At the recent Assist Conference we held a great panel session about the future of the assistant role. We asked Claire Grant, Head of London Talent at the new recruitment firm, specifically for assistants, Sidekicks onto the panel and she provided a great insight into the future of the role from a recruitment perspective. For those that couldn’t attend the conference, here are the thoughts of Jessica Williams, Founder (and former assistant) at Sidekicks… 

The Assistant of the future will work like an entrepreneur. Hiring will no longer be based on typing speeds and shorthand ability; superb client facing skills, an affinity for tech, genuine flexibility and an ability to work creatively around problems are increasingly coming to the fore.

I spent ten years as an Assistant, and I believe I gained a fairly rounded view of the role in that time. I have supported on the business side (I spent almost three years as EA to a Senior Vice President within a large US investment bank) as well as on the private side, spending several years supporting HNWI’s and their families within the UK and Asia. I am now an entrepreneur, and run Sidekicks, an ethical secretarial recruitment agency based in London’s West End.

There are so many parallels between my role as Founder of Sidekicks and my role as an Assistant. We have an incredible team of seriously experienced recruiters here in London, and I view my role as – in essence – to support them in much the same way I supported each Principal I previously worked with. I am dedicated to anticipating the needs of our team, and to giving them the tools and support they need to excel professionally.

Here at Sidekicks, we’re right in the middle of this market every day, and it’s clear to us that what employers and Assistants expect of each other is changing at a phenomenal pace. The most common theme we’re seeing at the moment is a need for flexibility – on both sides. The modern employer often doesn’t need a desk-bound Assistant who will work their eight hours a day and then head home. The modern Assistant wants the freedom and flexibility to perform their role in the way they know from experience is most effective; trusted to work from home or on the go and able to vary their hours to ensure that they are genuinely responsive to the needs of their employer.

Embracing this way of working also has the added benefit of allowing employers to tap into talent pools previously under-utilised; for example, women returning to work after a break to have children. These women are often at the peak of their powers both professionally and personally and if an employer is able to meet their need for flexibility, the result will be enormous value added to their business.

We’re constantly seeing ever-better solutions for facilitating seriously efficient remote working (think decent file-sharing services and reliable, effective mobile technology) which means that our Assistants are genuinely able to support their Principals from wherever they may be in the world, at whichever time they are needed. Flexible, remote working is the future.

A truly effective Assistant will work proactively, rather than reactively to transform the life of the person he or she supports. This is only possible if we acknowledge that the role encompasses an awful lot more than just typing or answering the telephone.

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