A personal assistant position can vary hugely from one role to the next, depending on the support the individual or team requires. This makes it an exciting career and allows relevant skills to be transferred across different industry sectors. If you are considering looking for a PA role but want more information on what it is really like to be a personal assistant, read on!
WHAT IS A PERSONAL ASSISTANT?
Whilst no two PA roles are the same, there are several common tasks we see in most PA positions. These include:
- Diary management
- Booking all travel, hotels and transfers
- Handling itineraries
- Scheduling meetings
- Inbox management
- Preparing reports and PowerPoint presentations
- Taking minutes in meetings
- Arranging events
- Running personal errands and providing private support
- Basic administration
- Ordering office supplies
- Answering telephone calls
- Managing a junior assistant / receptionist
- Providing cover for others if required
INSIGHTS INTO WHAT IT IS LIKE BEING A PA
Below we explore some of the most common insights we see in this role. On the Oriel Partners blog, we have a number of ‘PA diaries’, where current PAs talk about their experiences of the role and how they got to where they are today. Check out Victoria’s PA diary here.
BENEFITS OF BEING A PERSONAL ASSISTANT:
YOU MANAGE YOUR OWN WORKLOAD
Generally speaking, being a personal assistant is a good job and a very rewarding career. Your boss will allow you to work in a way that suits you and allow you to manage your own workload, as long as the work gets done. Although a good PA will adapt their working style according to the person they are supporting, once trust is built, you can be left to get on with it yourself without micromanagement.
EXPOSURE TO THE SENIOR LEADERSHIP TEAM
A personal assistant role is usually supporting someone senior, be it within a business or a private individual and therefore the exposure the PA gets can be fascinating. From reading through your boss’s inbox to sitting in on meetings, you will most likely be exposed to sensitive and confidential information. All PAs must remain discreet but the more you understand the business needs, the better support you will be able to provide.
INVOLVED IN BUSINESS DECISIONS
Through the PA position, you will gain exposure to the operations of a business and learn about important deals and projects. A PA can be a valuable sounding board for key decision-makers and therefore your input can be highly valuable, especially if you act as a representative for your boss.
BUILD AN AMAZING RELATIONSHIP
Working so closely with one or two people inevitably means you end up building a very close relationship with them. Sometimes a PA can move with their boss from one company to the next as they progress their career, and you can stay working for the same person for many years.
OPPORTUNITY TO TRAVEL
Pre-pandemic this was obviously a more common benefit, but we are hoping to see it return as the world opens up again. If the person you support requires it, there can be opportunities to travel with your boss if he or she will need you on the ground where they are going.
LOTS OF VARIETY
One of the benefits of the PA role is the scope and variety of the role which makes each position different to the next. Some PA positions will include managing events and projects and these different challenges can all enhance your skillset, allowing you to continue learning and developing as your career progresses.
YOU CAN DO THE ROLE REMOTELY
With advancements in technology, and the recent pandemic making everyone work from home, there has been a real increase in the virtual assistant role. This is where a PA is based purely remotely rather than being office based. If this suits your working style or current set up, there are now more opportunities than ever to have a purely virtual PA role.
DISADVANTAGES OF BEING A PERSONAL ASSISTANT:
CONTACTED OUTSIDE OF OFFICE HOURS
Being a personal assistant can be stressful at times. Depending on how your boss likes to work, there can be a possibility of being contacted outside of core working hours, particularly if there is an urgent request. This can be more common if your boss is travelling and is in a different time zone to you, so you must be prepared to be on call if required.
MORE MENIAL TASKS
As well as the exciting projects and working at the senior level, one drawback of a PA role can be the more basic administrative tasks your boss may need help with. This can include managing expenses, data entry or running personal errands. However, this will be highly valuable to the person you support and allow them more time to focus on other things.
NO TEAM SUPPORT
The PA role can be isolating if you don’t have a team of other assistants around you. In smaller companies or private households, you may be the only admin support and therefore you wouldn’t have a team in place to provide cover if required. This is not the case in all PA roles, so if a support system is important to you, make sure that is clear when searching for your next role.
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
To be able to do the PA role successfully, you will need your boss to communicate clearly with you his or her expectations and needs. Therefore, you are relying on their communication style to make your role easier. This can prove challenging and may take time to implement, but a good PA will quickly work out how their boss likes to work which should allow you to get what you need to be able to perform the role successfully.
Article contributed by Oriel Partners
Oriel Partners is a boutique PA and administrative recruitment consultancy based in Central London. Our Founders, Auria Heanley and Olivia Coughtrie have over 30 years combined experience and have an extensive network and exceptional reputation. We source temporary, contract and permanent candidates, often on an exclusive basis.