Recently, the OpenMeet team had the pleasure of participating in the annual Practically Perfect PA Assist Conference 2017, where we ran a few workshops on career development for assistants: 5 common problems and how to solve them. This is the second of three blogs that we are producing based on all the great information and feedback we got from our workshop participants. Read the first one, on what to look for in an event supplier, and watch out for the third and final blog, on how to ensure organisations value PA work!
We wanted to explore what career development in the PA role looks like.
So we asked our attendees what they thought about their career paths, skills development, performance reviews, and any other developmental aspects of their jobs. They then discussed solutions to the 5 most common problems that were raised.
Here’s what they said:
PAs do not have a clear career path
Solution: Create a broad career plan for yourself. This is worth doing regardless of your role or industry, but particularly valuable in a role as variable as that of a PA.
- Frequently assess where you are in your role compared to your career plan. Don’t be afraid to make changes, as long as you feel you are still moving forward.
- Consult other PAs, your manager(s), and your organisation’s HR for advice in progressing your career development.
- Look out for and take advantage of networking events and skills development wherever possible.
- Consider going into related fields that will use many of the skills you already have, such as Project Management, or a role within your organisation that you have learned about through your PA work.
- The PA learning curve can be very steep, and the role can be demanding. Recognise your efforts and abilities, and blow your own trumpet!
There is no specific PA skills development
Solution: Always plan your next few steps. Seek career development wherever you can.
- Research the roles that could possibly become available to you, and how they could fit into a career plan. Think about what skills you would need to fill any gaps you may have.
- Explore whether your organisation has a mentoring programme or a buddy system of some kind, that could give you exposure to different roles while you are a PA. Would it be possible for you to spend time with all areas of the business, in order to better understand the opportunities within different departments?
- Ask your manager for any training suggestions they may have, and request training opportunities. Try saying that you want to develop your skills and presenting your manager with clear options to choose from, rather than leaving them with a vague idea of what you want.
PAs are often isolated in their roles, so the responsibility is on the individual to be continually motivated
Solution: If there isn’t a PA network in your organisation, create one!
- You can also join external networks for more advice and to increase your connections within the industry. Participate in forums and events.
- If possible, it’s worth trying to train managers to use assistants more effectively and efficiently – this allows everyone to work more productively.
- Make sure that managers are aware of what PAs can do and are responsible for, in order to increase the chances of recognition for your efforts. Above all, make sure you point out your contributions!
PAs do not take advantage of Annual reviews
Solution: PAs should make full use of annual reviews, as well as more informal ones. They’re an opportunity to redefine your role to be what you want it to be.
- Encourage more regular check-ins; this can help prevent annual reviews being as intimidating, as well as creating more opportunities to discuss career development.
- Speak to someone at your organisation, such as HR, about providing more free content for training and career development purposes.
- See also if internal and external PA networks have evening seminars and other networking opportunities available.
Organisations may not be aware of the benefits of developing assistants
Solution: PAs can sell the benefits of developing assistants to their organisations!
- Think about how much money a company could save by training current employees, rather than hiring new people for tasks. For instance, PAs could sign up for courses that would allow them to give internal training on software such as PowerPoint.
- It’s also important to explore what HR has to offer, as it’s possible that there may be career development opportunities already available.
- Don’t forget that many PAs have a wide skill set even before extra training – it’s worth exploring where else this could be used.
Of course, it is important to remember that every situation will be different, and some of these points may be more or less relevant to different PA roles. The key thing we think you should take away from this discussion is the importance of PAs to communicate with their organisations, put themselves out there, and make their voices heard.
For more information on OpenMeet technology, please contact us here, or visit our blog to read more tips and advice about how to improve audience engagement at your meetings and events. Career development for Assistants: 5 common problems and how to solve them.