How to become a Personal Assistant - Two women, boss at computer and personal assistant with notepad, standing up, pointing at computer screen

How to become a Personal Assistant?

Overview

Job Role Personal Assistant, (aka: PA, Personal Secretary)
Responsibilities Assist one or more people with their work-related tasks and activities, e.g: Taking phone calls, diary management, managing email inboxes.
Salary

£12.92 per hour / £25,198 per year

What do I need to do to become a Personal Assistant? 

As a personal assistant (or PA) your primary responsibility is usually to assist one or more people with their work-related tasks and activities. The average salary for a PA in the UK is £25,198, according to payscale.com, and your hours will vary depending on the type of employment and business. If you’re a personal assistant to someone who works evenings and weekends then you can expect to do the same. It is also possible to find a role requiring regular hours from Monday to Friday, or flexible hours.

There are many types of businesses that you could be employed by as a personal assistant. This could be working in the public sector, for example in the NHS or your local council. Many private companies, often the larger ones, employ personal assistants for senior staff to increase their productivity and efficiency. You could also be employed by a private individual or family, which means you may be responsible for more personal daily tasks as well as those mentioned below.

In the role of personal assistant, your everyday duties will usually involve taking telephone calls, and either acting upon them, or passing them through to your manager. You will also be organising their daily meetings. From booking rooms or setting up group telephone conferences, greeting the meeting’s guests or callers, and taking the minutes, it’s your role to ensure it runs smoothly. You may also be required to attend to emails on behalf of your manager, and receive and send postal correspondence.

As you gain more experience and responsibility as a PA, your role may extend to involve managing other administrative staff members, handling budgets and accounts, doing research and creating reports.

Does this sound like your ideal role? Then it’s time to start applying for jobs. Vacancies are often advertised on specialist job boards or on the careers page of a company’s website. Narrow down your search criteria for jobs that are a suitable to your level and location if you have a preference.

Before sending off your application, make sure you read through the entire advert carefully. You need to show how you meet the main points of the criteria on your CV and in your cover letter, or on the online application form. Even if you don’t meet all of the requirements, it is still worth applying for the role, if you meet most of them. Try to get someone whose opinion you trust, especially if they work in a similar role, to read over your application to check for any spelling mistakes and readability.

If you are successfully invited to an interview, it’s essential that you arrive on time and give a great first impression. Think about the questions the interviewer may ask you and the sort of answers you’d like to give. And while you’re there, remember to be friendly, polite and try not to show that you’re too nervous.

There are no formal qualifications or certificates needed to get a job as a personal assistant. Literacy and numeracy skills up to at least GCSE-level are normally required in the role. Knowledge of Microsoft Office and other computer skills will be highly useful. This includes strong typing skills and an understanding of email systems, as these will enable you to be efficient in your job.

The ability to speak and write in other languages than English may be a prerequisite for some jobs that require you to use them. Always include any additional language skills you have on your application, as it could be a bonus for a potential employer. If you have any business certificates, evidence of industry-specific knowledge or a driving license, ensure to also add this to your application.

As with many roles in the administration and secretarial industry, good communication skills are essential. Whether it’s written or verbal communication, being able to listen effectively and get information across clearly is very important.

People who tend to do well in this type of role are often highly reliable, organised, great with people and good at solving problems. These soft skills that will help you to succeed in a career as a PA can always be built upon. They are also the sort of skills you will have been developing in other roles or in your education. As a PA, it’s also important to always dress and behave in a professional manner at all times, as you are representing your manager and the company who employ you.

Being able to manage your own workload, meet deadlines and prioritise the most important or urgent tasks is also important. You are there to support your manager or managers, who won’t always have time to check on your work. If this is an area you need to improve on, think about how you can best use your time to achieve goals and use lists to keep track of tasks.

Previous experience in any administrative role will be a bonus when applying for PA jobs. Make sure you include a career history that highlights any relevant skills you have.

In terms of career progression within this role, you could aim to be promoted to PA to a more senior executive in the company that you work for. You could also consider a role as office manager or another management role in the admin team. With some experience under your belt, you could look at moving into another industry that builds on the skills you have learnt; such as human resources, project management, event coordination or recruitment.

This is a great job if you enjoy new challenges and variety in your work. If you love talking to people and going above and beyond to help others this could be a rewarding career. While it may feel like someone else is taking the credit for company successes, it’s important to remember the part you played. You should keep a mental note of personal successes, and these should be highlighted in progress meetings with your manager or supervisor.

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