To some, a PA is just a fancy name for a secretary, in reality that is far from the truth. Yes, both roles demand certain similar skills, however a great PA is a professional in their own right who is normally university educated and can expect to earn a middle-management salary.
Whilst a good PA might take a detailed message regarding a problem their manager needs to solve, a great PA will be expected to act and use their initiative to solve the problem themselves. This wider remit sees the PA in a much more visible role performing demanding tasks such as preparing reports, attending and contributing to senior meetings, making presentations and project management. All these tasks need to be undertaken with minimum supervision, on behalf of their boss, whilst keeping them fully informed at all times.
So what makes a PA a great one?
Being the boss’s right arm - the ultimate goal is to become indispensable. However before you can become this you have to learn what your boss wants you to achieve and how. Establishing their likes and dislikes and noting the small details are the things that can make a real difference.
Getting to know the business - to be truly effective a great PA will need to know the ins and outs of how the business works, as only then can you begin to show your boss how your skills can influence the business for the better. A great PA is always listening and asking questions.
Understanding your boss’s role - whilst it might be your boss’s job to implement the company’s business strategy and objectives, a great PA needs to understand and be able to communicate with senior managers all areas of their boss’s work.
Being effective and efficient - being effective is getting the job done and being efficient is getting the job done to the agreed time scale.
Excellent communication skills - great communication is crucial to being a great PA. Both written and oral communication needs to be clear and concise. Effective communication skills allow you to make your point and quickly and allow you to be the eyes and ears of your boss.
Being professional - it goes without saying that you should always maintain a smart appearance and practice good time management. However, you need to also consider that you are often the first point of contact on behalf of your employer, so it is them you are representing as well. As a PA you will be privy to all kinds of personal and confidential information and your boss will need to have total confidence in your discretion, honesty and integrity.
Writing everything down - even the most efficient PA cannot remember every detail all of the time. One habit you will find consistently in every great PA is they have developed a system of note taking that helps their efficiency.
Being organised - whilst efficient note taking will help a great deal, a great PA needs to excel at being organised. A busy PA can be handling multiple projects and to ensure all delegated actions are completed on time, they need to be organised.
Being unflappable - working under pressure is always going to be part of a PA’s role, however being able to remain calm at all times is essential. Remaining unflappable will allow a great PA to make decisions quickly and with clear thinking.
Keeping skills updated - remaining up to date with office and IT technology will allow a great PA to perform at their best.
Being a great trouble shooter - a great PA will face challenges head on and will quickly offer well thought out solutions.
Owning your mistakes - a great PA will never offer an excuse if they make a mistake. They will inform their boss, own their actions and offer an apology and a solution ASAP.
A great PA will always find themselves in demand and will often have their boss declaring that they can’t do their jobs without them.
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