Recently my colleague and I were discussing the ideal candidate for an EA vacancy. We concurred that he/she must be assertive, thick skinned, highly organised, have a patience of a saint, proactive, able to carry out a multitude of duties… I could go on and on.

Whilst pondering this particular job specification, I began to list all the ideal characteristics for a perfect assistant. Hell nobody’s perfect, but we’re often expected to be superheroes in this role! What are the key traits though to be successful in this role? Here are my conclusions…

The majority of assistants work in extremely busy, highly stressful environments. Your boss may rearrange their schedule at short notice, jump from subject to subject, not bother to complete your “to-do” lists and generally be unreasonable at times. It takes bags and bags of patience to do this role. You’re in a pressured environment, but so are they and they’re generally in the firing line for it. They need you to stay cool (despite the somewhat challenging circumstances at times!).

Don’t wait to be told what to do. Anticipate what their needs are in advance. What’s in the diary over the next month? What projects are coming up? Are any planning meetings required? Do they need documents/information in advance? Perhaps sit down with your boss and work out what their goals are and how you can assist.

The obvious one. If you’re disorganised, this isn’t the role for you! A good assistant will have systems in place, turn jobs into prioritised tasks and generally create order out of chaos. This ranges from the office environment through to inbox management.

In my previous posts I’ve talked about dealing with distractions. If you’re easily interrupted by well-meaning colleagues, phone calls and Facebook pings, you’ll never get anything finished because that “to-do” list never ends! As I briefly mentioned, sometimes your boss will struggle to stay focused, so a good assistant needs to be laser-focused on which projects are the most important and make sure that you both stay on track.

I’ve said this before, but nobody wants to work with Negative Ned. A “can do” attitude is essential for this role. Go over and above what needs to be done to make life easier for your boss and the team. Be friendly and enthusiastic. Share your ideas. A positive demeanour goes a long way.

The ability to adapt to ever-changing situations and last minute requests is an important skill for any role, but essential for this career path. Sometimes you have to change everything you’ve worked on, drop everything to deal with an urgent request, or work late to hit a deadline. It’s all part of the job.

Sometimes, you have to stand your ground. If your boss or in fact any of your colleagues have an unreasonable deadline, it’s okay to push back. Manage their expectations, or you’ll end up stressed and burnt out.

Occasionally people will snap at you. Unfortunately it happens sometimes. Don’t take it personally, it’s never about you. It’s always about their stress levels and you just happen to be in the firing line. Rise above it.

I could go on and on here, but here’s my started for ten. I’d love to hear what traits you’d like to add. Keep them positive mind!

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