A professional with the right attitude

28 February 2020 | Columns

Athel Innes

There is an old saying that there is a reason we have two hands - one to help ourselves and the other to help others.

This maxim is an adequate description when it comes to the life of a personal assistant (PA).

They are helpers by choice and their daily working environment requires them to always remain calm under pressure, think swiftly and act on their feet.

Behavioural and environmental psychological perspectives have emerged that suggest assistants are a special breed of people, who often place the needs of others above their own, and who possess an extra dose of kindness. This does not mean they are pushovers; they are trained professionals who hold strength of character and a sharp mind. Their distinctive abilities range from a positive demeanour to a myriad of administrative duties. These include excellent written and spoken communication skills, a high level of discretion, calmness under pressure, reflective listening skills and accuracy, among others.

Organisations need to have offices that run smoothly, so that focus can be dedicated to their core business. This is why leaders need excellent assistants. It requires poise and potential to improve a workplace and people, and presentation skills to represent senior managers, department heads and business owners.

A few essential aspects that aspiring secretaries or PAs should consider before making a choice to become one is to firstly have a high level of discretion and keeping confidences.

Professionalism, excellent communication skills, computer skills, being proactive, personal branding and having career goals are also important aspects to consider.

What it means to me being a PA

Mahatma Gandhi said: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Being of service in the profession as a PA gives me a sense of fulfilment and immense joy, knowing I make a difference in the lives of my executive manager and my colleagues.

The attributes I focus on daily are being proactive, attention to detail and delivering accurate and quality work, always. Values such as loyalty, respect, equality and confidentiality are fundamentals that form part of my professional and personal branding.

Servanthood comes as natural as breathing to me, and it prompts me to aspire to be someone who continually evaluates and improves herself. It touches a profound part in my heart that creates the feeling of home and reminds me of who I truly am.

Going the extra mile

Going the extra mile is always about having a sense of excellence and a deep-rooted drive of persistence in pursuing the best of your capabilities and potential. It’s about making that conscious decision to challenge yourself with an open mind on all your deliverables entrusted to you to intentionally execute them with more accuracy, efficiency and smarter ideas every single time. May you always have that sense of hope and courage to realise that you are one step away from that dream or breakthrough that will transform yourself and your life forever.

*Athel Innes is the personal assistant to the group executive: brand & corporate affairs at Bank Windhoek.