There have been some forum discussions recently about PA training and development with the question attached, ‘Is it really necessary once your career is established?’ It made me quite perplexed to think someone would think they know everything and not need further development at whatever stage they are at in their career.
My view is there is always room for development no matter what age you are. My Mum qualified as a counsellor last year at 79 years old and she loves the job she is now doing as a volunteer after many years as a senior social worker in the community! From a personal point of view my learning and development is a daily occurrence. Running a business throws all sorts of curveballs at you and you can only learn by taking it on and making sure you can deal with the situations thrown at you. Sometimes that means going away and reflecting on the new situation and looking at how you can deal with it effectively so that next time you are ready! Or if you have made a mistake, you need to rectify it and make sure it doesn’t occur again! Going away and reading about it via webinars, books, online forums or talking to people who have experience of the task in hand can really help. Don’t beat yourself up about a mistake. Admit it, deal with it, move on and make sure you don’t do it again.
There are many ways of learning and it doesn’t have to be in an educational environment. Sometimes it is a case of thinking outside of the box. If you choose to do some training make sure it is relevant so you don’t waste your precious time. Join a PA networking group if you have one nearby and make sure you attend on a regular basis. That way you will already have networked with people who may be able to help you find solutions. Find a mentor who already does the task in hand to help guide you through or join an appropriate LinkedIn or Facebook group where the members can answer your queries in the forum. Sometimes there is a quick fix by just asking a colleague.
I have had a few situations over the past 3 years while running the business where I have had to stop and work it out before continuing. I blame Richard Branson for teaching me that wonderful saying, ‘If someone offers you an amazing opportunity, accept it and work out how to do it later!’ I do believe my previous role as an Executive PA has helped me deal with things more efficiently. The role of an assistant is so varied and involves a lot of different skills; it is a balancing act. There are tricky meetings to organise, complex travel to work out, liaising with larger than life characters and being a gatekeeper. You can be organising a conference one minute and cancelling a flight the next. Of course after dealing with last minute emergencies and other interruptions you need to remember to go back to the original task in hand and pick up where you left off! No two days are the same and you learn to adapt to changing priorities like the flick of a switch.
It is a talent being a PA and this means it is vital for continual development. If an assistant wants to be on top form they need to keep learning so that they can help their executive be the best that they can be.