Working as a personal assistant is rewarding, but at the same time demanding. There is a general perception that a personal assistant is a secretary, but the roles are distinctively different. The following is an outline of what to expect before deciding on going into this career.
Generally, there is no typical educational path to learn or study before venturing into the profession. But as a rule of thumb, personal assistants usually have a commercial background, or have undergone training as clerks, in office management, or possess a business administration degree.
An outgoing personality, and an affinity for numbers are usually minimum requirements. In addition, you need good organizational and coordination skills, be resilient and able to work under stress. The ability to communicate clearly is also a necessity, and international companies regularly also need assistants with knowledge of a foreign language.
Of course, the tasks of a personal assistant vary from company to company. Nevertheless, there are a few common duties. One of those is coordinating appointments with participants and making sure that everything runs smoothly at management meetings. This requires that the PA be notified in advance of the agenda so that he can adjust to the meeting. You are expected to prepare the required documents, such as the presentation and handouts, as well as ensure that all the necessary materials are available in the conference room. For example, does the projector work? Are there enough empty sheets on the flip-chart? Is the presentation case well stocked? Are hot and cold drinks available? During the session, you will be expected to keep minutes and probably send them to participants afterwards.
Personal assistant duties also sometimes involve creating presentations, reports, and other documents, and you may work a lot with division and department heads. Regularly, you may receive information from specialist departments to compile and prepare in an appealing way. In order for the documents, such as monthly, quarterly and annual reports to be consistent, it is very important that you comply with the corporate template and format. Confidentiality is also a desirable virtue to have for people in this position.
Organizing trips, booking hotel rooms and flights, and creating expense reports are tasks that you can expect to be assigned to you as a PA. Furthermore, you take care of the “paperwork”. You should also know which office stock is running low and order the required supplies in time. Depending on how the company is organized, you will initiate the order yourself or make a request to the concerned department.
Your position as personal assistant may have an above average compensation, although the salary will of course depend on the size of the company, and your exact range of tasks. It is good to know that most companies appreciate loyalty and trustworthiness, and pay accordingly. Salaries are also commensurate with working hours. Anyone who has a business education background and wants to go beyond the personal assistant position can still take on extra studies to enhance their specialist skills. After a few years, many PAs change careers to middle management or are awarded a departmental position.