Oh Samsung… if you’d only taken the time to proofread your lovely expensive ad campaign….

And then there’s this one…

A wise man once said…. take the time to read through your stuff. When you’ve read it once, READ IT AGAIN!!!

How you present yourself is such an important element of being a top-notch Executive Assistant – and bagging yourself the top-notch jobs. Whilst multi-million pound corporation Samsung no doubt swiftly recovered from this mishap, for an Executive Assistant, poor grammar, poor spelling and poor attention to detail can cost you your reputation.

Clearly, anything you produce on behalf of your manager should be first-rate and free from errors, but your work is just as important. If you value yourself, and your reputation, it’s worth spending the same amount of time checking your own work to ensure you reflect the same standards of excellence.

Here are my top tips:

  • Put aside some concentration time – We’ve all been there, multitasking a minimum of 10 jobs like a superhero. Then a last-minute board report lands on your desk to “tidy up”, leaving little time to focus on attention to detail and accuracy. Multi-tasking really is an incredible skill and an essential one for this role. But there are those more complex jobs that require concentration. Switch off the emails, put the mobile on silent and ignore the office chatter. Focus on this one task for now – mistakes are inevitable otherwise.
  • Limit your distractions – I generally work from home when it comes to writing minutes or essential papers. And not just so I can stay in my PJs until 11am (joooke!). Why? Because it’s quiet – 100% no distractions. No TV, NOTHING. It’s incredibly difficult to concentrate on any task whilst being interrupted by noisy colleagues, bosses asking random questions, tea runs, telephone calls, email notifications popping up in the corner of your screen every 30 seconds. If you can’t work from home, but you have that essential job to focus on, can you book out a meeting space or find somewhere quiet to do that job? If this isn’t possible, then at least make it clear to your colleagues that you need to get your head down for an hour undisturbed – you can re-join the office banter later.
  • What are you looking for? Obviously most software packages will pick up spelling mistakes, but they won’t necessarily spot a “that” instead of “this”. Or a “fro” instead of “for” (that one’s such a pain, right?). Or spelling mistakes if the word is written in capitals – remember to check your capitalised headings and sub-headings – this happens in nearly every report or presentation I receive.

Also have a look at the style of the paragraph you’re working on. Does it make sense? Does it flow with the paragraphs above it? This is particularly important when several people are working on the same document. If the document starts by referring to “the board agreed xyz”, it can’t then switch to “we agreed” midway through the document.

  • Style and presentation – It’s not just about a good spellcheck. The main issue I’ve encountered over the years is presentation of the document. Poor formatting, wrong numbering and different font sizes make a piece of work look sloppy and unprofessional. Try checking the following:
    • If the document contains numbering, is this in order?
    • Is the line spacing consistent throughout the document – check there are no random paragraphs in 1.5 line spacing. You can tell because the paragraphs suddenly look stretched.
    • Are the paragraphs and bullet points lined up?
    • Do all the headings and sub-headings match each other?
  • Proofreading – if spelling’s not your thing, ask a colleague to give your work the once over. It can be easy to miss things after staring at the same document for hours.
  • Take breaks – if you feel like your brain is fried and you can’t read any more – take a little break. Even if it’s just to get a coffee for 5 minutes. It might help you refocus. Just keep the break short – no point procrastinating and dragging the task out any longer than necessary!

At the end of the day, if you value yourself and want to be at the top of your game, it’s worth spending the time to get these things right. Your reputation is so important – imagine spending hours on a project, only for a boss to reject it based on a minor error. It really is worth it – and so are you!!