Alex Goodier is a virtual assistant to Kris Kluver and others. She is also at the helm of InsideEA, a new offering that helps you become the best assistant you can be. Are you a manager who is thinking about getting your first assitant? Have one that needs a little push? That’s her specialty!
What does it take to be a great assistant? Webster’s Dictionary defines assistant as…just kidding. If you wanted to know this, you could just look it up yourself. Who am I, your assistant? Jokes aside, it takes a refined set of skills to help someone else run their business, schedule, and well…lives. Before you get discouraged by this list or your current position, I want to tell you this: you won’t feel like you own it immediately. I have been Kris’s assistant for 4 years and it took us at least two to REALLY get it down. With each client, there’s a hill to be climbed before you begin working in sync. Don’t let this hump scare you away—you’ll have to make it over the hill to get to the easy days, just like every other thing in life that’s worthwhile.
Now that I’ve put my soapbox away, let’s get to the meat: what makes a great assistant?
You need to be cement between the cracks
A huge part of being a great assistant is making sure that everything stays on the radar where it should be. This includes making sure that leads, projects, and other issues don’t fall through the cracks. Not only should you fill those gaps, you should be looking out for new ones forming. If the cracks remain unfilled, they become potholes that are detrimental to both your clients and the business. Find a tool that works for you to remember when to follow up, whether it be with a potential client, a project that has gone untouched, or an appointment that still needs to be scheduled.
Know the right moments to say “I don’t know”
I want to preface this part by saying that I think it’s crucial to communicate what you don’t know if it will directly impede the work that you have to do. That being said, I’ve met quite a few people who throw “I don’t know” around because they don’t want to take the time to learn. Google is an assistant’s best friend. Unless they have a dog—then it’s their second best.
Over time, I’ve learned that in most instances, projects presented to me with things I don’t know are the most exciting and challenging. I shifted my mindset from “this isn’t something I do” to “this is something I can learn”. When we were working on Success Defined, I took on multiple pieces that were things I’ve never done before. Instead of saying “I don’t know how to do that”, I did a little research and took it on while managing the expectations of the timeframe to allow for some trial and error. I can now add “book pagination” to my resume. I will be the first to admit that there are definitely moments where it’s better to hire someone who can do it without a second thought, but denying a project purely because you “don’t know” something that could be easily solved by a quick search will only get in the way of your growth in this career field. If you want to make yourself indispensable, you have to do the legwork.
It’s your obligation to dissent…at the right moment
One of the biggest aspects of being an assistant is owning it as the person in your client’s corner. Not only do you need to cheer them on, you need to know when to tell them they’re being a total jagweed. Okay, okay. I’ll be a little more professional with this. You need to know the right moment to communicate with them that something is off; this could be a decision that impacts the company like a policy shift or something as simple as the way that you communicate with one another. Communication is the key to building a relationship filled with trust and honesty. If something is awry, say something! Allowing issues to fester or letting your clients look bad are never options.
Always be three steps ahead
Bottom line: learn EVERYTHING…from front to back, sideways, and upside down. If you can’t make a handbook directly explaining a process and its benefits, you don’t know it well enough. Having your employer’s back and filling in the gaps is a huge aspect of being a personal assistant. Read those emails, don’t skim them. Take notes. Set reminders. Know exactly what’s happening, where it’s happening, who it’s with, and the extra steps your client needs to take.
Somehow, I manage
All of these different pieces culminate to one thing: you are managing them. You should be able to do anything they can and beyond. Of course, there will be processes that depend on their involvement and you should be able to readily identify those moments. I want you to set yourself up so that if something happened to your client, you’d be able to fully execute—Weekend at Bernie’s style. Look at their general week and map out everything that gets done and think what could be more efficient. How can you provide them with more time to work on the business while you’re digging into it? You want to manage your client by providing them with the most efficient and smartest use of their time while you take care of the background work.
These are just a few glimpses into the work you do as an assistant. Of course, with every client comes a different job description. All of us have our own strengths and weaknesses; how you fill in the gaps depends on where those gaps are. As long as you build a relationship on a foundation of open and honest communication, you’ll be able to work through any curveballs together. From there, you’ll really own it.
Are you interested in learning more? Would you like some additional training with our new program insideEA? We’re here to help you be the best assistant possible! Reach out today!