As an entrepreneur, I've struggled for years trying to balance many balls in the air. While I've attempted to put a broad range of assistant-like technology to work for me, I could never find an adequate solution. Whether I depended on Siri to schedule an upcoming appointment or relied on Google Now to warn me when a flight was delayed, they just couldn't replace an actual human. Not yet, and perhaps not ever.
Unless you're working in a corporate environment that provides you with an assistant, it can be tricky to figure out how to hire the right person. Moreover, it's a constant struggle to figure out if it is worth it to pay someone else to do some of what might already know how to do (but just don't have time to do it).
Fortunately, we've left the Mad Men era when assistants didn't have the power and the respect that they have today. Take a look at this secretary personality quiz from 1959 to get a glimpse into what this job used to entail.
Some of the questions include, "When people bore me, do I conceal it?" and "Do I refrain from showing off how much I know?" and "Do I smile readily and naturally?" Sure, personality matters, but skills do too.
Today's assistants come in all shapes and sizes, male and female, equipped with all levels of expertise. They are the tireless people, if chosen well, who can help us all work smarter. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you're on the hunt for the right person to fill this important role.
This is the most difficult part of finding someone. While I can't speak for all women, as a multi-tasking business owner and mother, it's been a challenge to recognize that I can't do it all alone. When I finally hired someone last summer, it took me months to get comfortable telling people in my network to get in touch with my assistant. It felt a tinge obnoxious just to utter the words, despite the fact that most successful entrepreneurs have one person, if not an entire team, supporting them. I'm finally in a good groove with my assistant, fully recognizing that she puts me in a position of strength, not one of weakness.
There are a lot of hungry, talented people looking for work. Whether it's a young person fresh out of college searching for a mentor or a stay-at-home mom interested in a challenging, part-time gig, or someone overseas keen on hourly opportunities, there are plenty of options to hire people who can help you.
Physical Assistant: Find someone in your city who can work in your office so you have daily face-to-face interactions. If you work from home, it can still help to have an assistant who lives nearby so you can meet in person when necessary. Thanks to the popularity of co-working spaces, it is more affordable than ever to find a desk where you can set someone up in a business-like environment on a day-to-day basis.
Virtual Assistant: A quick "virtual assistant" search on Elance.com yields more than 4,000 people looking for work. Most of these people will work on an hourly basis. If you think you only have a few tasks to be completed every month, a service such as Fancy Hands can help. For example, for just $65 per month you can assign up to 25 tasks to "a team of assistants ready to work for you right now."
Hybrid Assistant: While not necessarily a well-known term, it will likely grow in popularity. When my son started junior kindergarten last fall, I didn't want to lose our caregiver, but I only needed her after school with my five-year-old a few days a week. Instead of risking losing her entirely, I hired her full-time to work with as my assistant during the day and then pick up my son in the afternoons when I can't make it. While she has no traditional training as an assistant, she is quick, organized, and social-media savvy--exactly what I needed in my work life.
In our busy culture, it's difficult to find time to plan accordingly with the people around you. This is where technology can help. Always chat with your assistant first thing in the morning, consider jumping on a Google+ hangout if you can't meet in person, so you can kick off the day with a list of tasks. As the day drags on, it's always more difficult to catch up. I'm also a big fan of using shared to-do lists with my assistant; apps such as Anylist and Wunderlist make it easy to quickly manage and track things you need to get done.
Every partnership with an assistant is unique. Let me know in the comments if you have tips to make this relationship work.
[Image: Flickr user Generation Bass]