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By: Naveed Manzoor
A profession of a Virtual Assistant (VA) is no longer perceived as a typical secretarial work occupation outsourced to a helping hand. Employing a Virtual Assistant today demands their abilities and knowledge needed for each specific professions assigned tasks, in almost every discipline – But most important for employers are a certain skills taken from a mix of soft skills, and hard skills . These are identified in next few paras.
More difficult these days are to find VA’s with a satisfactory level of soft skills. Specially where cost concerns lead employers to outsourced human resource, quality levels of soft skills diminish proportionately — On the other hand, Hard skills are quantifiable and teachable, and easier to validate.
Most concentrated need for soft skills is best developed organically. Generally, attributes such as adaptability, empathy, persistence, problem-solving, conflict resolution, collaboration, interpersonal skills, and critical thinking are the qualities hard to validate in resumes. Only in-depth interviews and references may vet somewhat but as they say, the “Proof is in the pudding”.
Holistically speaking, it is just the right hybrid of soft skills and hard skills that makes VA’s versatile and employable – A well suited hybrid skills serve clients, or employers’ best in adaptability to their assigned tasks, and custom needs.
In the chart, see how the most suitable skill elements from hybrid skills set are highlighted around it. These are four most sought after skills by employers today, forming a Quadrant of Most Desirable Skills of 2021 for employability of VA’s.
The quadrant combines hard skills, such as performing effective and efficient “Online Search” along with knowledge of known “Research Methods” – Add soft skills of “Critical Thinking” and knack for effective “Writing and Communication” and you have a perfectly employable VA.
Every single task delegated to a VA requires some sort of Online Research skills these days. Online Research skills are fundamentally our ability to find answers to a question or discover solution to a problem while using Internet as a primary tool for research.
Research varies according to needs and purpose, stretching from information validation and quick fact finding, to data collection and in performing in-depth-research. However, Online Research skills may not be sufficient alone – unless VA’s are skilled to organize and transform information into a meaningful presentation for decision makers and analysts, they most certainly will fall short on their expected deliverables. Overcoming a barrier to information transformation and transition to compelling presentation of facts VA’s needs knowledge of Traditional Research Methods – Research methods are taught in formal education including those covering art disciplines and science subjects – Some of the research methods works directly with Internet generated information. Examples include data collection from virtual communities, focus groups, social experiments, and observations, thus covering the qualitative aspect of research problem. Similarly, a quantitative research method brings in the primary data using online survey methods and quick polls – It is however more common for VA’s to seek secondary data from Internet due its abundance and ease of discoverability – A secondary information source varies in its digitized form and formats; these include, news, articles, blogs, social media and social groups, forums, and all flavors of e-publications.
Closing the gap further between hard and soft skills, VA’s must have a natural problem-solving ability with critical thinking – VA’s should understand, and address situational complexities based on all available data and information collected. Typically, a critical thinking soft skills help VA’s build structure for logical solutions in decision making process. It involves a methodical approach to filtering, processing, organizing, and connecting the dots in information flows to reach conclusion.
Nothing in research delivers results without good communication skills in both verbal and non-verbal means. In presenting a well-researched work VA’s must be an active listener, an attentive observer, an eloquent speaker, and an effective report writer.
The potential role of a virtual assistant can take on many different forms, and it all depends on what kind of work is entrusted to them. No matter the nature of work, because research skills are so crucial to employers, it is looked at as one of the most sought-after assets in hiring virtual assistants. Researching for information from Internet is now become a specialized skills that must be learned for employability. Yet without applying traditional research methods one may leave a gap between research reliability and actionability – and at times, entire research work may become counterproductive due to lack of it. A set of soft skills that exactly compliments hard skills of research in VA’s include their ability for critical thinking and problem-solving, and strong skills in communication and writing. A quadrant of these most employable skills that appear in hybrid skills-set is summarized in four bullet points.
- Online Research Skills
- Research Methods
- Critical Thinking, and
- Communication and Writing
About the author: Mr. Manzoor is the CEO and founder of “Association of Internet Research Specialists” (AOFIRS). He is also the author of several books and educational publications on the subject of “Internet Research”. He actively contributes to course development of “Certified Internet Research Specialist” (CIRS) and teaches online courses and training programs at the association. Email to reach the author is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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