I know I always say I can’t believe how the time flies but I seriously can’t believe how quickly 2013 past us by! It was quick wasn’t it!? I’m not just getting old! Anyway here we are in 2014 and I hope that everyone is settling back into work after the Christmas and New Year break. I think assistants will have an interesting 2014, particularly as it is the International Year of the Secretary and Administrative Assistant with lots planned for our professional development. Practically Perfect PA has lots and lots planned for 2014 which I will share with you over the next few weeks but in the mean time let’s have a look at what our industry can expect this year.

1. Employment opportunities and salary

It would seem that organisations are remaining cautious when it comes to increasing their head count this year. In fact in the US a recent report found that only 24% of employers planned to increase their staff numbers. A reliance on part time and temporary staff looks set to continue in 2014 which means that most assistants will stay in their current role rather than seek new employment opportunities. On the whole pay freezes have come to an end so assistants should expect financial rewards for their hard work this year. As ever it depends on your location with most pay increases expected in London and the surrounding area. For those looking to move to a different role this year make sure your CV reflects your reputation and ensure you emphasise your proven track record, this is what recruiters will be looking for in 2014 – a safe, risk free placement.

2. PA Networking

Throughout 2013 we noticed a huge increase in PA networking with a number of local networking groups springing up across the UK. Niche networking is a big trend for 2014 so it would seem assistants are ahead of the curve on this one! Joining a local networking group is a fantastic opportunity for assistants to meet other assistants in their area, receive training and support from the local community. Assistants will no longer have to get their manager’s permission to travel to London or other major cities for networking opportunities which can be a major hurdle. Do support your local networking group if you have one, if you don’t… well you should think about starting your own!

3. Professional Development

In 2013 we saw a massive rise in the number of conferences, events, exhibitions and seminars for assistants and this will increase even more so in 2014. It is hard to know which conferences to attend and where to best spend our employer’s money but we came across this short video which will help you and your executive choose the right event to attend this year. We must be fussy when it comes to our training and pick events that not just tackle the same old issues but instead really cater for our needs. The conference organisers must understand the profession, understand the pressures and the difficulties of the role and most importantly understand the diversity of the role and how it has changed over recent years. Our training should inspire us through a really creative atmosphere. No one should be attending boring old events with the same old presentations and speakers. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again assistants deserve top quality training just like any other profession.

4. Technology

Assistants should truly embrace new technology in 2014 because our executives certainly will. Most executives have a smart phone and tablet these days so assistants should already be aware of how they work, suitable apps and how to maximise their efficiency. Understanding technology can lead to assistants taking on projects outside of our mainstream role so I think embracing new technology should be a key focus for us this year. Remember it isn’t just our executives that are consuming new technology it is the entire organisation so stand out in this area and you’ll be recognised as someone worth knowing. Oh and don’t worry I can’t see technology taking jobs away from us any time soon!

5. Social Media

87% of companies now have a social media presence so it is becoming increasingly important for assistants to understand social media and in 2014 to go one step further and have a social media presences themselves. This is particularly important if job hunting, as most recruiters will now look for an active engagement in your chosen profession.  Most organisations now understand the importance of social media and allow (within reason) staff to use their working hours to look at Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Assistants in 2014 know that having a social media presence is invaluable to their role but they must understand that confidentiality and professionalism is still fundamental and must be displayed when using social media.

6. Information Security and confidentiality

Confidentiality is still a fundamental aspect of our role but overall in 2014 we will see an increase in the importance of information security across most organisations. Businesses will look at who has access to what and which levels of security staff are granted. There will be an additional emphasis placed on trust within our profession particularly as so many people now understand how much access we have to our employees confidential documents and personal life following the Nigella Lawson/Charles Saatchi case.

7. Travel

Technology really does touch every part of our role in 2014, particularly when it comes to arranging travel for our assistants. Internet access is on the increase so expect to hear from your boss on the flight, in the car and anywhere else that you can pick up wifi these days! The amount of down time we enjoy while our boss travels is certainly decreasing if it is not already non-existent. Hotels and airlines are increasing their use of technology with smart phone check in and front desks replaced with iPads and avitars. This will mean that assistants will again have to understand how this technology works and be able to help their executives download the appropriate apps for boarding passes and hotel reservations.

8. Client entertainment

As the economy slowly picks up over 2014 I think we will see a return to lavish client entertainment (did it ever really go away?) Assistants will have to keep a close eye on the restaurant scene as 2014 will see a continued growth in the pop up culture made fashionable in 2013. The best restaurants may only be in town for a short period of time so assistants will have to stay on the ball to get table reservations. Again technology comes into play with corporate entertainment and the growing number of iPad magicians and tablet caricaturists.

9. Role diversification

In 2013 we saw the role really diversifying with lots of assistants taking on additional work outside of the usual tasks we are assigned. Our professional development plan for 2014 should reflect this diversification and our managers should be aware that with extra responsibility comes extra support and training. Our role is changing and will continue to change throughout 2014.

10. Working Relationships

Unfortunately 2014 is not going to be the year we are suddenly appreciated for the work that we do. Assistants will continue to feel undervalued and the industry will not be seen as a profession in its own right. Nevertheless we are on the right track. Our managers appreciate us and we feel appreciated by them. The relationship between assistant and executive will become even stronger in 2014. With the likes of Richard Branson singing the praises of his PA last year I think we will see more public figures extolling the virtues of their assistants. This can only help us become more valued within our organisations and we should welcome the media coverage.

11. Talent

Talent will out in 2014 and organisations will try to recruit the most talented individuals and they will try to hold on to the talent that they already have. Assistants must see themselves as specialists because there are not many people that can do what we do. We have buckets full of talent and if we do not see ourselves this way then the 2014 ‘talent’ trend will pass us by. As our organisations seek to secure top talent they will be investing in their personal development programmes in 2014. Assistants can really benefit from jumping on the in-house training band wagon. Got a graduate scheme? in 2014 ask to attend a few of their training sessions so that you increase your business acumen. It’s free so what does your company have to lose?

12. Work life balance and working remotely

2013 saw many assistants trying to achieve a good work life balance by incorporating flexible working hours and working remotely into their average week. Many assistants took their first steps into the world of the Virtual Assistants and haven’t looked back since. In 2014 their will be an overall employment trend for remote working to increase and many organisations employing contractors to save money. I think many small business and entrepreneurs will employ VAs for the first time this year as a means of outsourcing administrative tasks. I also think more assistants will get the chance to work from home because their managers will allow other members of staff to do the same.

13. The changing face of the personal assistant

Our industry is so far removed from the stereotypical image of the ‘secretary’. However in 2014 we will see many younger faces entering the profession. The boomers are starting to retire (in fact 18% will retire in the next 5 years) which means there will be more opportuinites for Gen X and Y to take on board level assistant roles and move up the career ladder. The younger assistants will bring a strong understanding of technology, social media and how it can be used in a business context. We don’t want to lose the established skills that older generations of assistants have so in 2014 organisations should ensure the transfer of skills takes place before the boomers leave for their well deserved retirement!

14. The International Year of the Secretary and Administrative Assistant

2014 is the year of the secretary and administrative assistant which means not only do we have a whole year dedicated to our profession but we will also have a lot of wonderful networking events and media attention. This really is the year that our industry can take a giant leap forward and I think that in itself will be a big trend for 2014. We will be stepping out from behind our desks and showing the world how great we really are… oh and that most organisations can not function without us!

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