As part of our commitment to helping personal assistants progress their career, we are working with Birkbeck, University of London to offer advice on professional development. Here, we look at what you should consider when selecting a course.
As the responsibilities of PAs continue to expand, it is important you consistently hone and improve your skillsets, and stay up-to-date with all the latest changes impacting your profession. This means that you should prioritise your Continuous Professional Development (CPD) in order to ensure that you are not only able to excel in your current role, but so that you can also reach your longer-term professional goals.
Formal education, such as studying for a degree or professional qualification, is one of the most frequently undertaken methods of CPD, and should be considered by any PA looking to up-skill and fast-track their career. Not only can it prove a highly effective way for you to expand your knowledge, but it does this in a structured manner and will be well-regarded by most employers.
However, choosing the right course requires careful planning. Before committing to one, you should consider the following:
1. Choose the right arrangement for you
Higher education and further education have changed a lot over the years, so you don’t need to worry about having to cut-down on work hours or compromising your professional performance. Instead, you can look to evening study or online remote learning, with or without face-to-face tutor support, and assess whether part-time or full-time would suit you best. There are a range of different study options, and you should be able to find one which fits your work-life balance. It is important to note that if working full-time, you would be well-advised to choose part-time study, unless you have strong reasons to consider otherwise.
2. Consider affordability and explore your options
Whilst many assume a formal education to be one of the more expensive CPD methods, it need not break the bank. First and foremost, you should contact your manager or organisation’s HR department and check whether there are any study programmes you are entitled to. There are also a range of government bursaries, scholarships and student loans available for those who meet the requirements. Whatever the cost, a good education programme should be seen as an investment in your professional future.
3. Always maintain a balance
Studying alongside work can seem like a time-consuming endeavour – but you need to remember that if you do nothing but study and work, both are likely to suffer. Anyone looking to undertake a course of formal study as part of their CPD should make sure to plan time out, exercise and maintain a social life. Having a healthy work-life balance will help you maintain focus and generate the energy and motivation needed to stay on track.
4. Plan ahead and stay committed
To avoid last-minute cramming and clashing deadlines, planning study, assignments and classes is vital. Being exhausted and unprepared may cause trouble with managers at work, and is unlikely to be conducive to securing a good pass-mark. You should take some time to plan timelines for when you can fit study into your schedule in advance, and try to remain committed to these throughout.
5. Keep your eye on the prize
Studying whilst working can be a challenging proposition, but the potential improvements to your career can’t be overstated. It will arm you with not only the knowledge and skills, but also the confidence, needed to move forward in your career. Finally, you should bear in mind that whilst incorporating a course into your already busy calendar may seem at times like an overwhelming prospect, you are not alone. Thousands of students each year take on this challenge with great success.Furthermore, any reputable institution of learning will also be well aware of the difficulties involved, and will work to provide the support needed to overcome these, so that you can achieve both educational and professional successes.
Look out for the next article in this series produced in association with Birkbeck and contact Birkbeck, University London to find out more about their evening study options in Bloomsbury, Central London, or Stratford, East London.
Contact your nearest PA & Secretarial office today to find out how we can help you take the next step in your career.