A personal assistant has a reputation as a thankless and even ridiculed position. The gofer, dogsbody, drudge, delegate, and all-around minion of someone with more important things to do than handle the more menial aspects of their life.
Personal assistants are the all-around, all-purpose all-stars of the professional world, and they won’t be bothered by petty nicknames or dismissive judgments. They’ve got more important things to worry about. In fact, becoming a great personal assistant teaches you all kinds of valuable career lessons.
Whether you are working as a legal personal assistant, virtual assistant, or working for a corporation, you will gain skills that you can take to your next career. Below, I have outlined ten abilities you will walk away with after working as a personal assistant.
1) It Doesn’t Matter What Strangers Think Through Self Awareness
Unless you’re tremendously lucky or privileged, the first thing you have to do to achieve success is turn off that part of your brain that imagines other people’s judgments. Outward attitudes are nothing more than a distraction. As a personal assistant, you can’t let shallow pride get in the way of doing your job.
This doesn’t mean you demean yourself. In fact, you do just the opposite. When you stop paying attention to every little judgment being passed you can become more self-aware. When you are living in a state of awareness, you know when to take criticism into consideration, and when to drop it.
Tasha Eurich, principal of The Eurich Group says, “Research suggests that when we see ourselves clearly, we are more confident and more creative. We make sounder decisions, build stronger relationships, and communicate more effectively.”
Being a personal assistant means acknowledging the strength in actual achievement rather than mere appearance. And this is a job that teaches you to achieve many, many things, as the rest of the items on this list prove.
2) Nothing Is Beneath You
You may have a post-graduate degree and perfect elocution, but you still have to work for a living.
In fact, sometimes people who do the best in school crash the hardest in the real world. Most students don’t graduate and go straight into telling other people what to do. Success has nothing to do with staying out of the trenches. The sooner you learn that you may have to do tasks such as filing paperwork and fetching coffee to get to where you want to be, the better.
Running errands, answering phones and keeping schedules are all par for the course. Accept it, and take pride in doing your work well. No matter how pointless or silly you think that work may be. As your career progresses, you will earn unending adoration and inspire everyone around you with your ability to roll up your sleeves and get the job done.
3) Event Planning Is Everything
This may seem like a ridiculous notion, but event planning remains a major part of today’s business world. No matter what the size or industry, event planning is a critical component of success. People without event-planning experience overlook the complexities and volume of responsibilities involved until it’s too late. They find themselves in a ballroom full of hungry, uncomfortable guests.
As a personal assistant, you may be asked to oversee events of various sizes. This can include hiring caterers and event space, seating, stage and sound setup, the order of ceremonies, centerpieces and décor, and invitations. This is obviously not a complete list as there are hundreds of other details that you’ll only truly understand once you’ve done them. And once you’ve done them, event management becomes an invaluable part of your resume.
4) You Can Handle It…and Them
Every job has its daunting aspects, but being a personal assistant means never knowing what, or who, you’ll have to deal with on any given day. Everyone you encounter in a professional context may be rude, dismissive or downright bullying. It sounds scary, and rightly so. After you muddle through a few awkward interactions, you learn your lessons, and you realize that these difficulties can’t harm you.
In fact, they’re making you a better professional and a better person. Before you know it, handling unfamiliar tasks and rude people starts to become a habit. Now, in the face of rudeness, you shine through like one of those graceful humans who don’t blink under pressure. That self-assuredness means petty people can’t get in your way. Being able to brush off rudeness is a quality that will serve you well for the rest of your life.
You always think you’re discrete until you’re trusted with incredibly personal access to someone’s life. And the people who know you have that access will offer all kinds of rewards if you’ll share a bit of your insight. Gossiping about your job may gain you a little status in the short-term, but you can’t get away with it forever.
You’ll soon lose your professional standing and even the people who encourage you to gossip understand that it’s not professional behavior. When you learn to resist gossip and value discretion above drama, you’ll be recognized for your character as well as your skills. Character is the quality of knowing what to do when you’re entrusted with something of value. Discretion is the quality of a next-level professional.
6) Equal Parts Organization, Multitasking, and Crisis Control
Various professional guides emphasize particular qualities as being essential. Some will say you must be rigidly organized, while others tell you to juggle various responsibilities at once. You might also hear that you must expect the unexpected. The truth is, you must be able to do all of these things.
Working on behalf of someone else’s schedule and responsibilities teaches you that balance. You will approach the day with a plan, you will address several things at once, and you will learn to thrive in the chaos. Rather than picking one skill to pursue, you’ll have all of these tools in your toolbox. You won’t have to try to bend every situation into a singular skill set.
7) Being “Right” Isn’t That Important
It’s natural to want to be right, but it’s also a petty impulse that almost always gets in the way of greater goals. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but when you work as a personal assistant, you don’t have the luxury of indulging your petty instincts. The good news is, your instincts change.
When in conflict with a superior, you’ll first learn to step back and keep your mouth shut. From there you’ll learn to see the bigger picture, and your urge to argue will dissolve. At last, you’ll be able to approach every situation with calmness instead of competition. You can use this as a tool for a creative and satisfying resolution rather than becoming trapped in minuscule issues.
8) Budgeting (Time as Well as Money)
You may have boundless energy, but time and money have very clear boundaries. You have to learn to work within these limits. Especially when the time and money in question both belong to your employer.
When you’re out shopping for your employer as a personal assistant, you’ll gain firsthand experience of the cost of everyday items. You’ll be able to look at $100 and know exactly how far it can go. Likewise, you’ll soon understand what can be accomplished in an hour and what can realistically be done in a day. Budgeting is the skill of knowing what you have and how far it can go. When you know how to budget, you won’t overspend and you won’t overpromise.
9) How to Self-Motivate (On Someone Else’s Behalf)
The paradox of the personal assistant is that you’re working entirely on behalf of your employer, but must be self-motivated for their benefit. You’re often asked to do that work independently, without direct supervision, and driven by your own intuition and skills.
You have the freedom to fly, or fall, under your own power. You’ll learn to take that power and apply it to what needs to be done, rather than fritting away the hours you’re left unsupervised. When it comes to a personal assistant, people will quickly recognize when you’re only doing the bare minimum.
You don’t work to simply check things off your list. You have to find ways to improve your situation as a whole, rather than simply following instructions. Sometimes using your time wisely means applying it to other people’s tasks.
10) Successful People Surround Themselves with Capable People
As a personal assistant, you are that capable person facilitating for your successful employer. There’s a reason your employer has become successful. They must have the ability to recruit, hire, and delegate to trustworthy, competent people.
As a reward for your own abilities, you’re given a firsthand look at the other behaviors of successful professionals. You’ll learn by doing, and you’ll also learn by seeing and emulating the skills of others. You’ll be immersed in the highest standards of the professional world. When you set these standards for yourself, you’ll automatically seek them out in others, too.
Becoming a Personal Assistant Can Launch Your Career
You have to start somewhere, but don’t believe that becoming a personal assistant is the same as starting at the bottom. In fact, a personal assistant position is a fast-track, comprehensive business education like no other. Becoming a personal assistant allows you to learn by doing, and to get paid while you’re doing it!
When you’re skilled and discrete enough to earn the trust of your employer, being a personal assistant is like playing business mogul with somebody else’s capital. You have access to every detail of a successful life. Take those lessons and invest them further.