In the last few decades, we’ve seen the role of a PA shift to incorporate far more than just secretarial duties: today, Executive PAs aid in making key decisions and assist with budget management. In some cases, Personal Assistants will even perform roles on behalf of a Chief Executive when they are short of time.
With a growing list of responsibilities, successful PAs must come equipped with a broad skill-set. While the importance of organisational abilities goes without saying, the traits of a high-performing PA extend far beyond qualifications and office admin experience. Candidates looking to take this career path should bear in mind the five key characteristics that will set them apart from the competition.
1. Punctuality and reliability
A good Personal Assistant is rarely late without good reason. Unless they are prevented from doing so, PAs tend to arrive early in order to prepare for the day ahead and leave when their boss is finished working. If you’re the kind of person who likes to clock off at 5pm on the dot, this job is not for you. As a Personal Assistant, you should be expected to meet every deadline, perform all tasks to a high standard and ensure a fast response-rate to all emails and calls. If it sounds as though this role is a fine balancing act, that’s because it is.
2. Outstanding interpersonal skills
At its core, the role of a PA relies on excellent communication and exceptional inter-personal skills. These traits will not only be essential in effectively relaying important information back and forth, but in maintaining a strong working relationship with colleagues, clients, suppliers and most importantly, your boss.
There is no to-do list more subject to change than that of a PA: be prepared to build your timetable around your boss’ diary, but be aware that it could all change at a moment’s notice. While you may not be obligated or expected to work outside of office hours, your willingness to do so won’t go unnoticed. While certain tasks will be set in stone, keeping your schedule as open as possible will ensure you’re always ready to assist in any capacity required.
Successful PAs always stay one step ahead of their boss and rarely await instruction. While you can’t predict the future, maintaining a proactive approach to your work will enable you to anticipate your boss’ needs before they arise and fix small mistakes before they turn into fully-fledged disasters. While it may sound as though mind-reading is an essential requirement here, remaining pro-active simply demands intuition, organisation and commitment from a Personal Assistant.
Working as a Personal Assistant is by no means an easy job, but remaining positive and displaying a can-do attitude is the key to keeping a level-head when the pressure is on. While you may not always be able to ‘keep calm and carry on’, resilience and determination can often be essential in persevering through challenging situations. Maintaining positivity will not only help you in performing your role to the best of your ability: often, it will influence others (notably your boss) to remain confident and optimistic.
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