What are the key differences between a PA and an EA?

What are the key differences between a PA and an EA?

At Oriel Partners, our senior consultants recruit for a whole range of different support roles across a number of high profile organisations. After many years in the recruitment industry, one of the questions that keeps popping up is this:

‘What is the difference between an executive assistant and a personal assistant?’

It’s true that the two roles have a lot in common, but there are key differences too. By the end of this article,we hope you’ll come away with a clear understanding of how they differ, how to apply and how to make the career jump from PA to EA.

What is a PA?

A PA is an adept organiser – someone who can manage multiple tasks, often for a handful of team members at any given time, while keeping a cool head. Think diary management, organising travel and a variety of other administrative tasks.

Key PA skills:

  • Communication
  • Organisation
  • Flexibility
  • Proactive mindset
  • IT competency

In terms of progression, after gaining experience PAs can transition into an EA role, work for a more senior member of staff, become a virtual assistant...and more.

What is an EA?

There’s crossover in the sense that EAs will partake in some (even many) of the duties a PA would, however the EA role is more strategic. As an EA, you’ll provide assistance to a company Director, CEO or another senior team member.

Key EA skills:

  • Critical thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Networking
  • Communication
  • Analytical approach

PA versus EA: what are the differences?

A PA primarily provides administrative support whereas an EA will, in some ways, act as a business partner. They could be expected to ‘step in’ when the senior manager is absent. Let’s take a closer look at what each role entails.

Job description for a PA

PA daily tasks (examples):

  • Act as a first point of contact on email and phone
  • Manage diaries and schedule meetings on behalf of seniors
  • Book business travel and accommodation
  • Organise events and conferences
  • Prepare reports and manage databases

Job description for an EA

EA daily tasks (examples):

  • Coordinating schedules and calendar management
  • Managing the senior employee’s inbox
  • Preparing documents and creating reports
  • Researching new business opportunities
  • Liaising directly with existing and prospective clients

Pathways to becoming a PA or EA

There are many different ways to get your foot on the ladder when it comes to forging a career as a PA. To become an EA, you’ll usually have to demonstrate some experience either as a PA or in a role that involves similar responsibilities.

Firstly, we’d recommend researching and applying for entry-level jobs. Qualifications such as a Level 2 Certificate in Business Support, a Level 3 Diploma in Business Administration or a PA/Business Diploma can look great on your CV but aren’t mandatory.

1. Choosing a PA or EA role

If you’re just starting your career we’d advise opting for a junior PA role in an industry/sector that appeals to you. You can always take on a temporary position before finding something more permanent. If you’ve got extensive experience, it could be time to search for that perfect EA position. On average, EAs earn £6,000 more (at entry level).

2. Making an impression

You can elevate your position in the job market by fine-tuning your CV. Keep the structure simple, provide accurate summaries of your education and experience, and proofread your CV at least twice before sending it out into the world.

3. Networking

As the saying goes: it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Don’t underestimate the value of networking, even during times when we can’t meet in person. Be sure to keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date and engage with professionals in your chosen industry.

4. Making the leap from PA to EA

When you’re ready to make the transition from PA or EA, we’d suggest that you consider taking the following steps:

  • Speak with your employer and see how you can add further value – is there scope for you to take on extra responsibilities?
  • Go above and beyond to make a positive impact and show an interest in the company’s projects/ how the business operates
  • Speak with your employer and discuss how you’ve grown in the role; enquire as to whether there are opportunities for progression

If you’re looking for a new PA or EA role, you’ve come to the right place. Send us your CV together with your requirements and we’ll match you with our recent and relevant roles.

Posted on Nov 17, 2020

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