Personal Assistant Duties and Attributes


THE PERSONAL ASSISTANT ROLE versus THE
EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT ROLE

Depending on where you live in the world, the Personal Assistant role is often confused with the Executive Assistant role. Particularly as some managers promote their PA to Executive Assistant but are slow to fully compensate them for the greater responsibility that goes with the EA title, or give them full autonomy in the EA role.  Consequently, many EA roles could more accurately be categorised as PA roles. 

Personal Assistants should fully understand the scope of the Personal Assistant duties they are expected to deliver, as well as the attributes they should possess. The typical skills and characteristics that hiring managers look for when filling PA positions are outlined below.


PERSONAL ASSISTANT ATTRIBUTES

The attributes of an effective PA are:

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- efficient
- discrete
- flexible
- self-motivated
- organised
- proactive
- a good communicator

One of the most important requirements of the PA skill-set is IT literacy. At the very least, PAs should have advanced-level skills in Word for Windows and Microsoft PowerPoint. And at least an intermediate-level knowledge of Microsoft Excel.


MAINTAINING PERSONAL ASSISTANT DEVELOPMENT

PAs manage and source resources and conduct research so they need to be well informed about many things. They also need to keep up-to-date with the latest apps and gadgets, and with professional best practice. PA refresher training and Advanced-level PA training are all essential for continuous professional development, which should be considered essential maintenance for the PA role.


WORKING UNDER PRESSURE

Personal Assistants are calm under pressure and capable of thinking on their feet in a crisis. They typically support senior managers, executives and teams. Gone are the days when PAs worked exclusively for one manager. Private secretaries, Celebrity Personal Assistants and PAs who work for high-net-worth individuals typically work for one person, but corporate PAs often acquire more and more managers over time, and the diary and inbox management pressures that accompany them. This makes the PA role a highly stressful one, as PAs also have to accommodate special projects and deal with shifting priorities.

PAs should be capable of competently managing the office in their manager’s absence. They should be confident enough to delegate upwards to their manager's direct reports in order to effectively manage their manager's time and workload. Maintaining confidentiality is a fundamental requirement for PAs because ultimately, building a strategic relationship with their manager is only possible if their manager trusts them enough to keep them in the loop about what is going on in the business. 


UNDERSTANDING PA DUTIES

Corporate Personal Assistant positions demand competence and skill in the following areas:

- reading, monitoring and responding to the manager's email,

- answering calls and liaising with clients competently,

- preliminary drafting of correspondence on the manager's behalf,

- delegating work in the manager's absence,

- diary management

- planning and organising meetings,

- organising complex travel,

- taking action points and writing minutes,

- preparing papers for meetings,

- taking dictation,

- planning and organising events,

- conducting research,

- preparing presentations,

- managing and reviewing filing and office systems,

- typing,

- sourcing and ordering stationery and office equipment,

- managing ad hoc projects

 

The above list is not exhaustive because the scope of the Personal Assistant role can be wide and varied.

As mentioned above, the Personal Assistant title and the Executive Assistant title are sometimes used interchangeably. However, the Senior Executive Assistant role is essentially a middle-management level role that demands a good understanding of the operations of the business, and the executive's objectives.

Securing a promotion to the title of Executive Assistant may simply be a case of completing Executive Assistant level training and presenting your argument for a promotion.



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