7 Essential personal assistant skills (With steps)
Updated 26 January 2023
Managers and other professionals in almost any industry may consider a personal assistant to help with their responsibilities. These people often manage administrative tasks to help them focus on larger priorities. If you're considering a job as a personal assistant, understanding the skills and other requirements needed can help you decide if it's the right career for you. In this article, we discuss the responsibilities of personal assistants and the skills and other requirements to become one.
What does a personal assistant do?
A personal assistant (PA) is a professional who helps another professional, often a higher-ranking person, manage their daily responsibilities. Depending on the needs of a business or individual, a personal assistant can help with phone calls, notes, meetings, bookings and other administrative duties. Some common responsibilities include:
Managing email and physical mail, responding as necessary
Drafting responses and other communications
Answering or making phone calls on behalf of their employer
Booking travel accommodations and organising itineraries
Booking meetings and accommodations for meetings such as lunch and technology
Accompanying their employer to meetings and on phone calls to take notes
Conducting research the employer needs prior to meetings
Generating reports for the employer
Running errands for employers or people
Communicating updates to clients and other employees
Personal assistant roles are like executive assistant roles and are sometimes interchangeable. Executive assistants usually perform the above duties for company executives like chief executive officers or chief operating officers. Other times, personal assistants are entry-level positions for employers at various levels within an organisation, or even individuals or families.
Personal assistant skills
Becoming a PA requires several skills to perform the job duties well for an employer. Many times, personal assistants perform the administrative and scheduling duties for employers so they can focus on larger responsibilities like strategies and business operations. Here are some skills personal assistants use to perform their job duties:
It's important that personal assistants are trustworthy and value ethics in their work. PAs often receive all of their employer's information including logins and passwords, credit card information and access to their email. Employers want to know that they can trust that you will represent them appropriately and work to protect their information.
Flexibility is the ability to switch between tasks without interrupting the progress or quality. As the needs of the employer change, the PA must be flexible. PAs might work different shifts like nights and weekends depending on the role. For example, if your routine is checking emails each morning, some days the employer might have you run errands early if they need something for a specific purpose.
Personal assistants apply oral and verbal communication skills to almost every task they complete. Whether they're drafting memos or answering phones, they must do so with clarity and confidence, as their communication is often on behalf of their employer.
Also, PAs are often the intermediary between the employer and other individuals like clients, employees or outside individuals. They must understand and communicate the needs of both parties through emails, phone calls and other communication methods.
One of the primary duties of a PA is to ensure you organise an employer's documents, schedules and other information. Sometimes, PAs help their employers file reports or other documents or they may create new ways to help the employer find what they need quickly. For example, some PAs may consider colour-coding a diary, with each colour representing a different type of meeting or client.
Once a PA becomes more familiar with the job and her employer, they might become more proactive. One reason a person hires personal help is to have more time to focus on other things, so the PA handles some of the other tasks without involving the employer. Being proactive includes preparedness and the ability to understand trends and planning. For example, if an employer has a monthly meeting, the PA could proactively send a reminder to attendees, schedule lunch in advance and prepare the needed reports.
Since much of the work a PA does is on a computer, personal assistant jobs require basic computer skills. This can mean managing spreadsheets, organising files, arranging digital diaries and using online booking software. Some positions may train you on software specific to the industry or the company.
Similar to being proactive, using good judgment is a qualification many employers look for. For example, if two clients request a meeting with your employer at the same time, you might determine which meeting is more important based on revenue or deadlines and schedule accordingly. This can help keep the employer out of the details while they can focus on preparing for their meetings.
Personal Assistant education requirements
Qualifications depend on the role, but most share similar qualifications. Some jobs require you to complete secondary education, while more executive positions may prefer additional education in business or a related field. Some require one to two A levels for foundational degrees or two to three A levels for a degree. For college, consider also a Level 2 Certificate in Business Support or a Level 3 Certification in Business Administration. To prepare you for the required tasks, consider an apprenticeship as well. It's important to always check the job description to identify any educational requirements.
Some jobs may prefer candidates with certification in areas such as typing or specific computer programmes.
The required professional experience can vary between positions. Many PA jobs are entry level, but assistant jobs for individuals or executives with more responsibilities may require a few years of experience. Experience as an office or administrative assistant or prior work in the industry where you apply can highlight your qualifications.
Personal assistants often work in office settings during standard office hours, but some positions may require you to work non-standard hours. Personal assistants working for individuals may work on-site at a person's home or remotely for some tasks. If the job requires a PA to perform errands, the work environment can vary each day.
How to become a personal assistant
To start a career as a personal assistant, follow these steps:
1. Earn your GCSEs
First, complete earn at least five GCSEs including in English and Mathematics. This is often the minimum requirement for a PA position. You can consider further education in business studies, an NVQ in business or a specific certification like typing.
2. Learn related skills
To become a PA, consider the skills you've learned in previous positions and throughout your education. Personal assistant roles require you to multitask, handle sensitive information and communicate effectively. Consider similar roles, such as administrative or office assistants, to develop these skills.
3. Create a CV
Creating a CV is essential to apply for PA positions. Include your work history, education and skills to show recruiters why you're the most qualified for a position. If this is the first job you apply to, include relevant activities and clubs that can showcase your skills.
Personal assistant job description
Although this varies between industries and company needs, many job descriptions can look similar. Here's an example of a personal assistant job description:
Community Healthcare Associates is looking for an energetic and organised personal assistant to join our team of healthcare professionals. Community Healthcare believes in providing its clients with fast and relevant information and creating a healthy community. The personal assistant supports our two directors in managing their diaries, reporting, booking travel and other administrative duties. Previous experience in a healthcare environment a plus. The work environment is fast-paced, and it requires you to work onsite most days with some tasks outside of the office.
Managing the directors' email and physical mail inbox, ensuring each receives a response, filing or forwarding
Managing diaries, ensuring there are no meeting overlaps
Filing all patient records for new patients and scheduling follow-up appointments
Scheduling meetings with local branches
Ordering equipment for the office and facility
Answering phone calls
Managing accounts of invoices and expenses
Identifying conflicts or issues that require director intervention and prioritising based on deadlines and severity
Printing, sending and reviewing facility reports prior to meetings
Attending training at other facilities
Required education and experience
1 year working as a personal assistant
Healthcare experience a plus
Verbal and written communication skills
Disclaimer: The model shown is for illustration purposes only, and may require additional formatting to meet accepted standards.
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