6 months ago by Ben Heathorn

How to progress your PA career in-spite of AI & technology - 8 top tips

Human and robots working together  - personal assistants london

I saw an advert for Google Assistant this morning while fighting through hordes of sweaty Londoners and it got me thinking… AI is a game changer and, whether we like it or not, it’s here to stay.

The likely trajectory of development will be steep and the next generation will know no different. My two-year-old daughter already says “Alexa…Radio 2 please”! AI has/will have so many benefits that will add value to all our lives, however many Personal Assistants, quite rightly, are wondering what this means for them. Any improvements in technology have the potential to jeopardise the human equivalent because once it’s established it’s likely to be significantly more efficient and cost effective. There are two things I recommend to any Personal Assistant with these very valid concerns:

  • It might be tough initially but you need to accept these changes are coming, embrace them. There are so many other areas of your life that have/will benefit from improvements in technology. Once you accept it, you can then transition to the next stage, which is really exciting…
  • Develop a “value add” mindset by being so good that employers won’t be able to ignore you! Below are our 8 tips to make yourself invaluable to your employer; the great thing is that if you follow these principles then not only will you enhance your job security you’ll also maximise the rewards you can earn.
  1. Show empathy: being a great Personal Assistant is about putting yourself in your boss’s position and acting as a surrogate. The best are like a third arm for their boss, which is incredibly valuable as it means they can outsource decisions to you. Developing empathy is one of the most valuable life skills but it takes time and consistent practice. When you interview for a new role, and especially in the first few months of a new job, it’s vital you take the time to really understand who your boss is and not only what his/her professional needs, wants and challenges are, but also the personal ones. In fact, understanding the latter will mean you know what makes him or her tick, and put you on the road to being that invaluable third arm. The good news is that you can start or improve this at any time, no matter how long you’ve been working for your boss.
  2. Be a listener: not only will listening help you become more empathetic but, more practically, your boss will be time poor and will want things doing right, first time. Therefore, if your boss is briefing you on a new task, it’s important to actively listen, make notes and ask relevant questions. Not only will this crystallise your understanding of what is being asked of you, but it will mean he or she doesn’t have to repeat themselves. No boss wants to do that, unless absolutely necessary.
  3. Be unflappable: remaining cool in the heat of the battle is essential but it’s easier said than done, right? For example: it’s 4am, you’ve been kept up all night by your two-year-old, and your boss calls you because he’s missed his connecting flight, and will now miss his meeting. You’re shattered but need to remain calm and deal with the matter at hand in order to be truly effective. In these type of situations it’s about controlling your attention. Where we direct our mind, our thoughts take us; our thoughts create an emotion; the emotion defines our behaviour and our behaviour defines our performance. Being present and conscious of this will help you deal with any situation in a cool calm manner and give you the best chance of doing a great job.
  4. Be patient: your boss will usually be extremely busy and spinning many plates at the same time. There will be situations where you have to do and undo the same thing many times – eg booking and changing flights because meetings change. At times they will also be stressed out which might mean they are short and direct with you. As long as they remain respectful this is par for the course and patience will help you to deal with these situations.
  5. Be adaptable: one of the best things about being a Personal Assistant is the chance to be involved in a wide range of projects and tasks. The better your performance, the more your boss will trust you and the wider variety of things he or she will ask you to be involved in. You will therefore need and want to be adaptable to be able to complete what’s asked of you. The good news is that the more experience you have, the more valuable you will be to your current boss (read: pay rise!) but also it will also make you more appealing to future employers (read: career progression and higher salary).
  6. Be proactive: don’t wait to be told what to do next or have to ask what sandwich your boss wants for lunch. If you’ve understood your boss, how they work and how busy they are, then you’ll know they make lots of decisions every day, which can be exhausting. They don’t want to have to make every single decision, especially if they’re relatively small or repetitive, so get permission upfront that you want to be proactive and want to make decisions on their behalf. Obviously you should agree upfront between you that this is how you want to operate and decide on some circumstances where this might happen. Having a proactive, entrepreneurial mindset won’t always work, and you will make mistakes, but in the main the benefits will far outweigh the costs. That’s why the most successful people live by the motto “don’t ask for permission, beg for forgiveness”.
  7. Be commercial: being a good Personal Assistant is one thing, but the single factor which separates the good from the great is their commercial acumen. Show an interest in the wider business, how it operates, and how it makes a profit and the associated challenges (this is also true for not-for-profits and charities).  An understanding of the wider environment in which your organisation operates in relation to its clients/customers, competitors and suppliers, makes so you incredibly valuable, and will almost certainly put in the top 1% of Personal Assistants.
  8. Have a sense of humour and make sure you gain perspective by fostering other interests outside of work. Also, don’t feel guilty for taking time to relax and switch off. Good bosses should encourage this and, if they don’t, then be very clear that downtime is essential for you to be able to continue to do a great job – it’s about the journey not the destination!

 

If you follow these recommendations there will always be a place for you no matter how advanced technology becomes and your career will continue to prosper. If you have thoughts or concerns regarding AI or technological improvements we’d love to hear from you.

For all our current live personal assistant roles, see here: