A personal assistant is responsible for conducting administrative work on behalf of a senior manager, director, team lead, or executive. The purpose of opting for a personal assistant by an executive is to manage time more efficiently. This way, they can spend maximum time preparing strategies instead of administrative duties.
Since a PA often has to act like a manager, their roles and responsibilities might differ based on the sector's extent or niche. However, the general duties of a PA are to maintain complete discretion while maintaining practical communication skills. The personal assistant should possess the ability to multitask with flexibility and adaptability.
The roles and responsibilities of a PA are not limited to only managerial tasks. They have to maintain a range of skills to perform various functions at the same time.
In this article, we will present the required skills to be a PA along with the qualifications needed. We elaborate on each skill set for a better understanding of each responsibility a successful personal assistant fulfils.
What does a personal assistant do?
A personal assistant is responsible for helping executives, managers, or any high level professional who is responsible for monitoring multiple tasks across the board.
The responsibilities of a personal assistant can vary depending on the requirements of an organisation. However, some of the essential roles of a PA are enlisted below.
- Function as the central point of contact or information receiver for a high level individual.
- Responding to emails and complicated form applications on behalf of an executive.
- Answering phone calls.
- Arranging and booking transportation or accommodation for a high-priority individual.
- Organising meetings and conferences with teams and other executives.
- Managing and setting appointments.
- Tracking essential tasks and deadlines for a high level individual.
- Managing files and databases for crucial information.
- Filing and managing expenditures.
- Reporting on meetings and activities conducted between employees and an executive.
- Dealing with staff, vendors/manufacturers, and clients on behalf of executives.
- Providing administrative business support as and where needed.
Personal assistants work for executives who may belong to any sector or company. They may have to work irregular hours as a support person to ensure stability.
See our Personal Assistant Job Description template here.
Top skills needed to be a PA
Becoming a personal assistant requires performing duties as an administrator, including managing and scheduling duties for employees. In this case, they should possess the following skillset as mentioned below.
1. Professional Ethics
A key personal assistant skill is respecting work ethics by maintaining privacy and integrity between administrative duties. Personal assistants have access to the personal credentials of employers, such as usernames and passwords. Therefore, the security and privacy of employees' information should be the main priority of personal assistants.
2. Effective Communication
Oral and verbal communication skills are an essential requirement for every personal assistant. Despite the niche or organisation difference, personal assistants are like a communication bridge between management and employees.
The personal assistant is sometimes a point of contact between the client and the organisation. Therefore, personal assistants should understand the needs of both parties and convey messages accurately. Strong interpersonal skills are essential for this.
3. Good Writing Skills
Writing skills are also particularly important for personal assistants as they have to deal with formal documentation. They are supposed to communicate via notices, applications, and emails, requiring concise and to-the-point narrative transfer.
In this case, personal assistants can write precise messages with an online summary tool that gives a range of options for concise content.
Summary writing capability is essential for personal assistants as they have to follow a specific structure by remaining limited with the choice of words. With the help of a summary tool, they can improve their delivery and tone.
4. Computer Operative Skills
Since most of the PA's work is done via a computer, personal assistants should be familiar with computer skills, such as:
- Word processing
- Preparing presentations
- Basic spreadsheet commands
Moreover, personal assistants must manage and constantly share information via electronic media. It is the fastest and most reliable form of communication. Therefore, acquiring computer operation skills is a core skill a PA should have.
5. Decision-Making and Organisation
Last but not least are management and organisation skills. Since personal assistants work under high-authority individuals, they also have to handle managerial tasks. Time management skills are vital to making sure that work is completing to deadlines.
Moreover, they have to arrange meetings and conferences on behalf of executives as well. Therefore, personal assistants should be familiar with scheduling tasks and assigning responsibilities. Attention to detail is key to avoid miscommunication.
To make sure you are well-prepared for an upcoming PA interview, check out our blog on PA interview questions and answers.
Qualifications needed to be a successful PA
At a minimum, most of our PA roles have an expectation that candidates are:
- Educated to A-Level
- Competent with Microsoft Office packages
- Experienced in administration
- Able to demonstrate at least GCSE’s in English and Maths.
Some clients do prefer graduate calibre candidates whereas others see greater value in proven previous experience.
Some degrees have a more obvious crossover with a personal assistant role, such as Business Administration, Business and Management, or Marketing and Events. However, an academic degree from a top university is still very valuable and will be impressive to future employers.
What you have actually studied is often less of a concern to a future employee. The grade you achieved and the institution you attended gives a measurable level of academic achievement. To graduate from a university shows a level of commitment. It will often involve other skills such as teamwork, problem solving and communication, all of which are valuable to a PA role.
When interviewing be ready to discuss what you learned from your studies. You don’t have to solely focus on the academic element, the soft skills are equally important and can be good talking points.
PA or Business Diploma
Another option that can be just as valuable is a specific PA diploma or diploma in Business Administration. This will teach the specific skills required for a PA role.
An example of this is Pitman Training. It can be completed part-time and via long-distance learning, so should be flexible to complete around other commitments. Therefore, if you were unable to go to university, you can still enhance your skills alongside working.
Perhaps you could even ask your employer to pay for the additional training courses. Most companies have a budget set aside for personal development. See if you can make a business case that the skills you develop will be valuable in your current role. See this comprehensive list of PA & VA courses that will help you further develop your skills.
Some candidates do apprenticeships to gain work experience in their chosen career path. This gives them workplace training rather than doing higher education. Others will do additional qualifications part-time alongside their studies to build up their CV. See here for advice on writing your PA CV.
There are many different avenues to prepare you to become a great personal assistant. A degree is not always necessary. The more you can add to your CV to show commitment to the PA career and demonstrate your skills and experience, the more attractive you become as an employee.
Looking To Be a Personal Assistant in London? Oriel Partners Can Assist You!
Managing and scheduling tasks on behalf of an executive is a responsible job. Applying for such a position requires complete knowledge of roles and requirements. Moreover, one must prepare to meet the organisation's goals with the necessary PA skills.
If you are looking for a job as a personal assistant, Oriel Partners is here to help. We are a boutique PA and administrative recruitment agency in London. Many job opportunities are available, so head to our PA Jobs page to learn more.