If you’ve started to think about what you’ll do next – consultancy could be the answer.
It is widely acknowledged in business that change is the only constant. Whilst it is a challenge, there is almost always an opportunity for growth and development. Never has this been truer than the evolution of the PA over the past 50 years. The transition from Typist to Secretary, to Personal Assistant, to Executive Assistant has been a fascinating journey. Huge advances in technology have helped those we support be more self-sufficient, thereby creating opportunity to re-shape the Executive PA’s role and expand their scope of responsibility.
So what does the future look like – and how do we get there?
As an Executive PA you generally have a fantastic insight into all areas of the business giving you a comprehensive overview of how it all pieces together. So why not harness that knowledge and put it to good use? You have the inside track on the strengths and weaknesses within your organisation and, consequently, where the opportunities lie.
Have you ever considered yourself to be a consultant within the business? The Oxford Dictionary defines a consultant as a person who provides expert advice professionally. Does this sound familiar to you? The opportunities for you could include getting more involved operationally, strategically or developmentally. This is the foundation for PA consultancy and what I believe is the natural next step for our profession.
For the purposes of this article I am going to assume that you are a dedicated, experienced EA working in an environment that you enjoy.
It is a common problem when you have spent your career as an Executive PA, albeit you may love what you do, that you need to pose the question: ‘Where do I go from here?’ It can be a potentially tricky question to answer. Very often there isn’t an obvious route of progression – adding more tasks to your already heavy workload or pursuing a completely different path are often the only visible ways forward.
It must also be acknowledged that suggesting the idea of consultancy to your boss or senior management team might well be met with surprise and even derision. Relatively few people like change and all too often labels are put on both professions and people, so you need to be prepared for that.
But let’s take stock of where we are as a profession. Rather than accepting that this is the way it is, why not grab hold of the reins and be part of a revolution? The evolutionary process continues and you can be part of it by becoming a thought leader that helps carve out the route for future generations. By growing in influence within your organisation, you can become a consultant within it.
That may sound somewhat anarchic but let’s not forget that support functions are often described as the backbone of an organisation. To that end we have a vast amount of knowledge and experience – it just needs to be reframed in a way that is palatable to the decision-maker.
So here are my tips for you to consider:
- Stop. Take time out and think. Yes, I know it’s easier said than done! But this is so important and it’s about you being in control of your future.
- Talk to those you trust and whose opinion you value. Be strong and don’t choose people who will tell you what you want to hear. You need clued-up people who will challenge your view and make you think. They should also be a mix of internal and external influences ideally.
- Research the market. Is anyone doing something similar? Find online forums to take part in, get networking and look for learning opportunities.
- Contacts are critical, both internally and externally to your organisation. Can you discuss this with your HR Director, COO or external agencies? Think back over your career and re-connect with contacts online via LinkedIn or Twitter. Get networking!
- Plan: set tangible, realistic short- and long-term goals to help you move towards your type of consultancy.
And finally,I encourage you to dig deep within and be really honest with yourself about what really flips your switch. Step outside from the role that currently defines you and give yourself the freedom to think. Your specialist area of consultancy is up to you. Are you a master problem solver? A great project manager? Does strategy really set you buzzing? Do you prefer the bigger picture or concentrating on the minutiae?
One thing is certain. The future for our profession is bright – and you can be part of it.