By Jessica Hardwicke
Jessica’s role is to support her boss in everything he does to drive strategic growth of the firm. She has a degree in Business Studies and in Event Management, both of which she feels have provided vital skills to propel her to Executive Assistant level and enables her to work in partnership with her boss. The growth in their business comes from key banking, legal and client relationships which she helps to sustain, manage and develop. Most recently she was shortlisted for Yorkshire PA of the Year and Executive PA Magazine up and coming PA of the year. She is passionate about the role of a PA/EA and actively encourages others to opt for it as a a career choice.
Assistants have a varied and occasionally misunderstood role. They have to cope with numerous different tasks every day from answering calls and emails to creating and collating information and preparing for and attending meetings, all of which require effective time management and forward planning. This is combined with working on the larger more strategic aspects of their role whilst supporting the senior executive, a balancing act is required.
But what happens when a client or your boss calls with an issue that needs to be dealt with immediately? I have learnt that as an EA you are always on call for whatever issue may arise and equally expected to drop everything you are doing in order to deal with the task in hand. I appreciate this is also due to the nature of the industry you work in, but more often than not it is a common theme amongst other PA’s and EA’s I regularly deal with.
I tend to split my work load into rocks and sand. Rocks being strategic goals and sand being routine tasks or those last minute requests that you must do right away. You should fill your day up with rocks, only plan for 4-5 hours of ‘real work’ per day and the rest will fill up naturally with sand. The key to this is the prioritisation over which matters are rocks and which are sand, and this must be in tune with the person for whom you work so objectives are aligned.
Once you have planned your day like this you will feel in control and thus able to adapt quickly to needs as they arrive. I believe if you invest more time in planning, you can avoid crises and rework, which will provide you with the energy to be truly effective and not just busy. Working more hours does not make you more productive!
It’s also vital that your boss respects your time. They should always know what your current workload entails and thus appreciate when you drop everything when an urgent matter comes in.
Another key skill that you must have in your skills set is to the ability to implement effective time management for your boss. In my case, my boss is often in a position where many conflicting appointments arise. It is therefore my job to conserve his time, prioritise meetings and workload, and delegate or decline anything that is of lesser importance. This is a vital skill to master, and you are the gate keeper to the strategic rocks finding their place, and ensuring mundane tasks do not inhibit growth. When working so closely with someone, you need to understand why a lot of these meetings are happening in the first place in order to establish a level of priority and preparation required.
The biggest thing I have learnt is to always ask questions, it is better to know too much about something than not enough!