Executive PA Media is an enthusiastic champion of the power of the foundation created by quality education but, if studying isn’t an option, there are other excellent ways you can remain current and valuable to your employer.
If funds or time means working towards a professional qualification is out – don’t despair. EA Rachael Bonetti has many suggestions for ways in which EAs can develop new skills in a hands-on manner. And this all adds up to making you a valuable commodity in the office. To explore your study options, she suggests:
Think about your passion and talents. Finding the time to fit in study is easier for things we enjoy. So, what are you naturally great at, or what do you gravitate to? It could be social media management, websites and intranet, graphics, project management, content creation, digital document storage, or something completely different. When you have an idea, work out how that passion can be used in working life. There’s nearly always a way to align the two.
Choose a course that’s self-paced, to fit in with your life. Online study can often be paused so, if you have a long journey to work, use this time to absorb the material. Alternatively, squeeze in 30 minutes at lunch, or a weekend power hour.
Study a specific unit rather than an entire course – it may be that you only need the knowledge from a particular area to get started.
Subscribe to a few podcasts on the topic. There are many valuable podcasts, and an episode a week is easy to fit in with busy lives, given the portability.
There are plenty of opportunities to develop skills in the workplace too, says Rachael:
Work out who your ‘sponsor’ is. Who is the person that will support you to become involved in special work? Who values your contribution most? This will be the person best placed to sing your praises and ensure you’re front of mind for special projects – ask them to help identify opportunities and support your efforts to become involved.
As a PA, you’re in prime position to hear about projects, research and new initiatives before they’re off the ground. Don’t be shy to throw your hat into the ring –
the modern workplace supports this approach.
Write a list of attributes your manager might not be aware of – previous study, passion, project or hobby… anything that highlights your curiosity beyond your core role. And be armed with this if you have to influence decision-making around what you can become involved in. Let’s say a transformation project is on the horizon– perhaps you’re a quiet achiever and managers don’t realise you’re system savvy and already have great ideas on improvements and efficiency enhancement. Speak up and say you’ll be the champion for your area or volunteer to be on a steering committee, so they have a user perspective. This will raise your profile and give you new experience for your CV.
Find a mentor in the office who isn’t an administration professional. Their point of view and guidance can be invaluable to stretch thinking and in becoming more strategic.
Finally, appreciate that it might not happen instantly: you may have to knock on a few doors but if you keep on expressing an interest and display a great attitude, it will happen.
Rachael Bonetti is the EA to the people director for Australia and New Zealand at Bupa, and has high level international experience supporting chairmen and CEOs in broadcast media, children’s media, mining, corporate advisory, investment banking and property. She has also studied journalism and social media marketing.