Personal Assistant Duties and Attributes
THE PERSONAL ASSISTANT ROLE versus THE EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT ROLE
The Personal Assistant role is becoming increasingly similar to the Executive Assistant role as employers become more aware that titles are powerful incentives for employee recruitment and retention. Employers have discovered that they can pay employees less if they offer them a more impressive title. Consequently, many EA jobs could accurately be categorised as PA roles. (See attributes of Executive Assistant role.)
Personal Assistants should fully understand the scope of Personal Assistant duties and the required attributes. If you are considering a career as a corporate Personal Assistant, Senior Secretary or Senior Administrator, you will find the following outline of typical PA skills, goals, objectives and duties useful. They represent the attributes hiring managers and employment agencies look for when filling PA positions; especially PA jobs that command a high salary.
PERSONAL ASSISTANT ATTRIBUTES
The attributes of an effective PA are:
- 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, and internet savvy. They also need to keep up-to-date with the latest office gadgets and industry best practices; therefore, PA refresher training and advanced-level PA training are essential for maintaining the PA's continuous professional development.
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 dealing with situations in their boss’s absence and should be confident enough to delegate upwards on their boss's behalf. Maintaining confidentiality is a fundamental requirement of the PA role, and building a strategic partnership with their boss is only possible if PAs understand their organisation's goals and their boss's strategic objectives.
UNDERSTANDING PA DUTIES
Corporate Personal Assistant positions demand competence and skill in the following tasks:
- reading, monitoring and responding to your boss's email,
- answering calls and liaising with clients competently,
- preliminary drafting of correspondence on your boss's behalf,
- delegating work in your boss'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 documents,
- sourcing and ordering stationery and office equipment,
- managing ad hoc projects
The above list is not exhaustive - 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. But generally speaking, the senior Executive Assistant role is a middle management role that demands a good grasp of business operations.
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