Due to the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic, the role of office support professionals has changed dramatically, with the office crucially now removed from the equation.
Working from home is a challenging prospect for EAs, PAs and office professionals alike, but remote work can open doors that previously may have been shut. One of the most profound benefits of working from home is the extra time you have on your hands. Remove the commute from the equation, and you’re left with time – both in the morning and the evening – which you can use to focus on yourself.
Whilst the initial temptation might be to binge-watch a series on Netflix, using this time for professional and personal development is easily one of the most fulfilling ways to increase your productivity in self-isolation. In this article, we give some tips on how you can fill your free time in a way that will benefit your career in both the short term and the long term.
Top tips on how to spend your extra time:
- Update your CV and your LinkedIn profile
- Take online courses
- Learn a language
- Listen to podcasts
- Plan ahead
- Take on project work
- Read up on the industry
Update your CV and your LinkedIn profile
Previously, this might not have been at the top of your to-do list, but updating your CV and your LinkedIn profile is a great use of your extra time. You may not be applying for jobs right now, but adding your most recent experience to your CV and matching the details to your LinkedIn profile will ensure that your professional presence is strong.
If you haven’t already, add a professional summary to your LinkedIn page that highlights your key skills and attributes. Make sure you fill out your profile with the correct information, and give a detailed account of your work experience, using bullet points. List your key skills and endorse the skills of your colleagues.
You can also take this opportunity to be a more proactive LinkedIn member. Join groups and follow interests relevant to you and your career. There’s a lot on the News and Views section of LinkedIn relating to topical issues, and you can follow popular interests including #workingfromhome to keep up with stories and insights.
Making the most of LinkedIn and creating a strong profile can help in the short term as well as the long term, as it can help you realise which skills or interests you need to develop.
Take online courses
Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you’re closed off to opportunities. A vast number of online courses are available for you to boost your skill set and expand your knowledge. If you’ve thought about it, there’s probably a course for it – you can find everything from Microsoft Excel refresher courses to Diplomas in HR practices.
Notable sites include Udemy, FutureLearn, Skillshare and Coursera. They offer courses across a range of different industries, and there are now a number of courses being offered for free, so it’s a great time to take your professional and personal development into your own hands. Find out more and compare these sites here.
Another good platform is LinkedIn Learning, which allows you to add course certifications directly to your LinkedIn profile. These achievements will be visible to recruiters, which is particularly beneficial should you be seeking a new opportunity in the long term.
Learn a language
Whilst we’re on the subject of learning, developing your language skills is a highly worthwhile use of your time. Speaking a new language is an important skill, and it’s especially useful when you’re a PA or EA. It’s never easy learning a brand-new language from scratch, but platforms such as Babbel, Mondly and Duolingo offer fun and interactive ways to learn.
According to experts at LearnALanguageOnline.net, professionals who speak a second language have the potential to earn up to 10-15% more than their monolingual counterparts. You are also opening yourself up to potential new opportunities with international organisations or overseas, so it definitely can’t hurt to give it a go!
Listen to podcasts
Podcasts are good for unwinding outside of working hours, but they can also be very educational and informative. PlayerFM features podcasts of all different genres and even has a list of Best Executive Assistant Podcasts as well as Best Work From Home Podcasts. However, if you’re not sure where to start, Being Indispensable with EA Liz Van Vliet and Rebecca Jarvis’ No Limits are definitely a worthy introduction.
Another useful podcast is the Knowledge is Power Oriel Partners podcast, in which co-founder Olivia Coughtrie interviews several successful PAs across a variety of industry sectors. They share industry knowledge, explain how they got to where they are and talk about the skills required to succeed in their roles.
Planning for things in the long term might seem impossible right now, but you can bring a greater sense of purpose to your day by creating a plan of how you will approach individual tasks. Instead of jumping straight into a task, use this extra time to plan how you will approach it, brainstorm possible routes to take, and make notes of tools and resources that might be needed along the way.
Time is of the essence in a PA or EA role, so you will likely already be very familiar with the importance of planning. With more time on your hands, you can adopt a more thorough approach to your tasks, which will benefit not only the quality of your work but also your own well-being. It’s all about creating a structure for your day, which will help to boost morale when working from home.
You can help to improve your efficiency as a remote assistant by downloading task management apps and other project planning software. Useful programmes include Time Doctor and Status Hero, which long-term Virtual Assistant Ellena Ingles credits with helping her stay on track.
Take on project work
If you feel like you have more time to spare, this is an excellent opportunity to take on new projects. Whilst working from home, it is especially important to prove you’re invaluable. This recent adaptation from office to remote working comes with a lot of opportunity for you to identify challenges and try to provide a solution: for example, increase efficiency and communication.
Propose ideas to your boss that you’re passionate about, and own these projects. These could be anything from improving internal communication to safeguarding mental health. Take the time to really get to know the needs of your boss and the wider business. This brings us to our next point.
Read up on the industry
What better way to spend your time than by gaining a better understanding of the industry you work in? Being aware of recent insights or news surrounding key industry trends will not only give you a new-found investment and motivation, but will also build your authority within your team. It shows that you’re not just doing your job, but that you’re approaching your role from a career-minded standpoint.
News sites, blogs, magazines and trade papers are a good first point of call to brush up on your knowledge. Joining related groups on social media is also beneficial.
As well as broader industry trends, read up on your own company. Take this as an opportunity to learn as much about the business and your boss as possible. For example, whilst your boss might have been flying internationally to attend meetings, now these will all be done via telephone or online. Offer to take minutes in the meeting if you can – it’s certainly a lot easier to dial in than to buy a plane ticket! This represents an excellent way to develop a greater understanding, so take advantage of it whilst it’s still an option.
Whether this is by joining online forums or groups, contacting former colleagues, or reaching out to new contacts and leads, networking is key for staying on top of your game. Use this time to develop new connections and build a good rapport with industry professionals. Everyone is in the same boat in terms of self-isolating, so it’s likely that people will be more open to forming professional relationships than ever.
Maintaining relationships with existing colleagues and contacts is just as important as building new ones. Taking the time to check in on your peers is essential – not just from a business perspective, but also for boosting morale. During tough times, keeping yourself connected and reaching out to others is key for maintaining motivation.
Make sure to stay tuned to the SecsintheCity careers blog, as over the next few months we’ll be sharing more tips about working remotely as an EA, PA or office support professional.
Are you currently working at home as a PA or EA? We’d love to hear your stories, so feel free to get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org to share your experiences and tips.