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Five tips to being a great assistant

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Many people aspire to be the boss, to lead the company, or to become a big shot manager. At least that’s what’s said in theory. But in practice, not everyone is cut out to be, or wants to be a leader. Some people are just best suited to being part of a great support staff that helps keep an organization running like clockwork.

Don’t be fooled – serving as an assistant to one person or a group is not an easy job. In fact, it’s tougher in some ways to be an assistant, because the skill sets to surviving and thriving as a successful assistant are so large. For example:

Do you have the personality? Not all personality types are designed to be an assistant. First, you must be outgoing and pleasant and possess a love for people, because you will often serve as the gatekeeper, who screens and directs visitors and phone calls. Second, you must be easygoing and respectful of supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates. If your personality is not right, the assistant can cause much damage to relationships outside and within an organization. I’m sure we’ve all encountered the rude person who refuses to be pleasant, cooperative, and/or helpful.

Can you follow directions? When you are the assistant, you are constantly bombarded with directions – do this, go here, call this person. If you are able to do as expected without developing a bad attitude or feeling dumped on, then take advantage of chances that will arise to prove skills in other areas of the job.

Can you think on your feet? Very often, you will be given some basic directions and then be expected to fill in the gaps and create solutions when problems arise. Your boss is only concerned with results; so if you are able to figure out how to solve complex issues without bothering him or her for input, you may find some strikes in your favour. Unfortunately, this skill can also work against you if you overstep your bounds and make decisions without clearance, or if your plan backfires. The trick is to know when to think on your feet and when to go back and ask for help and approval.

Are you a good listener? We all hear and we all have ears, but hearing and listening are two different skills; and too often, professional relationships are derailed because assistants do not listen. Get into the habit of paraphrasing when listening. Say something like, “Did I understand you clearly when you said . . .” Then repeat what you think you heard, so the speaker can correct you at that time.

Can you handle pressure? Assistants can become verbal punching bags when things go wrong. The boss will yell, the staff will scream, and the clients will complain; and it will all seem to be aimed at you. A good assistant must learn how to not fall apart or take those kinds of comments too personally.

While the job of assistant may seem horrible, being a great one will put you in touch with many different people. If you are good at networking, the job can prove to be a gold mine.

Karen Hinds is “The Workplace Success Expert.” For a FREE SPECIAL REPORT on Avoiding Career Killers in the Workplace, send an email to info@workplacesuccess.com

Visit online at www.workplacesuccess.com

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