Well, that is us in 2019 folks! Happy New Year. Firstly before I start this blog, I want to say a huge thank you to all of the Practically Perfect PA readers who are joining us for another year on the blog. We have been going now since 2011, and I can’t wait to see what this year brings for the Assistant Industry. I’m going to start this year by looking at the EA competencies you will need in 2019. I think this year will be another game changer for our profession, with advances in technology and more of a shift towards Assistants working in more strategic areas of the business. But before we get into all of that (and we absolutely will) let’s look at the foundation of what we do, our competencies and what we will need to work on this year.
The EA competencies you will need in 2019
Organisation and Time Management
Being organised and having good time management are competencies that will never leave the Assistant profession. They are at the heart of what makes a fantastic Assistant. We help our Executive’s stay organised and save them time. There are lots of fantastic technology that can help you with time management, productivity and keeping everything coordinated but you also need to be well organised yourself and have that mindset. Keeping someone else organised is difficult so knowing where everything is, keeping a close eye on project deadlines, where all the correct paperwork and files are stored, knowing when meetings are due to finish and the next one start, scheduling your Executive’s day correctly. None of these tasks are going anywhere in 2019.
Again, communicating effectively is still a critical competency for Assistants in 2019 (and will become even more important as the use of AI increases). Assistants need to cut through the noise; they need to get to the heart of the matter and communicate what is required in any given situation. Assistants, as ever, will work with a whole range of different personality types, seniority, diversity and backgrounds and as such need to adapt their communication style so that they can relay their messages effectively and efficiently.
Attention to Detail
Some competencies are made for life and attention to detail is another one that just isn’t going to go away. Yes, there are loads of useful tools out there to help which will help spell and grammar check documents, but it doesn’t need there. Assistants also have to make their Executive look good, and they do this well because they are aware of the small details that make a difference. That could be finishing off the client presentation so that it looks fantastic, or scheduling time for your Executive to read that report they have been putting off or something simple like grabbing a coffee for a busy team member. Small details matter and will continue to be a place that Assistants can add value.
This one is never going away. Keeping your Executive’s confidence is vital for so many reasons not least because you both need to trust each other explicitly for the partnership to work. In today’s age Assistants also need to be aware of cybersecurity and ensuring that everything they have access to is handled sensitively.
In my mind, diplomacy is the art of dealing with people sensitively and tactfully. It is the ability to communicate with people using an approach that considers their feelings and potential reaction to the situation. It is a skill that allows assistants to find common ground with every person at every level of business. For these reasons, it is so helpful if Assistants can be diplomatic.
We look at our packed to-do list, and we have to make a decision which tasks to tackle first when all of the work is a priority with imminent deadlines. We also have our colleagues interrupting us with their urgent questions and multiple bosses wanting attention. Of course, we also want to please and be helpful; no wonder the role of an Assistant can be quite overwhelming! Due to the nature of our job we have to remain flexible while handling multiple priorities and this competency will undoubtedly come into play in 2019.
With more and more office workers using technology to communicate and get stuff done it is going to be important for some people in the office to build relationships, connect and interact with all of the employees. Assistants can make a difference and add value in this area. Assistants can connect with anyone, disseminate information and work within different company cultures and this will be seen as a real value-add in a business highly reliant on technology and remote working.
Intuition is such a fantastic competency to have in business no matter what role you work in, but for Assistants, it is that skill that takes you from an excellent Assistant to a valuable business asset. Why? Because it helps you keep one step ahead of your Executive and their needs, it helps you anticipate what might be coming up in the organisation and how to deal with any issues that might occur. This isn’t about reading minds (although that would be super helpful!) it is more about having a strong understanding of the business, building your knowledge of the industry you work in and how your business and Executive fit into that industry and of course knowing your Executive’s style and priorities. Intuition is something that is innate in a great Assistant, but it can also be learned. Intuition is an excellent competency for 2019.
The opportunity to be creative and innovative at work isn’t necessarily obvious mainly if you work in a traditional corporate environment. But, creativity has been identified as a critical skill for employees by 2020, and we will need to be more innovative with our problem solving and task completion. Creativity isn’t just about creating an excellent presentation for example or producing a fancy logo it is also about that dreaded phrase ‘thinking outside the box’ and doing things a little differently to have they have been done in the past.
Last but not least is being self-motivated. To survive in this industry Assistants have got to find work that makes them stand out and makes others in the business see them like a real business asset. Aside from being confident and shouting that you are brilliant (which you should all be doing, but I get that it can be tiresome having to regularly big yourself up to other people) you should be putting yourself forward for projects, challenging tasks, stuff that will get you seen and heard. This year is all about proving to those who have any doubts that you are vital to your organisations and that you offer so much value.
I hope that you have an amazing 2019 both personally and professionally, Practically Perfect PA will be with you every step of the way!