you are an Administrator, Executive Assistant or Personal Assistant here are some of my top tips straight from the ‘I wish I had known sooner’ mouth. I hope these help you when starting a new role!
- Ask what Office Technology your Company uses before starting the role and keep up to date and develop your knowledge of the latest office gadgets and technology. The internet is a great learning tool.
- Ask for help and keep asking If your immediate colleagues don’t know the answer, seek out established PAs in other areas of the company.
- Meet your counterparts by scheduling a lunch or after work get together. This will help in building a strong network you can use on an ongoing basis.
- Be pro-active about talking to your Manager have some clear goals in mind of what you’d like to achieve in your role. Be assertive about what you need and what you can offer.
- Don’t doubt your knowledge! Even if you are an experienced PA, sometimes a new role can be daunting. Give yourself time to understand the new processes – and remember no one can know everything by the end of the first day!