During a severe economic contraction like the current one following the onset of the global economic crisis and with the accompanying increase in unemployment it is understandable that people are most focused on keeping their jobs and their career ambitions have taken a back seat.
However, it is often said that recessions and redundancies affecting some people provide opportunities for others so it is always a good idea to know your skills and competence thoroughly and look around for any vacancies that have been created through redundancy or downsizing in your company. After all, the work still needs to be done for the company to function.
It may be the perfect time to try to move from a support role, such as an executive PA or EA, to a more hands-on management role, but how realistic would such a conversion be?
Managers need to be able to communicate effectively and to handle people not only at their own level but also at more senior levels and this requires a degree of poise and confidence. Listening is also an important communication skill and both elements are important to being effective as a PA or EA.
At senior level also the PA or EA needs to know and understand as much about the company, its culture and processes as the senior manage for whom they are often required to act as a gatekeeper. Their role includes screening the less important items and often dealing with them or passing them on to another more appropriate person within the organisation. It is a form of knowledge and discrimination that managers also need to have.
Managers also need discernment because they are seen as having power and therefore are vulnerable to being told what the person doing the telling thinks they want to hear, or alternatively that person may want to create a good impression for their own career ambitions.
Focus and leadership are both qualities a good manager needs along with the ability to prioritise and while the PA or EA might need to prioritise and focus perhaps leadership is less of a core skill, unless of course they are in charge of supervising people at a lower administrative level.
Nevertheless if they have ambitions in a managerial direction it would not hurt to enrol on a course designed to develop leadership and decision making skills.
Perhaps the hardest management skills that it is hard to assess ones own competence in are project management and financial planning. A lot can be learned from observing how your manager handles situations and of course you may be involved in compiling the necessary reports and documents but the key question is whether you could actually originate the steps of a project or financial plan.
Other questions to ask yourself if considering trying to move into management is how you might feel about some of the more uncomfortable situations you would have to handle, such as performance reviews for an employee who is not performing to the required level, hiring and firing personnel and dealing with more senior management when they have a complaint for which you may have to find a solution.