How To Become A Personal Assistant in a Competitive Climate

How To Become A Personal Assistant in a Competitive Climate

Ever thought about becoming a PA? You’re not alone. The PA career path offers opportunities for progression and a competitive salary, with experienced personal assistants earning upwards of £40k per annum. Some PAs work their way up to senior management positions within the company they work for, whereas others decide to go down the freelance route. So what does it take to become a successful personal assistant these days?

What skills are required and what steps need to be taken to land that dream job?

Let’s dive in.

What is a personal assistant?

A personal assistant (PA) is someone who assists a specific person in an organisation with their daily tasks, acting as their first point of call. A CEO, head of department or any other senior manager might require the support of a PA, and the role isn’t industry-specific either. PAs are also sometimes referred to as personal secretaries or executive assistants.

If you decide to work for a private household, you’ll also be responsible for personal tasks.

What does a personal assistant do?

Personal assistants are responsible for handling a range of things, from basic admin tasks to organising important stakeholder meetings and creating performance reports. Responsibilities will very much depend on the level of seniority and the company itself.

For instance, those working for a small business might also be expected to carry out office management responsibilities too, such as ordering items for the workplace. Senior PAs may have management responsibilities of their own and be expected to lead a team of junior PAs.

Typical tasks include:

  • Diary management
  • Taking calls & responding to emails
  • Organising & facilitating meetings
  • Receiving postal correspondence
  • Handling budgets
  • Conducting research
  • Creating reports
  • Organising business trips
  • Office management (depending on specific role/ business)

Personal assistant skills

PAs are excellent generalists. As the first point of contact, you’ll have to be an expert communicator and be resilient when faced with a difficult situation. The ability to multitask without getting overwhelmed is another key skill, although so is knowing your limits and asking for help when you need it - nobody can be everywhere at once at the drop of a hat.

Typical skills include:

  • Administrative acumen
  • Attention to detail
  • Ability to prioritise
  • Superb written and verbal communication
  • Active listener
  • Poise and patience
  • Good level of digital literacy
  • Time management
  • Reliability

Industries that are popular with PAs

Most industries recruit PAs. You’ll find PA vacancies in businesses, private households, charities, the government and public sector institutions like the NHS.

Here are a few particularly popular sectors for PAs:

  • Legal
  • Finance
  • Technology
  • Property
  • Marketing
  • Showbusiness (celebrity personal assistant)
  • PR
  • Recruitment
  • Health & beauty
  • Consultancy

How to become a personal assistant

If you want to become a personal assistant, the process is relatively simple. There are lots of entry-level jobs available to enable you to get started, and as long as you're able to demonstrate that you’re a capable communicator in the interview, you’re halfway there.

Let’s take a look at the best way to become a personal assistant.

Step 1: Research personal assistant qualifications required

You don’t need any specific qualifications to be a personal assistant, although certain further education certifications, such as a Diploma in Business & Administration Management, can help you get that first foot in the door. A degree isn’t necessary either, but again, it may help set you apart from other candidates if you don’t have any experience in the role.

Qualifications aside, you’ll have to prove that you have the right skills for the role and may have to complete a competency assessment at the interview stage.

  • Make a list of the qualifications you do have, from GCSEs to further education or degree level
  • Write down your relevant work experience - when have you demonstrated your ability to be organised and communicate well?
  • Identify any gaps in your knowledge and consider taking a short course - for instance, PAs need to be able to use software like Microsoft Office competently.

Step 2: Describe your ideal role and company

Do you want to be a personal assistant for a real estate agent? A self-employed personal assistant, perhaps? Whatever your long-term aspirations, defining what you want now will help you identify and apply for the right roles for you.

  • Research different sectors and decide which ones align with your interests best.
  • Set out your salary expectations - a junior personal assistant can expect a starting salary of ~£25k, whereas someone with more experience can earn double that.
  • Follow influencer personal assistants on social media to get an insight into what a typical day looks like for them.

Step 3: Refine your CV

A well crafted CV will help you stand out from the competition and is the first practical step towards getting a role. You’ll find a range of CV templates online. Spruce it up and get it looking professional by using a design tool like Canva.

Be sure to include the following:

  • A short personal statement summarising your skills and experience.
  • Education/ employment history, expanding on your most relevant previous roles.
  • Think about what makes you different and be sure to weave in these attributes.
  • Create a generic CV that you can tailor to each opportunity.

Step 4: Start your job search

As soon as you’ve drafted your CV, it’s time to start looking for that ideal personal assistant role. There are lots of ways you can do this and if you want to find work quickly, it's a good idea to cast your net wide. If time and money isn’t of the essence, you might want to spend a little more time exploring the avenues below individually.

  • Signing up to personal assistant recruiter networks, such as [Oriel Partners](https://www.orielpartners.co.uk/).
  • Applying for roles directly through jobs boards and company websites.
  • Approaching companies directly to see if they have any PA vacancies.

Step 5: Progress to the interview stage

The job market is a competitive one these days, so be sure to keep the motivation going even if you don’t succeed straightaway. If you use a recruiter to find a PA job, they will be able to provide you with advice, help with your CV and feedback following interviews.

Here are a few things to bear in mind when you get invited to an interview:

  • Research how to get there ahead of time to avoid being late.
  • Dress smartly and appropriately - for example, an interview with a legal firm might require more formal interview attire whereas a tech startup may be more casual.
  • Get clued up on the company, its core values and its customers.
  • Prepare for any questions you might get asked and line up some thoughtful questions of your own.

Step 6: Accept a position!

All being well your hard work will eventually pay off and you’ll get your foot firmly on the first rung of the personal assistant career ladder. If you apply for a PA role through Oriel Partners, your consultant will help you arrange a start date and if necessary help you negotiate your salary and employee benefits.

  • Don’t leave your potential employer waiting too long for a response.
  • Be honest about your notice period and when you can start.
  • Plan for your first day ahead of time and compile any necessary documents.
  • Update your LinkedIn profile when the contract is signed and let other recruiters/ employers know you’ve secured a position.

The start of a rewarding career

If you enjoy variety, love communicating with people and are motivated to go above and beyond, this could very well be the perfect role for you. There are lots of possibilities when it comes to progression too. You could be promoted to support someone more senior within the organisation you work for or may decide to use your transferable skills to forge a career in another field such as HR, recruitment or events.

Talk to us if you’re considering becoming a PA or are searching for a PA role

If you’re ready to take the first step, get in touch with Oriel Partners. We’re a boutique PA recruitment agency in London specialising in recruiting for high-end brands and reputable companies. Unlike some recruitment firms, we’re not sales-orientated and prioritise the wellbeing and success of every individual we work with.

To start your journey with us, give us a call, drop us an email or submit an enquiry along with a copy of your CV below. Next, we’ll arrange a call with you to chat about your experience, what you’re looking for in your next position and when you can start. Following our call we’ll invite you to an interview which is likely to take place at our office in London.

We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

Posted on Jul 13, 2020

Back to Blog

Oriel Partners Introduce The PA Podcast

Learn More