What’s on the other side of fear? Nothing. It’s a well-known adage and one I reflect on often in my role as a recruiter of Executive PA’s and Secretarial professionals. The reason why? I meet so many job seekers who are scared. Scared at how quickly the role of a support professional is evolving, and fearful of how they will stay relevant in an ever-evolving world of work. Ever heard of Brickwork? You should have.
There are many factors contributing to this fear. Job opportunities are fewer and those that are available have a different look and feel. The rise of the “gig economy”, virtual assistants, outsourcing to India and employers embracing “agile” working has changed the role of a EA/PA. The traditional EA/PA hiring requirement when I first entered recruitment, oh so long ago (16 years sshhhh!) was almost exclusively down to personality and cultural fit. The EA/PA was going to be spending a LOT of time with the individual so you had to ensure the personality and cultural fit was correct.
Nowadays with all businesses being asked to do more with less, the role of the EA/PA has been eroded or down-skilled in some firms (with associated lower compensation) and, conversely, in others taken on a multi-dimensional feel whereby the individual is performing duties which would never have historically been in a EA/PA job description!
So, what does a world class support professional look like in the modern day and age and what skills and approaches do you need to develop to thrive in the modern economy?
Most UK businesses operate in a Global Marketplace. This has placed new demands on key aspects of the EA/PA role, with top of the list being diary management. Ever tried to organise a Skype meeting for 3 Executives across 3 different time zones and locations? Using technology and having a system is key. Also, being culturally sensitive and appreciating the nuances of how business is done in different countries is important.
Being able to represent the Executive and your firm with authority and professionally both internally and externally is of crucial importance. The ability to solve low level problems and fulfil the gatekeeper role in an effective manner is essential as is being influential based on your own profile and not relying on “borrowed authority”. A modern EA/PA is an enabler and not a figure of fear!
This aspect hasn’t changed but has evolved. Being an expert on MS Office as well as collaborative platforms such as Sharepoint is essential still. What is new is some EA/PA’s s being trusted to run professional networking accounts such as Linkedin on their Executive’s behalf. Helping your boss position themselves as a connected thought leader tends to increase smiles come bonus time.
With certain tasks such as event planning and elements of purchasing falling into the EA role, you can add value by having a trusted network of contacts to help you deliver. Internal networks in more complex and global businesses are important also. Those who can effortlessly navigate through an organisation build value. So, go on, book yourself onto that breakfast briefing and go shake hands with some fellow professionals.
It sounds basic but don’t just do a good job for your boss, do a good job for the business. If you understand as much as possible about the commercial environment, competitor marketplace and overall business strategy you will find extra ways in which to contribute. Did you read your company’s last annual report? Do you read any industry specific articles? If not then please do.
The role is changing, but is getting more rewarding also. Those who embrace the change and upskill accordingly won’t have anything to fear but will thrive.
Feel the need to ensure your career is on track? Book in for a career chat with Sarah Galley