Chapter one

So you want to find a new Assistant role?

The inital steps Assistants should take when starting a new job search.

GUIDE: Preparing for a new Personal or Executive Assistant Job

For whatever reason, you have decided it is time for a new job. It can be tempting to take the first offer that comes along, particularly as it can be a long and tough process finding that perfect Assistant role.

However, with some planning, Assistants can increase their chances of landing the ideal job that not only pays the bills but lets them shine.

In this chapter, we are going to cover your motivations for finding a new Assistant role. It is a long process, and we want to make sure you have everything covered!

We all know that looking for a new job isn’t easy.

It can take a lot of time with hours of searching through job descriptions, speaking to recruitment agencies and then, of course, the time spent preparing for and going to job interviews.

It is a job in itself!

But, most Assistants start a new job search because they are ready to move on from their current role.

So, often Assistants jump into a new job search without giving much thought to what they want from the next job, what they have learnt and what they can contribute to a new organisation.

Asking yourself questions and following a proven process will hold you in good stead when it comes to your next job search.

Let’s have a look at what we are going to cover in this chapter:

Are you outgrowing your Assistant role?

I think we’ve all been there.

You’ve been working in your role for a few years. You know everything there is to know about the job, and you’ve settled into a reasonably easy routine that doesn’t come with too much pressure.

Life is good.

But then comes the day when you start to feel a bit bored, a bit unmotivated, the stuff that used to make you feel excited just, well, doesn’t anymore.

I’ve felt like that in some roles. Particularly after a few years when every day was good, but not in the slightest bit challenging.

If you feel the same, maybe it is time to ask yourself ‘are you outgrowing your PA role?

There are tale signs that you are outgrowing your PA or EA role and here are just a few….

You’re not feeling motivated

This is a biggie.

When you are not engaged with your work or don’t feel like you are helping the organisation as a whole, then it is time to think about your role.

Are you unmotivated because you need a more challenging role ultimately?

A new role and a new environment will undoubtedly give you that creative spark again. Or, are you just bored with your day to day role and perhaps you could ask your Executive for something more challenging?

Every day is the same

If I was in your shoes and every day was the same, I would be worried.

Pretty much every good role that I’ve been in I have been able to say that the variety is the best thing about the job. For most PAs, every day is entirely different, and that is what we love.

If every day is the same and you have little or no variety, it could be that you have outgrown the role.

Also, if you are so good at your job that any problem is easily solved and you don’t get that rush of excitement when something new crops up – also a sign!

There is no room for growth whatsoever

Okay, this is a tricky one for PAs because we often ask ourselves ‘where is this role going?’

Firstly, many of us are put in pay brackets that don’t reflect our worth.

Secondly, our role is not part of the career development path within the organisation, so there aren’t any promotions or job title changes available and thirdly moving from being a PA to a non-board level Executive to an EA to a CEO doesn’t necessarily mean that the tasks and the day to day change.

So traditional growth within an Assistant’s career is quite challenging to find anyway!

If you find that you are not being given any new opportunities to grow within your current role, and this could be new projects, being allowed to travel with your Exec or having a new job title so that you can get a pay rise, then it is time to ask if you are outgrowing your PA role.

Your expertise are not being used

As Assistants, we come with a lot of skills and knowledge, and obviously, some will be used more than others depending on the role.

If you find that your favourite skills, the stuff that you are good at and what you love to do, are not being utilised, then it might be that you’ve outgrown the role.

Especially if you have skills that came with a degree or skills that took years to perfect through hard-fought experience.

What should you do if you find that you have outgrown your PA role?

If you have read this and thought, yup, that’s me, then don’t quite pack up your bags just yet!

The first thing you have to do is talk to your Executive.

If they are a good manager, they will probably have noticed you aren’t wholly as motivated as you were.

Be honest, tell them how you feel.

The answer your manager gives will tell you everything you need to know about your next move.

Either they will be supportive and help you rediscover your love of the role, or they will say something like (and this happened to me) ‘oh, yeah, it’s not great being an assistant, it must get a bit dull after a while.’

At which point, I decided to start my next job search.

Before you getting fully involved in your job search. There are a few questions you should ask yourself that will start the process correctly.

Five questions to ask before you start your next job search

So you want to find a new Assistant role?

Asking these five questions will hold you in good stead when it comes to your next job search.

Is my CV up to date?

This is an obvious question to start with, but so many people lock their CV away when they have a new job and rarely look at it again.

If you’ve been in your current role awhile, you will have gathered a vast array of new skills to add to your CV so it might take longer than you think to whip your CV into shape.

Take the time to perfect your CV so that when you send it out into the world, it reflects the best version of you.

Should I leave this job?

Why are you starting a new job search?

Is it because you’ve been at the company for a long time and you are ready for a new challenge, have you been made redundant or just out of school?

Great!

If you hate your job, lack motivation and can’t stand your boss, then take a moment to ponder whether or not you can turn the situation around without moving to a new employer.

Have you had an honest and open conversation with your Executive?

Is there more you can do?

If the answer is no, then great! Start looking for a new job. It is always worth reflecting on what your current situation is before starting a new search.

What are my salary expectations?

Your salary expectations are worth thinking about before you start your job search.

For a lot of Assistants, we only really get significant pay increases when we job hop (move from one job to the next quickly).

So do think about getting to that next pay level seriously.

You will have increased your skillset in your current role and are worthy of a payrise (even if your current employer disagrees).

Have a good look at the job market and go for those roles with a higher salary, you never know. You might be a great fit, and just what the employer was looking for.

What do I want in my next role?

More responsibility? A better office culture? An increase in pay and benefits?

Hopefully all of the above right?!

Do spend some time reflecting on what you want in the new role. This will help you narrow down your job search and deal with recruiters who try to put you forward for positions that don’t fit your expectations.

If your criteria are specific, then it might take you longer to find that perfect job, but it will be worthwhile in the end.

Do I have all the requirements for the next job?

Once you have decided what you want to do in your role, then start to build the skills required around that job.

Once you’ve done this exercise, you might realise that you need a further qualification or a bit more experience and decide to take a new job that gets you moving in the right direction.

Or you stay in your current role until you finalise your qualifications. The job you except now might not be your dream role but is a stepping stone in the right direction. If you have everything you need for the dream job now, go for it!

Five steps to take before you start actively looking for a new role

So you want to find a new Assistant role?

One: What are you looking for in your new role?

It’s time to think about you. I know as Assistants, this is not something we do very often, but when looking for a new role, you must reflect on what you want.

Asking yourself this question will not only help you understand what jobs to apply for it will also help you prepare for the interview process.

Do you want to advance your career?

Do you want a better work/life balance?

Do you want more responsibility in your new role or more creative tasks?

What type of work excites you?

Before you begin looking for a new Assistant role, it is worthwhile defining what exactly you want from your new role and what your aspirations are for your future (not just salary but what you enjoy in your work).

Two: Tailor your covering letter and CV

We will cover this in greater detail later in the guide, but do make sure that you tailor your CV and covering letter for each of the jobs you are applying for.

For example, if you are applying for an Assistant role that supports a Communications Director do emphasis your marketing skills. Or, if you are applying for your first role working with a board-level Executive ensure you highlight any previous experience working with senior members of staff.

Three: Applying for roles through a Recruitment Agency

Recruitment agencies want to find candidates that their clients are happy with.

Usually, this will mean that they only place a candidate in a position that they have experience in, ideally one that they have done in the past and that they have a proven track record in.

This is why you need to tailor your resume before approaching an agency; otherwise, you will end up doing what you have always done.

Ensure you are clear with the type of role you want and stick to it so that the agency doesn’t send you unsuitable opportunities.

When applying for jobs through a website, do make sure your CV has all of the keywords appropriate for the job you are applying for. The agencies will only call you if your CV has passed their keyword algorithm.

Totally unfair but totally true!

Once you are invited in to see an agent remember that they are the gatekeepers to the organisation you want to work for, so do think of it as an interview.

Dress appropriate and be prepared to answer questions about your career to date and experiences. Also, remember that you can interview them too, you have every right to make sure they are the kind of agent you want representing you.

Four: Remember to apply directly too!

It is an excellent idea to target organisations that you would like to work for and connect with them directly, they may not be recruiting at that time but might keep your CV on file in case anything comes up.

As ever it is also worthwhile making sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date, and you stay connected to your ideal employers on social media just in case they post any recruitment opportunities. Also, do network with other Assistants and attend local events; you never know which contact might think of you when a job arises.

Five: Should you go to every interview?

It depends on where you are in your career.

Don’t waste time going to interviews that are unsuitable for you.

However, if you are not very confident in interviews or you are not 100% sure what you want your next career move to be, then you don’t have anything to lose by going to most of the interviews offered to you.

You will gain interview experience, you might find out more about the job, and like the sound of it or you might meet the Executive and click. Once you are at a level where you are confident in yourself and your skills, you will become much more selective with the jobs you pick and the interviews you attend.

Job hunting tips when you are already employed

It can be a little tricky job hunting when you are already employed, but the research suggests that the most desirable candidates are those that are already in a full-time job.

So, how do you go about searching for a new job without jeopardising the one that you already have?

Here are our five tips for those of you who are job hunting when you are already employed.

Find the time to search

You will have to dedicate some of your time to the job search because it is a pretty crappy thing to do during your working hours.

While you are still being paid by your current employer, don’t spend time on their computers researching new roles. Plus, you’ll probably give the game away that you are looking for something else.

Recruiters are working the same hours as you, so if you need to take a call or answer an email, wait until your break and don’t ever use your current work address to communicate with a recruitment agency or new employer.

Everything can be done online now, so you can look at jobs boards, apps, LinkedIn and other sites in your own time and outside of working hours.

When updating your LinkedIn profile, it is worth turning off your notifications so that your current colleagues cannot see you making changes and don’t change your status to ‘looking for a new job’.

When you post your CV onto all the various jobs boards, remember that you will initially be inundated with calls from recruitment agencies so either turn your phone off during working hours or at least put it on vibrate!

When do you go for an interview?

Good question.

Before or after work, or during your lunch break. If your new employer is insistent that you interview during your working hours, you could take a personal day or vacation.

If you have flexible working hours, now is the time to use them.

To tell or not to tell

I wouldn’t recommend telling your current boss that you are looking for a new job.

Even if they are aware that you are unhappy in your role things will be different between the two of you. Sometimes job hunting doesn’t lead anywhere, or it takes forever so best to keep the search to yourself until you are sure you are leaving (when you have a firm offer from your new employer).

I also would suggest that you do not tell your colleagues – you might be the best of buddies, but why share something that is going to affect your personal life and money situation negatively if word gets back to your Executive?

Who should you ask for references?

You can ask a past employer to provide references (that isn’t your current one), or you can ask someone that is an old work colleague or someone high standing in your community or someone that knows you well and can sing your praises (not your mum).

Your references do not have to come from your current employer.

What to wear for the interview?

How many times have you dressed up for work, and someone has said “going for an interview?” Ha Ha… Anyway, best to change into your interview outfit once you’ve left the office.

Or switch back into your regular office clothes after the interview, especially if you usually wear casual stuff to work.

My last piece of advice would be this.

Don’t check out of work once you decide that you are going to look for a new job.

Job hunting can take a while and if you go into work every day with a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude you will be sussed out straight away and remember you’ll need these people to give you a reference in the future.

So, be on your best behaviour until the day you leave!

Next Chapter:

Looking for an Assistant role online
Chapter TWO