All successful VAs need to draw on an arsenal of skills, including computer skills, strong communication skills, the ability to juggle multiple tasks, typing, and much more besides.
Some established VAs fall into the trap of assuming that because their skillset seems “good enough,” they don’t need to worry about training and development. However, to stay competitive, you need to consolidate and increase your skills. The best VAs know that technology is continually evolving.
6 Ways to grow as a Virtual Assistant:
If you are thinking of taking virtual assistant training, perhaps some self study might suffice.
1. Take an online course
Why not turn to the internet when it’s time to sharpen your skills? There are hundreds of courses to choose from, and they can be done anywhere. From short courses focusing on single programs to comprehensive learning packages, online courses are a great option. As a VA, you should be comfortable working online, so e-learning ought to be a natural fit.
Popular online course providers include Udemy and Lynda. Depending on the platform you use, you will either have to pay a one-off course fee or a monthly subscription. Online learning is relatively inexpensive; for example, a monthly subscription to Lynda, which grants you access to all their materials, is approximately £22 per month. You can also find some useful free tutorials on YouTube.
If you pay for a course, be sure to read the reviews first. Don’t bother paying for any course that doesn’t provide you with a clear description of the content to be covered. You should also check that it is written by someone with experience as a VA.
Networking can be pivotal when it comes to finding clients, especially in the early days. However, networking can also help you develop your skills. First, attending meet-ups and gatherings forces you to put your social skills to work, which in turn will help you maintain good working relationships with clients. If you follow up with your new contacts via email or social media, you will also have to practice your written communication skills, which are essential when liaising with remote clients.
Second, talking to other VAs and potential clients can help you identify gaps in your skill set. For instance, if you realize that several potential clients say they are interested in hiring someone with a skill you don’t have, perhaps you need to set aside time for training and development that will open up new types of role.
3. Accept assignments that require you to practice old skills
If a job calls for a skill you have but don’t use very often, see it as a great chance to push yourself slightly beyond your comfort zone. These jobs let you check that you are still competent in a particular area, and allow no room for self-deception. Not only will the practice strengthen your skills, but it will also give you a confidence boost.
However, you must never take on work that is completely outside your remit. For instance, if you only have a reasonable grasp of another language, don’t be tempted to take a job that requires working with long documents you don’t understand. “It’s important that all VAs play to their strengths,” advises the CEO of PickWriters. “There’s a balance to be struck between challenging yourself and completely sabotaging a job because you didn’t use your best judgment.”
4. Use voluntary roles to practice your skills and develop your knowledge
If you can spare a few hours each week, why not put your administrative skills to good use by offering them to a local charity? Working in a new office, perhaps with a new suite of programmes, can give you valuable technical and interpersonal experience that will be useful in your VA career.
If you volunteer in a high-pressure environment or interact with key stakeholders, this experience will greatly boost your soft skills; you’ll learn how to stay calm when your workload is mounting, how to deal with anxious people, and how to multitask. Volunteers often fulfil multiple duties within an organisation, so accept any opportunities to experiment with new skills.
5. Offer to learn on the job
In most industries, people accept that employees who need to acquire a new skill will pick it up as they go along. This is no less true for VAs. Suppose you have the opportunity to work on a project that isn’t quite the right fit for your skill set but could be a perfect fit in every other respect. You could turn it down, but there is another option.
You could tell the client that although you haven’t worked on a project like this before, you are willing and able to learn. If you have already demonstrated an ability to pick up a new skill during a project, be sure to let them know. You could even ask previous clients for testimonies if appropriate. Your prospective client might be impressed by your initiative and positive attitude.
6. Combine your professional skills with a hobby
With a bit of creativity, you may be able to use a favourite hobby as a fun way to practice your skills. For example, if you run a blog for people who knit for a hobby, you have a valuable opportunity to type and proofread posts, use images, or send out a self-published newsletter to an automated mailing list. The beauty of this strategy is that it will barely feel like work at all.
Finally, carry out an annual review
At least once a year, set aside a couple of hours to consider the following questions:
- Which skills have I used over the past year?
- Which skills do I use most often?
- Do I feel confident in these skills?
- If not, how could I best improve my proficiency in these areas?
- Are there any totally new skills I’d like to learn?
In conclusion, growing your skills is essential for any VA career. Adopt a positive attitude to learning and development, and you can look forward to providing your clients with an outstanding experience that will win you repeat business.