I was in my early 20’s when I landed my first full time one on one PA role. Before that, I had been working as an account manager.
Although the two jobs had very similar elements, I must say transitioning from an account manager into a PA role was a complicated process.
Ten years later, I wish I could sit my younger self down and offer her some much-needed advice! I would tell her to avoid the ridiculously drastic haircut that took place in 2009 and maybe make some better financial choices (you will always have to pay back your credit cards.)
I would also spend some time giving her a few tips about the Assistant role and what to expect. Here is the advice I would give myself when I first became an Assistant.
Mind reading takes practice
From the moment you started working as an Assistant, you were expected to know where everything was, how your boss liked to work, and how to organise her diary.
That was on top of working in an industry you had never even heard of before, let alone had any experience in! Instead of asking questions and having regular meetings with your Manager, you just bumbled along in the hope that you would pick it up eventually.
Luckily you are a swift learner, but it would have been much easier if you had just asked a few more questions. Mind reading does come with time and experience.
Once you have that skill down, you will fly as an Assistant. Until then, ask lots of questions, be inquisitive and get as much information as you can.
The skills you developed as an administrator are the foundation you need to be a successful assistant
The not so great stuff you were given in your first few jobs during and after university will provide you with the much-needed skills in your role.
All of the hours spent juggling multiple priorities and multiple personalities (often found in the one person) are going to hold you in good stead when it comes to being an assistant.
Take your training seriously
Go on every training course offered to you and take your career development seriously.
Eventually, you will realise that the more you know and learn, the more opportunities will come your way.
If you make a mistake, you are not going to get fired
You don’t often make mistakes, but there is little point in fretting so much when you do.
Hold your hands up, admit you’ve made a mistake, fix it and move on. Sleepless nights and panicking are not going to take back the fact that you sent your boss to the wrong hotel, and trust me, they aren’t going to fire you.
They might even laugh about it!
Stand up for yourself
You know that you are being mistreated and are justifiably angry.
Well, sometimes you shouldn’t let things pass because you don’t want to cause a fuss. Sometimes you should stand up for yourself. Just because you are an Assistant doesn’t mean that people can take advantage!
It is hard but worthwhile, and you will gain respect for it.
Think long and hard about your next career move
So what is it that you like about your job? Ah, you want the creative stuff – marketing, events and writing? So why would you take a role which does not detail those tasks in the job spec?
Oh, it’s more money, and you will be EA to a more senior director, you say?
Right, that makes sense, but maybe it takes a little longer mulling over that job spec. It doesn’t sound like your cup of tea.
You have every right to voice your opinion
The same as the right you have to stand up for yourself; you also have the right to express your own opinion. Sometimes you don’t have an idea, that is fine, shut up and learn something!
But, when you can contribute to a meeting or a group discussion, you should! You might say something that no one else has thought of, and then who knows what might happen!
When you don’t come ready for meetings or group projects, you will be asked questions you don’t know the answer to.
When you forget to do something, you’ll be asked about it. So do the work you need to do before any meetings. It does make life a lot easier! Oh, and write everything down.