Personal assistants play a vital role by helping senior executives, managers and other important people make the most of their precious time and expertise. PAs are the crutch on which these senior figures lean, assisting with various time consuming administrative and organisational tasks. For this reason they need to be reliable, have excellent communication skills and an ability to multitask.

Key skills in personal assistant jobs.

The key skills required to be a personal assistant include the following:

  • Communication – accuracy, attractive phrasing and the ability to adjust tone in both speech and writing to deal with different kinds of people.
  • Organisation – PAs can find themselves with an enormous amount to keep track of and important people depending on them getting it right.
  • Adaptability – readiness to deal with new situations and to persevere in seeking a solution, no matter how challenging circumstances may be.
  • Record keeping – paperwork, filing, keeping diaries and dealing with incoming mail to make sure everything goes to the right place.
  • Research – collecting information, making background checks on individuals and companies, and producing briefing papers.

PAs need to be confident with an instinctive faith in their own abilities. They need to be able to keep cool heads even in situations where their bosses don’t, and it helps if they have a degree of talent for innovation and lateral thinking.

The PA job role.

Personal assistants are required to perform a variety of tasks every day. These can include anything from scheduling their boss’ meetings and appointments, right through to picking up sandwiches and a drink from the local coffee shop. PAs are also frequently responsible for replying to their manager’s emails and answering phone calls for them. Other duties, such as data entry and attending meetings or appointments on behalf of their manager will also frequently fall under their remit. 

In order to perform effectively in most PA jobs it's essential to have the ability to remain positive and motivated at all times, even when feeling the pressure of multiple responsibilities. Personal assistants need to be pragmatic in their working approach, quietly and efficiently dealing with any problems that arise and only raising issues with their manager when direct input is required. 

The manager must also have confidence in his or her PA’s ability to carry out delegated tasks without having to continually check that all is OK. Trust is an absolute essential when building a positive working relationship between manager and personal assistant. It helps to facilitate a working arrangement in which the PA knows instinctively what the boss will want, for instance hen arranging travel and picking a hotel.

Personal assistants also need to work with a lot of other people when making arrangements for their managers or clients. They need to be efficient, persuasive and able to get what they need from individuals and organisations, building up lists of contacts and working out where best to apply pressure when needed.

Variations on the role.

Personal assistant jobs can vary enormously depending on the size and structure of the organisation. In general, personal assistants work exclusively with one individual, helping them to focus all their efforts on running the company as efficiently as possible. 

Some organisations will ask a personal assistant to work with multiple individuals, however, in order to save costs. The level of responsibility given to the assistant usually decreases when working with multiple individuals. Some personal assistants are required to make key decisions and stand in for their manager in some situations, while others have far less responsibility, instead spending their time on tasks such as researching projects, and completing routine administrative duties.

This role can also involve working outside a traditional company structure for an individual such as a politician, or for an agency managing individual artists or sports people.

Salary and perks.

Starting salaries for PAs are around £15,000 to £19,000 per year, with jobs in London and the south east of England, and jobs in Edinburgh, generally paying more highly than those based elsewhere. After gaining experience it’s possible to earn upwards of £35,000.

This can be a great role for those who love travel, with PAs sometimes joining bosses or clients on foreign trips. It can also mean getting access to high status events such as exhibition launches and awards ceremonies.

Hours.

The hours for PA jobs vary considerably based on the types of work being done. There are a good many nine to five positions available but others involve a lot of evening work based around events and media interviews. It’s common for people in these roles to be asked to work overtime.

There are many part time positions available within the industry, though these may still require flexible working over which the employee has limited control. Some experienced PAs go into contracting and manage their own schedules around the needs of one or more clients.

Opportunities for personal development in a PA job.

Over time, personal assistants often find their roles expanding as they develop an understanding with their boss, which leads to them being trusted with more interesting and diverse responsibilities. While PA roles may have limited direct opportunities for progression, individuals can move between companies in order to further their careers and widen their experience levels. 

Acting as a personal assistant in a large organisation and working with more influential and senior managers will obviously result in better pay for the individual. It's also common for personal assistants to venture into other careers having gained valuable experience concerning the intricacies of how a company operates and having mingled with influential business people.

Why use a recruitment agency to find your next personal assistant job?

Taking advantage of the services offered by a recruitment agency, such as Randstad Business Support, has several benefits to both employers and candidates.

Perhaps most importantly, employers are assured that they will only receive details of applicants who are best suited to the role being advertised, which keeps the time required to complete the recruitment process to a minimum.

Candidate’s benefit because they are offered advice on improving their CVs and will be notified as soon as suitable positions become available.