Tips for becoming a brilliant personal assistant

If you're an office manager, a personal assistant or an executive assistant, it's likely that you're one of the busiest people in your office — you'll certainly be the most in demand! Far from just managing schedules and answering a deluge of phone calls and emails, nowadays, an assistant is often expected to prepare meeting documents, keep an eye on operation practices, organise events, liaise with internal staff and external clients, and even manage large budgets.

With such a vast and wide-ranging amount of responsibilities to stay on top of, the most successful type of person in a role like this is normally the one who is meticulously organised and fully aware of what the job entails — even down to the most minute details. If you're about to start a new job as an assistant or you're simply looking to up your game in 2016, we have some great tips to help you get underway.

time to plan

Look ahead

There's no such thing as being too prepared, so make sure you're rigorous when it comes to looking at schedules for the following day, the following week and even the following month in order to stay on top of upcoming tasks. Begin anything you can early, because trying to complete something in a rush, such as planning a corporate event or simply ordering catering for a lunch meeting, may affect the quality of your work and increase the risk of making a mistake or overlooking a crucial detail.

Be your boss's memory, eyes and ears

Your boss and/or senior work colleagues will have their mind on a number of large projects, so it's likely they'll sometimes forget small details. Get to know as many individuals in the team as you can and learn any quirks and foibles so you can better advise the right people and fill gaps in their knowledge. Make sure they don't miss out on things that happen around the office — if someone's child is sick, quietly inform them so they can enquire how the child is. 

be organised - be a great EA

Don't neglect your filing

Filing should be your best friend and don't ever forget it! You don't want to keep people waiting while you search a pile of papers for something important they've requested, so store all your documents by category in a sequence that makes sense to you.

Some other ways to streamline your filing are:

  • Make digital copies of paper documents if you'd prefer. That way, you can create a clean filing system on your computer, rather than having a cluttered top drawer.
  • Separate ongoing work from completed work — keep outstanding documents on your desk and only file it once it's finished.
  • Consolidate similar type of documents, for example, invoices or bills that relate to stationery, office technology or events and catering.

Understand the wider business strategy

A clear understanding of the business and your boss's individual objectives will help you do a better job in the long run. You'll be able to make informed decisions about what daily tasks your boss or work colleagues should prioritise, which will in turn make them more productive and encourage success. A visible understanding of the goings on will help build trust in you and set you in good stead when appraisals come around too.

business skills

Constantly look to upskill

There are plenty of events and conferences happening around Australia throughout the year which provide opportunities for EAs and PAs to listen to inspiring, educational talks and keynote presentations, take part in workshops, and connect and exchange ideas with other individuals in the industry. The Executive Assistance Network is a wonderful recourse for professional minded EAs and PAs. You can even ask your company to subsidise part or all of the training or conference fee if you make a good business case as to why it will be so beneficial. Check out the National EA & PA Convention as a starting point.

Dress the part

Whether you work in a corporate office or somewhere a little more relaxed, taking care over the way you dress is part and parcel of creating a professional, reliable persona. After all, it's been proven time and time again that our clothes say a lot about us. It's likely that you'll be the initial contact for current and potential clients too, so you should reflect the image of the company by looking the part.

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