Since I commenced with Capital EA, every person who I meet is very curious to learn about my role as a Virtual Assistant.
Being a Virtual Assistant is a unique and rewarding role. It doesn’t really have a specific list of skills or tasks – obviously, there are the standard things such as supervising inboxes, responding to phone calls, preparing correspondence and managing diaries.
Virtual Assistants are also always surrounded by a lot of buzz words: highly skilled, efficient, communicative, diverse, the list goes on… Although all of these things are incredibly important, they are only a small part of the skills required to be successful.
At the heart of being a Virtual Assistant is the innate need to serve. This nature of servitude must override all other skills and attributes, as the role can be a thankless one that requires you to just ‘get on with things’. In saying that, this is also probably the most difficult part of the job. It is hard to do something and do it well, but not always be acknowledged for the good work you have done. However, what this does is build a high level of resilience and allows you to work through the difficult situations and tasks with relative ease.
Being a Virtual Assistant also requires you to be a subject matter expert in many different fields. Unfortunately, most VAs do not have the luxury of only working for one Executive and as such they generally work for different people who specialise in different areas or industries. So, being a subject matter expert in many different fields is such an important skill because in order for you to understand your Executive’s goals and priorities, you must first have a clear understanding of their work.
Additionally, this skill allows you to be an extension of your Executive. You will inherently understand their thought processes and preferences, from professional aspirations down to how they like to categorize their diary entries. You can pre-empt their questions and anticipate their needs in such an effective way that you are able to deliver solutions before the question is ever asked.
A Virtual Assistant is also quite an autonomous role, which requires a high level of ownership, initiative and individual judgement. You are not always in a position where you can easily contact your Executive and so it is regularly down to you to make a final decision. That being ‘an executive decision’, some of the best advice I have been given as a VA is that ‘it is always better to ask for forgiveness than stalling too long on a decision’.
You also need to be an exceptional communicator and a verbal chameleon. Dealing with a number of different Executives on a daily basis forces you to consistently transform your language, alter your tone and change your vernacular to suit the specific audience. This will also come in to play depending on the method of communication, so you need to be a master of both the written and spoken word.
Finally, to be an effective Virtual Assistant, you have to be skilled at prioritisation. You must be able to triage multiple tasks across multiple Executives and to not falter when urgent reactive tasks pop up. An ability to remain calm is essential here! You must also be process driven and efficient, and remember to always keep the objective in mind when tackling any task.
So, now that I have suitably terrified all of the aspiring Virtual EAs out there, I will end with this: being a VA is definitely not for everyone. If you aren’t tech savvy or if you crave constant face-to-face with people then it may not be the role for you. BUT, if you want an incredibly challenging and rewarding career then it is definitely worth pursuing. The learning curve is steep, but as someone I greatly admire once said to me ‘the best growth doesn’t happen within your comfort zone’.