The savvy Assistant sees their current work as part of a career plan or direction of business. They recognise themselves as both a talent and a resource.

The savvy Assistant understands that a strong skill set combined with exceptional qualities make them indispensable to their clients and bosses. That’s a good place to be in.

The savvy Assistant is a self-advocate, confident about standing out and speaking up. They understand the importance of being visible and looking out for opportunities at every step along the way.

To get ahead as a VA, PA or EA requires a blend of knowledge, know-how and personal drive. Here’s some guidance on advancing your career.

Understanding the Modern Day Role of the Professional Assistant

Back in 2018, the World Administrators Alliance (WWA) reported the results of a worldwide survey of professional administrators.

That survey revealed there were more than 160 different job titles, despite many roles being similar. And there was not much optimism from other findings in the report:

  • 58% of administrators felt underutilised
  • 73% felt their organisation didn’t understand the role or potential impact of using them properly
  • 60% of administrators felt there was little or no opportunity for career progression within their organisation.

Now in 2024, demand for talented Assistants around the globe appears to remain strong. Clients and organisations still need reliable administrative support today. And a lot of work has been done by the WWA and Assistant champions, like Lucy Brazier of Executive Support Magazine, to raise the profile of PAs, EAs and VAs.

The changing role and responsibilities we are seeing is something I cover in my blog about the Rise of the Indispensable Modern-Day Assistant.

Regardless of whether your title is VA, PA, EA or another, the essential skills, qualities and characteristics for the role will be similar.

With so many roles and specialisms available, it makes sense to work out which one is most suited to your personality, skill set and career ambitions.

Assessing and Developing Your Skills

If there’s one expectation of the Assistant that every client, boss and organisation will have, it is this one. They expect an administrator to know how to use Microsoft Office, Microsoft Teams and other essential tools.

Take that as a given and ensure your skills are up to date. My Essential Office for the Savvy Assistant course package gives you bite-sized training to help you get up to speed fast.

In addition, it’s a good idea to review all aspects of your talents. And do that regularly. Follow the classic process of review, assess, identify gaps, fill gaps with training and repeat the process.

Assessing and developing your skills as a professional assistant is important for three good reasons.

Firstly, the process helps you to understand your strengths and highlight areas for improvement. Secondly, it helps you to structure your competencies and training for that next client pitch, job change or promotion. Thirdly, the process will help you to understand your value or worth.

A free resource which can help with your skills assessment is the Global Skills Matrix. Rather than focusing on job titles, it looks at what makes a good Assistant at different levels of professional administration.

There is always something to learn.

Observing the Trends in the Professional Assistant World

It’s an obvious thing to say but the world is changing – and changing rapidly. It needs saying because the savvy Assistant understands it is important not to stand still.

Shifts in the way business is done, how organisations operate and the way people work will have an impact on the roles, responsibilities and opportunities for VAs, PAs and EAs across the globe.

In another blog, I write about the 5 Key Trends in the Professional Assistant World. Let me summarise those here:

1. You cannot help but have noticed how AI, or Artificial Intelligence, has become part of everyday work and conversation. It’s not going away so embrace the challenges and look for the opportunities.

2. For many organisations, hybrid working is the norm. That means some time working from the office, some time working remotely or from home. As my blog states, this may have implications for Assistants.

3. There appears to be a greater focus on soft skills – and the importance of developing those skills as an Assistant, especially in a multi-cultural and diverse environment.

4. Traditionally, Assistants may not have felt they were given the credit they deserve. As their role has found more and more champions, it has given Assistants more confidence to stand out and speak up more. It’s great to see.

5. We are now also beginning to see more Assistants getting involved in strategic work and being viewed as business partners within an organisation. PAs and, particularly, EAs are being recognised as more than administrators. And more power to them.

Keeping an eye on the bigger picture helps the savvy Assistant to stay ahead of the game.

Investing in Your Personal Growth and Professional Development

One of the most significant ways to get ahead as an Assistant is to focus on your personal growth.

Know your role, understand your client’s business or the organisation you work for. Get to know your Executive and how you can best support them. Some tips and insights around that are shared in my blog about investing in your personal growth and professional development as a modern assistant. [link to spoke 4]

To be efficient and productive with your workflow, it pays to have systems and take advantage of automated technology. Knowing what platforms, apps and tools are out there – and how to use them – helps to keep you on your mettle.

Nurturing your personal qualities will always pay dividends. Clients and organisations want Assistants who are highly organised, trustworthy, great planners, excellent communicators and able to think on their feet.

Building business knowledge and skills, and enhancing leadership skills are also a smart move for the savvy Assistant serving an entrepreneur or executive. It means you can play a pro-active role in supporting their success.

Being Visible and Open to New Opportunities

To get ahead as an Assistant today, it’s not enough to have skills, knowledge and great personal qualities. You also need to be visible.

The modern Assistant is a talent, a personal brand. And the great thing is you get to shape how you are perceived by clients, bosses, organisations and your peers. You get to answer the important questions. Questions like:

Who are you?

What are you known for?

Who do you help and how do you help them?

What’s different about you and the value you bring to the table?

Why choose me and not somebody else?

With a personal brand, you position yourself in the marketplace and open the doors to more of the Assistant opportunities you love. If you’re working within an organisation, it’s a way to educate your boss about your Assistant superpowers – and to leverage those powers to get noticed.

As well as training and study, the savvy Assistant may look to hire a mentor or coach – to clear any blocks, develop a growth mindset and iron out any unhelpful traits.

As you invest (time and money) in your personal growth and professional development, you’re also keeping an eye out for opportunities. You never know what might be around the corner.

Being visible and open to new opportunities as a savvy Assistant [link to spoke 5] is simply commonsense.

Getting Ahead as an Assistant Means Being Pro-Active

There’s an old saying that ‘Knowledge is Power’. I would build on that for the Assistant community to say, ‘Knowledge combined with skills, qualities and influence is Power’.

Know your role. Know your client’s business and the organisation you work for. Know your responsibilities.

Review and assess your skills. Evaluate your personal qualities. Explore trends and understand what they mean for you and your profession. Make personal growth and continuing professional development (CPD) part of your plan for career success.

Find your voice as an Assistant. Speak up. Tell people how good you are and what you are worth. Get the recognition and rewards you deserve for all that you bring to the table.

Set tradition aside and challenge convention. All the support, encouragement and resources are there to help you be the person and Assistant you want to be. Get ahead and go for it!

Let me know in the comments what you think.

Until next time.

Shelley Fishel - The MS Office Maestro

I find Shelley’s training easy to follow and the very best thing is that you can do it all at your own pace and revisit modules if it doesn’t quite sink in the first time round! I have learned so much from her training and continue to do so! She is responsive to my questions and I learn something new with each module. I find Iam hardly ever having to Google or YouTube information now, so it really is saving me time in my work day. Time that can be better used by learning more about the business I operate in!
Thanks Shelley!

Tracey Whitehouse – Executive Assistant

I have been following Shelley on Linkedin for several years, and always loved her hints and tips. In May of this year, I had the opportunity to recommend Shelley as one of our workshop speakers at the annual HMC Heads’ PA Conference in Sheffield.

On receiving the brief Shelley quickly produced content for two IT Microsoft Skills Workshops covering nuggets from Outlook, Word and Excel. Shelley then delivered (virtually) these two fantastic workshops to over 60 PAs at our conference.

From initial enquiry to delivery Shelley is the consummate professional and it was my pleasure to have had the opportunity to engage with her.

I would have no hesitation in recommending Shelley to any individual or group.

Michaela Fletcher – Heads PA

Shelley is THE guru on all things Microsoft.

I love Outlook, use it every day, and think I have a pretty good understanding of it. But every time I attend one of her sessions I learn a lot more. Her knowledge is remarkable. And she delivers her knowledge in a really clear, engaging way.

Thanks Shelley

Kathy Soulsby

I have just spent less than an hour at one of Shelley’s presentations and my mind is truly blown! I thought I was fairly proficient in Outlook, but I had no idea it could do so much more! So many time saving tips and shortcuts to help me – I can’t wait to get stuck in and implement them all! Thank you Shelley – I would highly recommend!

Hayley Rose – Executive Assistant -Dalcour Maclaren

Shelley joined us for the annual HMC Heads’ PAs conference in May 2023, where she delivered two hands-on practical IT skills workshops for over 60 PAs in attendance. Both sessions were warmly received by all participants, and from a personal perspective it was an absolute pleasure for me to work with Shelley both offline in the extensive prep phase ahead of the sessions, and online during the day itself – sharp in subject knowledge, flexible in content delivery and everything executed with a really affable manner and “can-do” approach throughout. I would recommend her services wholeheartedly.

Gareth Johnson – Leader GRE Education

Heads PA Conference

The session was well structured and the explanation was very clear. It was amazing how Shelley managed to squeeze so much info in just one hour and a half! Colin’s support and contributions were also very valuable, and so were “Virtual Veronica”‘s. Thank you for a most interesting and useful training session at the Miss Jones Virtual Summit!

Laura Carizzo- Royal Norwegian Embassy in Argentina

I haven’t used PowerPoint in 20 years, this has really boosted my confidence.

Lyn Parker

Course is packed with so much valuable information in a easy-to-understand and follow language, even for a complete beginner. I can respect the fact that sometimes it’s very hard for an expert to break the information down to basics. but Shelley has done it brilliantly. I was sure that I knew quite a bit but Shelley has proven me wrong even at the very beginning of the basics of PowerPoint. Lessons are short and precise which allowed me to easily transfer the new skill into practice without being overwhelmed and to carry on adding on more with each lesson. I had so many ‘Aha!’ moments and for most of them I couldn’t believe I used to pay graphic designer to do it for me, now, thanks to Shelley, I am looking forward to creating, designing, converting my presentations all by myself!

Iva Freeman – Vertex Human Capital

Shelley was very thorough and knew a lot of tip’s for using Teams, thank you 🙂

James O’Connor – Cavannah Homes

Very informative, constantly getting everyone in the meeting involved, loved every bit of it!

Dylan Teal Hopkins – Cavannah Homes
Fantastic and informative training and great to see all of the exciting functions with Microsoft Teams.
Laura Rigby – The Apprenticeship College
Shelley was really clear in her teaching and went at a pace that was helpful to us. We covered all we needed to know to get us started, as a small team, using MS Teams. She was also very helpful in the run up to the session, with check in calls and ensuring our platform was set up correctly. I would highly recommend Shelley to anyone wanting to learn to navigate their way around MS Teams.
Leigh Dowling – Innuous

Microsoft Teams One to One Training Session

Shelley was approachable, easy to work with, and agile with answering questions to apply the session to my specific needs

Melissa Marshall – Present Your Science

A course on Outlook had been on the top of my list when Shelley asked VA’s what they wanted to learn. It was a real case of ‘so that’s how you do it’ or ‘I never knew that’. I have to say that I learnt so many great tips it has definitely improved the way I work in Outlook and my inbox is looking colourful and organised and I can’t wait to share this knowledge with my clients.

Jacqueline Leake – JLeake VA Services – Outlook

A great course with lots of examples and step by step instructions. I can now confidently create infographics and as a bonus, I learnt a lot of new PowerPoint functionality that will enhance all my PowerPoint work and save me so much time.

Jessica Bailey – Integral Resource

I really like Shelley’s courses. She has a clear and easy to follow teaching style. In ‘How to Create Fillable Forms’ I’ve learned about the functions of the Developer ribbon which will mean I’ll be able to create a bespoke Returns Form for a client who has an online shop

Freya Henderson – Virtual Office Orkney