How EA/PAs Learn on the Job

EAPAIn last month’s issue of Shine – our popular newsletter for Administration Professionals – we asked our readers how you like to pick up new skills.

61.54% of you prefer to learn on the job (compared to 23.08% choosing face to face training course and 15.38% coaching).

At Bright*Star Training we are all about learning, and how we can best support your professional and skill development. Learning a new skill has all kinds of unexpected benefits, including improving working memory, keeping your mind active and increasing engagement at work.

We have gathered our top 7 tips on how you can fit in learning while ‘on the job’ and how to ensure that you get the best results from this learning to continue to grow your skill set and knowledge.

Note that there are two types of On the Job Training (OJT), Structured and Unstructured.

This blog focuses on the second type, however there are lessons to be learnt from the structured OJT, mainly around setting specific goals with your manager and get their support for what you are wanting to achieve. For more on Structured OJT, we recommend reading this brilliant article by Charles I Levine.

If you’re ready to start learning, here are our top tips.

1. Be clear on what you want to achieve

Make a list of the Top 10 things you’d like to master. Then prioritise in order of preference and importance to your role. Create an action plan to tackle each new skill and set a deadline by when you want to achieve it. Remember “Goals are dreams with deadlines”!

2. Get your manager involved

Why not ask your manager what areas they would like you to focus on? Dust off your professional development plan (84.62% of you have one), set a time to go through it with your manager, and ask for his/her support for your plans. This is a great way to show initiative and commitment to your role as well as your willingness to grow and learn.

3. Be hands on

Rather than just having someone show you how something works, have a go at it yourself. Take over the keyboard and actually work through the process yourself. Take time to familiarise yourself with new technology. Follow the lead of 2015 AAPNZ Award winner Rebeka Adamson and turn on the new printer and find out how it works before anyone else. It’s a great way to become the “go-to person” in your company and it can hugely increase your sphere of influence and people’s perception of you.

4. Don’t let what you don’t know hold you back

Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to not get it right the first time. Nobody (other than perhaps yourself!) expects you to be perfect. It is a proven fact that we learn the most by

experiencing and overcoming failure. At the 2016 AP Day in Auckland, the keynote presenter Bev Adair-Beets really inspired the audience with her honest account of how she didn’t let her lack of knowledge hold her back – she simply started with “Mr Google” and taught herself what she didn’t know.

“When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.” – Eloise Ristad

5. Schedule in time to learn and make it a priority

How many times have you saved an interesting article with the intent of reading it ‘when you have time’? If you’re nodding right now, then you’re not alone. We have to make time and make learning a habit. Charles Bruxton said “You will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make it”.

Emona Numanga, the President of the Auckland AAPNZ group shared a great tip with us at their last monthly meeting: if you struggle to find time in your day, spend a week noting down how you spend your time and you will soon discover time wasters such as interruptions that you can manage better.

6. Challenge yourself

The harder the task, the more you learn. No matter your role or how long you’ve been in it, there’s always an opportunity to learn and grow. Find it and take it! By challenging ourselves, and overcoming obstacles, we grow our confidence and our resilience – both key attributes for successful people. Over the last few years, so many Administration Professionals have told us that these are two key areas where they struggle. Bright*Star offer training courses on both topics, however the best way to start building your confidence is by tackling a new challenge – even if you start small.

“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.”

7. Share your knowledge

The best way to truly absorb learning is when you’re asked to present it to someone else. It forces you to verbalise what you have learnt and think about how it benefits not just you but also other people. You may like to present to your manager, colleagues, a peer group such as your local AAPNZ group, or even friends and family.

As you learn on the job you may identify a larger skills gap or professional development need you can’t tackle on your own. This is where attending structured training will be helpful. The Bright*Star team is here to guide you in the right direction to find the best suitable training solution for your needs.

They say that “Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try” – learning on the job is no different. Think about what you can do right now that will put you on the right path.

Click here to take the next step in your professional development

Written by Lone Tapp

loneLone leads Bright*Star training’s ever growing portfolio of professional development programmes that includes over 165 public courses and customised in-house training courses each year. Before joining the team at Conferenz in 2003, Lone worked at the Trade Commission of Denmark in Auckland. Originally from Denmark, Lone has spent the past decade designing and delivering Conferenz & Bright*Star’s professional development training initiatives across New Zealand.

Read through the Analysis of the Survey Results:

1) Do you have a professional development plan in place?

Yes: 80%

No: 20% (No opportunity to talk to boss, awaiting management approval, not sure how to do this)

2) How often do you get a professional development opportunity?

Twice a year: 40%

Other: 33.33%

Once a year: 26.67%

3) What has been the most unexpected skill you’ve needed for your job?

Some sample responses:

To be a Counsellor

Dealing with different personalities


Juggling the needs of multiple direct reports 

Copying with bullying

Conflict Resolution