What are Personal Assistants?


Personal Assistants are now key players in all major corporations globally. The role of a business PA has developed enormous responsibility. In most cases, individual PAs are now seen to have managerial or executive status over other employees in the office. With this seniority comes responsibility, and PAs are increasingly operating in direct support of their bosses’ operation of his/her duties. The primary duty remains the management of their bosses’ time by scheduling appointments, management conferences and travel arrangements, as well as co-ordination of all demands to achieve the maximum effectiveness of the PA’s day. Routine duties remain, but senior PAs often have a junior to screen incoming calls, check emails, review documentation, send mail, do basic research, schedule reservations, and book travel and meetings.

Senior PAs are sometimes called Executive Assistants. With a move to home working, there has been a recent growth in the use of Virtual Assistants (VAs). These people often work for several executives in one company or on a consultancy basis for various business leaders. A Senior PA, sometimes referred to as an Executive Assistant, may from time to time act as proxy for the executive, representing him/her in meetings or communications.

Business PA job duties can range from important tasks such as attending management meetings, briefing juniors, and giving executive opinions, to contract negotiations, project management, staff management and training, and HR issues. Duties may also include lesser but equally essential daily tasks, such as shopping and collecting personal items such as dry cleaning. The latter reflects a regular confusion shared by the media about the role of a PA. When challenged on a TV breakfast show and asked if his PA collected his laundry Gareth Osborne, the Director General of the Association of Personal Assistants (APA), said, “Yes, but I also collect hers; it depends who is doing the more important task at the time!”

A PA is his/her employer’s “go to” person. The job has a wide range of requirements and can often be extremely demanding, as employers normally expect their assistants to be there whenever they need them.

To do their jobs well, all personal assistants must apply excellent organizational skills, tact, diplomacy, effective communication skills, as well as maintain confidentiality in sensitive matters and display excellent judgement. These are the same “soft” skills required for many other professional roles, such as middle management, public relations, and high-level administrative assistance. The best personal assistants have the ability to anticipate their employer’s needs and take care of them before they are asked to do so.

In a survey of the Managing Directors of the Top 5,000 businesses in the UK, they concluded that having a PA made them more than 32% more effective.

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