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Training for assistants: does experience matter?

Training for assistants: does experience matter?

The expert in Executive Assistants, Adam Fidler, explains what is the difference in training between a new graduated and an experienced Assistant.

Regarding a new graduated assistant: is there a real difference in the “soft skills” approach and specialization – training on the job?

For a new assistant, their learning and training needs are different to a more experienced assistant because new assistants require a thorough understanding of how to perform the role of the assistant. Often, they are more confident in how they approach the job because they don’t have some of the limiting beliefs that a more traditional assistant would have. But they need help with the practical and foundational aspects of being an assistant. For example, how to run a diary effectively, what routines to implement, how to structure their work and the work of their executive, and how to perform some of the fundamentals of the job.

Often they start the job without any prior training or knowledge of the role and are forced to learn on the job which is good experience, but I believe that some of the standards and basics need to be learnt from day one because these standards are the foundation of their entire career going forward. A ‘new’ assistant may be good at project management, and even strategic thinking, but they often need fine-tuning around the basics of the EA role.

The Be A Better Executive Assistant training course I am teaching in Milan is suitable for new assistants and certainly more experienced assistants. The course redefines the future of the assistant role and balances the new style that executives are now looking for, with some of the discipline and structure that is essential to be a successful assistant. The core competencies required from the role are the same for a new assistant as they are for experienced assistants, but there is a change in how transactional and intellectual support are offered by contemporary assistants.

Soft skills are paramount to an assistant’s success. This includes emotional intelligence, learning how to work with a senior person, how to be assertive but not pushy, how to fit within the confines of the EA role. Emotional intelligence often comes with experience and wisdom, so a good understanding of the EA role from day one, and how to manage and work closely with an executive, is what I recommend the assistant focus on.

Training on the job is always useful, but the assistant must have a good role model if they are to develop good habits. Some of the foundation of the role needs to be introduced off-the-job and preferably before the new EA starts their career. Bad habits are hard to fix later on. In my training programs I see too many bad habits due to organizations not taking time to train their EAs, or the EAs having to make it up as they go along since they don’t know a better way, or haven’t had proper training.