by Carolyn Cho
Hello. My name is Carolyn and welcome to my first ever blog. This inaugural post is about how you as a Personal Assistant (PA) can communicate effectively. Firstly don’t underestimate how important communication is for a PA. Often you are the first point of contact for your company both internally and externally so make sure you are prepared. Keep up to date with what your company is working on, and your industry as a whole. Be aware what the media and online community are saying about your company. Know who in your organisation is working on what project, and how the various teams work together. That way you are ready to respond to any question no matter how complex or random.
The next important thing is how you interact with other people. Effective communication is a two way process, both talking and listening. When talking, think about what you want to say and how you want it to come across. This means focusing on choice of words, the tone, volume, and pace of voice plus body language. Research has shown that the words we actually say are less important than the non-verbal communication through voice and body language. When listening be an active listener by focusing on the speaker. Consider why they are speaking to you and what outcome do they want. Are they asking you for help, or just making a comment about something? Non-verbal clues may tell you what really is being said. I like to confirm at the end of the conversation that I have understood what we have talked about by paraphrasing back what has just been told to me. Often as a PA conversations with your manager are on the hop. Don’t be scared to ask questions so you know exactly what you are expected to do. Unfortunately as a PA not all communication will be positive. Now is the time to be assertive, but not aggressive. For example someone asks you to book urgent travel asap. State firmly and calmly why you can’t do this immediately and give a good subjective reason (e.g. currently working on an urgent presentation due in half an hour). If possible offer a work around, (e.g. provide contact details of travel booker), give them an timeline of when you can undertake their request, or even delegate to someone else. Otherwise politely say no and stand your ground.
In today’s business world online communication is a vital tool. I send and receive over 100 emails per day. But even if just sending a casual email, remember that it can be forwarded to anyone. Always be professional, keep to the point, and check spelling and grammar before sending. For clarity the main point of the email should be in the first few sentences. Keep in mind when drafting emails you are often representing your manager and the company. Social media is a powerful force that can be used for promoting yourself and your company. As a PA it connects you with peers and provides you with incredible networking opportunities. Your online profile should be professional – keep your social life private. This is your chance to advertise yourself, what skills and experience you have, and where you want your career to go. Make your profile authentic by following or commenting on areas that are of particular interest to you. For example gender pay gaps, status of the PA etc. By being active online you are communicating to a much wider audience than you could reach face-to-face. Here’s hoping it brings you a wealth of opportunities.