My excellent friend and fabulous Executive Assistant, Stacy Price, shares her thoughts on starting a new Assistant role and what you need to know.
We’ve all started a job and had the ‘I wish I had known sooner’ moment. I have had five jobs over the past 12 years and am an experienced new joiner. But when I started a new role four months ago, my experience counted for nothing!
It seemed that being the ‘go to’ person meant I should be up to speed on company policies and procedures, office etiquette and in-house systems as soon as I started.
Within my first week, I was asked and expected to assist the team with various admin tasks using systems I had never used or had training on.
Although my colleagues had been there longer than me – years! – I was made to feel that I needed to know, even though they didn’t!
I had to adapt and do it quickly to keep up with the fast pace and never-ending questions. Have you ever been in a situation where you were worried about asking for help?
I decided enough was enough and could not bury my head in the sand. I was new, and I had questions that needed to be answered.
Even though my team members didn’t know the processes, I searched for other PAs in the overall department and invited them to a ‘get to know each other’s lunch.
At last, the ice was broken, and I no longer needed to search for the answers myself. I had peers to whom I could turn.
I also felt far less competent due to the systems that the company used.
It had not occurred to me that a large organisation would use anything other than Microsoft Outlook!
But as diary management can count for a large part of your role – and it was 80% of mine – you have to take matters into your own hands.
I spent my evenings on Lotus Notes Help and the Internet researching the Dos and Don’ts to get up to speed with this new system. While researching the Internet, I found an ‘I Hate Lotus Notes’ Support Group, which I found amusing.
I was not alone!
So much of what we do is automatic, like riding a bike, so using my PA skillset helped me in those initial months. Being proactive and organised made coping easier in situations that could have developed into confusion and panic.
It was not the tasks at hand that were of concern, as I could do these with my eyes closed, but learning and understanding new systems and processes were time-consuming when I had strict deadlines to adhere to. An Assistant should have excellent judgement and initiative when required; seeking help from established Assistants in the company is an excellent example.
Assistants are increasingly assuming responsibilities that were once reserved for managerial staff. So the pressure to maintain these expectations while trying to learn and make an impression in a new environment is tough. I started feeling far less competent or lacking skills than I had thought.
I had moved from a role where I felt first-class and appreciated, and now I felt ordinary.
For me, this new role has been an excellent learning experience. After four months, I am knowledgeable about the organisation’s processes; I have created a new joiner guidance pack to share my knowledge.
This pack is now provided as training and orientation for all new staff into our team to ensure a seamless transition into their new role. I also created a questionnaire that I provide to all new joiners. As a result, there are fewer questions on how to complete a process, and people are generally feeling more informed about the workings of the team.
So whether you are an Administrator, Executive Assistant, or Personal Assistant, here are some of my top tips from the ‘I wish I had known sooner’ mouth.
I hope this helps you when starting a new role!
Ask what Office Technology your Company uses before starting the role, keep up to date, and develop your knowledge of the latest office gadgets and technology. The Internet is a great learning tool.
Ask for help and keep asking. If your immediate colleagues don’t know the answer, seek out established PAs in other company areas.
Meet your counterparts by scheduling a lunch or after-work get-together. This will help build a strong network you can use continuously.
Be proactive about talking to your Manager. Have clear goals in mind for what you’d like to achieve in your role. Be assertive about what you need and what you can offer.
Don’t doubt your knowledge! Even if you are an experienced PA, sometimes a new role can be daunting. Give yourself time to understand the new processes – and remember; no one can know everything by the end of the first day!