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Lottie Mayland30 Sep 2020
  • Advice
  • COVID-19
  • Insight

How To Get A Job As An Executive Assistant During The Pandemic

It has been 7 months since lockdown was announced in the UK, and in that time, we have all had to navigate an extremely uncertain and constantly changing workplace environment. As we enter the second wave of the virus we’re thrown once more into a period of increased disruption and it’s becoming progressively clearer that further disruption lies ahead. The world of work will never revert to the way it was pre-pandemic; redundancies are widespread and anyone looking for a new role, or keen to ensure they keep their current one, will need to adapt. However, we are not looking at this as a negative; talented and capable assistants will always be needed and to ensure that you have the best chance of securing a new job, or keeping your current one, we’ve set out a number of ways we think assistants can adapt and improve their skill set in order to ensure they stay relevant and useful in today’s business environment.

While we’re living and working through a scary and uncertain time adaptability and flexibility are key, we need to be pragmatic about the situation and optimistically look at ways we can all adapt our working styles to ensure we come out on top.

So, what we have learnt so far:

In June 2020 McKinsey & Company surveyed over 800 executives working in a range of companies of different sizes, industries, and global locations. Their results shed some light on how the pandemic has affected, and will continue to affect, businesses across the world. They show that there is no denying that a disruptive period lies ahead. No one knows for certain how the pandemic is going to continue to affect businesses, so we must be prepared for the uncertainty and work out ways to work with it. Here are some of the key points:

Accelerate workforce trends are already underway – according to the survey 85% of businesses have increased their digitization between employees. This means we can expect more Zooms, more online chats, and more webinars.

There is a continued increase in demand for contractors, gig workers and more remote working as companies try to manage uncertain cash flow.

The mix of jobs that emerge from this crisis is likely to be different to the jobs that have been made redundant because of it.

Lower paid, lower educated, small & midsize businesses and communities of colour are more severely affected and vulnerable to disruption from increased automation.

For people that can, working from home 2 days a week seems to be optimum among the company executives surveyed.

83% of companies surveyed said they would increase roles in health and safety and create new roles in facilities management.

Ok, what does this mean for assistants?

To clarify, this is not bad news for assistants. PAs and EAs will always be needed, however, with the above taken into consideration we have identified several ways we think assistants can adapt to ensure that the role you provide continues to stay relevant and essential.

Get used to working with tech. If the pandemic has taught us anything it is that tech is here to stay and those that don’t embrace it will be left behind. As an assistant tech can be your best friend or your worst enemy, it can save you hours of time or cause you hours of stress. If you can show that you are digitally aware and interested in implementing and learning about emerging technology you will stand out from the crowd. We suggest doing your research, whether you are in a job or looking for one, make time to look at what is out there; what apps are other assistants using? Are there ways you can digitalise some of your processes to make them quicker and easier? Go to a job interview prepared with questions to ask about their current tech and whether they would be interested in implementing more, or if you are already in a job, suggest to you boss ways you can improve certain processes by digitalising them.

Be flexible. When competition for jobs is high it’s the employees that happily, and enthusiastically turn their hand to any task that really stand out. Make it clear to your employer or potential employer that you are keen to really get stuck in wherever is needed. If you realise that there is less for you to do in your traditional tasks look at ways you can help in others. Think outside the box – what might happen in 6 months’ time that needs preparation for now? Is your company up to date on all the COVID-19 policies and procedures? If not, take a look at, and join, Hana Gray's amazing Office Management Portal here. Maybe you could become the company expert on COVID? It might not seem glamourous but it’s a good way to make yourself stand out and stay relevant.

While some roles are being made redundant, new roles are appearing, particularly in facilities management and HR. What could you add in these departments? Be one step ahead of the curve and perhaps think about training or speak to your boss about how you could help. If you are going for an interview arrive at the Zoom prepared with questions about these departments, showing that you are clued up about how COVID is affecting workplaces will make you stand out and demonstrate your initiative and proactivity.

If you are job seeking, be prepared to accept contract work, part-time positions or even a role that doesn’t quite match exactly what you are looking for. Many employers are nervous about taking on full time staff simply because of cash flow issues and uncertainty about the future, therefore many are looking to hire on a contract or part-time basis to start with. It’s always better to be in a job than out of one, therefore if this is what you are offered it’s not because an employer isn’t certain about you, it’s simply their way of acting cautiously in an uncertain market. Being flexible now will put you in good stead for the future when they may be able to take you on full time.

Ultimately, the pandemic has, and continues to have, a huge affect on businesses across the world. As an assistant you do a valuable and extremely important job but now is the time to really sell yourself – be positive, flexible, and adaptable, ready to turn your hand to any task that needs doing. Look outside the box and think of ways you can upskill or increase the scope of your role to include COVID-19 procedures or processes that might not have been picked up on. Be proactive in job interviews and show you are not afraid of change and are willing to adapt as needed. If you are looking for a job at the moment then get in touch with us on enquiries@andersonhoare.co.uk to discuss your search and how we might be able to help.