There are many benefits to working with an executive, but an assistant’s job is not for the faint-hearted. Whether you are a new hire or a veteran assistant, the challenges are always the same. The most important traits to succeed includes adaptability and resourcefulness. A good assistant must possess critical thinking and decision-making skills, deal with unexpected issues, juggle a lot of tasks, are detail-oriented, have a good understanding of technology and presentation software, are confident in their ability to decide, and can step in when needed. In essence, assistants are always dealing with a plethora of tasks, under pressure, with limited resources.
Although there are many challenges associated with this position, here are six of the most common:
- A common challenge is a heavy workload. You must be willing to work long hours and take on special projects. Your boss will appreciate your dedication. The more you can do for your boss and your employees, the more they will appreciate you. This will lead to a better workplace and productive employees. A strong executive assistant is a great asset to any company.
- One of the biggest challenges of assistants is not receiving credit. You pitch an idea to your boss in a one-on-one meeting and he dismisses it only to present same idea as his at the next management meeting or a board meeting. The idea is well received, and they praise your boss. Many assistants generate great ideas, proposals, briefs, design excellent and engaging presentation slides, and manage projects on behalf of a boss. In exchange for successfully completed task and project, all accolades go to the boss. The best way to handle this is to remember that you are only the helper of the boss, and this is not wrong. If you think it is a problem, then you should have a chat with your boss to occasionally give you credit. Another way to handle this is to share ideas with others besides your boss, that way everyone knows the originator of the idea. However, you need to weigh the consequences of every line of action and pre-emptively make the best decision.
- Another challenge is dealing with a boss with an outdated approach to technology. This is true of older managers who were promoted through the ranks and never quite learned to rely on technology or apps for increased productivity. In today’s business world, it is common for employees to be more proficient with technology than their bosses. However, it is frustrating trying to help someone who does not seem interested in being helped, you cannot simply tell them what they should do. They have to come around at their own pace. The first step to dealing with this problem is to develop the mindset of a leader in the digital age. You must be able to stay on top of all the latest trends and technologies and be willing to help your boss understand them if they do not. Start by sharing tech news and tech articles, blogs or videos that are relevant to your boss’s field.
- Another common challenge is keeping track of tasks. High-level assistants often juggle large amounts of information and need to prioritize efficiently. Without an orderly system, it is easy to get side-tracked and miss important details. Being organized is key to being effective. A way to keep organised is to incorporate time blocking. Having a time block in your schedule forces you to prioritize your tasks and eliminates the anxiety caused by the endless to-do list. The best assistants are experts in chess and can expect problems before they even occur. They are able to predict issues before they even arise and resolve them before they become a problem.
- Your executive support role may involve negotiating with clients or customers on behalf of the boss. Negotiation skills are crucial to your success as an assistant. You must be clear about your expectations and ask for an offer before you accept it. It is essential to avoid any situation in which you feel like you are a “winner-take-all” type of situation. Instead, think of negotiations as a collaborative effort and not as a win-lose situation. When dealing with people, remember that they want to feel valued, and you must be able to put their needs and interests first.
- An assistant must be able to communicate well and effectively with their boss and other stakeholders in the organisation. Conflicting communication styles can be a challenge for assistants. Bosses, colleagues, and other stakeholders in the organisation may all prefer different communication methods. Some like email while others use phone calls or face-to-face meetings. There is no right or wrong way—it just depends on what works best for the individual. As an executive assistant, it is important to know your boss’s and colleagues’ preferences and adjust accordingly. An effective assistant should be able to communicate effectively in written and verbal forms.
An assistant’s job is a challenging one, but the rewards can be fantastic and a great steppingstone to a more financially rewarding job.