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Career insights: Become a Personal Assistant

 

Personal Assistant explained

 

Do you have a knack for organisation and scheduling? Do you enjoy helping people to achieve their goals through hard work and dedication? Do you have an eye for detail and a meticulous sense of what needs to be done, and when?

If you answered yes to the above questions, then a career as a personal assistant might be right for you. Some people are personal assistants for a short time until they leverage their connections into a job in their preferred industry, while others choose to make this their preferred career for the long term.

No matter how long you plan to stay in this role, working as a personal assistant will help you to build your skills, network in your field, and do rewarding work that helps others.[1] Here is our guide to becoming a personal assistant.

 

What is a personal assistant?

Personal assistants (sometimes shortened to PA) often work directly with senior managerial staff, executives, athletes, celebrities, or other entrepreneurs to provide one-on-one support for administrative or personal tasks. As a personal assistant, you will help your employer make the most of their time, and free them from the need to worry about the minutiae of daily tasks.

According to Emily Bain and Claire Gray, the co-founders of elite secretarial and PA recruitment agency Bain and Gray, “many of our PAs end up being the right-hand of a leading CEO or high profile individual and will be tasked with everything from project to event management. It’s a fulfilling vocation in which candidates need to demonstrate real business acumen.[2]

What does a personal assistant do?

Every personal assistant will have a different set of tasks, depending on the industry in which they are employed. A personal assistant working for a professional athlete will have a different set of day-to-day tasks than a PA employed by a partner in a major law firm.

That said, there are a variety of daily tasks that most personal assistants will be required to undertake. These include:

  • Scheduling and rescheduling appointments
  • Screening telephone calls, and handling requests for information
  • Organising your employer’s diary to ensure that there are no conflicts
  • Writing letters and emails, and at times taking dictation
  • Implementing, organising, and maintaining systems within the office
  • Taking notes/minutes at meetings
  • Booking travel, including personal holidays for employer’s family
  • Ensuring that visitors to the office are looked after
  • Scheduling medical and aesthetics appointments
  • Sending gifts and cards to family and colleagues on significant dates
  • Planning parties and events
  • Running errands of all types
  • Arranging meal delivery for the office or at employer’s home

What skills does a good PA need?

In order to gain employment as a personal assistant and be the best PA possible, you need to possess the following skills:

  • Exemplary organisational skills
  • Keen time management
  • Excellent verbal and written communication
  • An eye for detail and sense of perfectionism
  • The ability to stay calm and collected through difficult times
  • Admin and computer skills, including scheduling
  • Having a flexible approach to working hours
  • The ability to work with little to no supervision, and use one’s own initiative
  • Complete discretion when dealing with sensitive and confidential information
  • Strong research skills to find information quickly
  • A warm and friendly demeanour
  • Able to think ahead of the issue and be proactive

How much does a personal assistant get paid?

As with most careers, personal assistants make a wide range of salaries. According to Indeed, the average salary for a personal assistant in the UK is £31,412 per annum.[3] The most common starting salaries fall between £17,000 and £25,000, and up to £30,000 in central London.

Salaries tend to vary based on the geographical location, the employing individual or organisation, and the person’s experience. Some employers will also offer additional benefits, including a company pension scheme, private health insurance, subsidised meals, travel allowance, and a sports or gym membership.

What qualifications do you need to become a personal assistant?

While anyone with the skills listed above has the potential to become a personal assistant, having some relevant education and training will increase your chances of being hired.

Depending on the field in which you want to work as a personal assistant, different degrees might be more relevant. For instance, if you want to work as a personal assistant in publishing, a degree in English literature would be a boon. If you want to work in the legal field, a degree in law would be beneficial.

Education and experience in the following subjects can give you a leg up against the competition.

  • Administration and secretarial training
  • Business
  • Management
  • Office skills and experience
  • IT

GCSEs in English and maths are often listed as standard requirements for any position, and education in IT is also a positive. If you do not have a university education in the fields listed above, consider enrolling in online personal assistant courses. They can equip you with the skills and competencies you need to gain employment as a personal assistant in a variety of fields.

Who hires personal assistants?

Anyone working in a fast paced or demanding career is likely to employ a personal assistant (or even multiple personal assistants) to help them in their professional life. In some cases, they will also seek help in their personal life to organise their diaries, arrange domestic tasks and help, and assist them with scheduling appointments and holidays.

Some of the most common professions that require personal assistants include lawyers, CEOs, entrepreneurs, athletes, actors, musicians, politicians, and bankers.

How to Become a Personal Assistant

 

Now that you have read all about the skills required to be a top-notch personal assistant, it’s time to assess the necessary steps you’ll need to take to achieve your goals. Follow these steps to gain the qualifications and experience that you’ll need to begin a career as a personal assistant.

  1. Think about whether this is the career for you

    Start your journey by having a good think about whether being a personal assistant is the right career path for you. This is a career that requires you to be on the ball and ready to serve for more than 40 hours per week. You need a keen attention to detail, a willingness to do what is asked of you, and exceptional attention to detail. Are you up for the task?

  2. Further your education

    Now that you have determined that a career as a personal assistant is right for you, it’s time to start attaining the education you’ll need to be considered for the role. While you do not strictly need to have education in this field, it is helpful, and will help your CV stand out from the crowd. Do you have the required GCSEs in maths and English? Have you taken any online courses? Do you have a degree in administration, IT, management, or business? If you don’t have any of the expected education, now is the time to start acquiring the skills and knowledge you’ll need.

  3. Assess your CV

    Once you have assessed your education, it is time to put together a CV that highlights the experience and skills that you have to offer. Now is the time to consider the specific field in which you would like to work. Do you see yourself as a PA in a law firm, or working for a busy individual? The person or organisation you want to work for will determine how to best craft your CV.[4]

  4. Network with other PA's

    Start approaching people that you know who work in relevant fields, and ask them to help you start networking. Do you know anyone who got their start as a personal assistant, and can they help you gain employment as a PA? Even if the role isn’t in the exact field you are most interested in, it could be a good start for your career. They might also have further advice for you about courses you should take and skills you should acquire.

  5. Apply for jobs

    Once you have acquired the right qualifications, network connections, and a newly edited CV, it’s time to get out there and start applying for jobs.

  6. Build your reputation

    As a personal assistant in your first position, it is the right time to start thinking about how you want your career to progress. Do you want to stay in this field, and work your way up to being a PA to a highly successful person, or perhaps even pivot into an executive position yourself? As a PA, you should start building a strong reputation for excellence. Your reputation will precede you as you apply for other positions, and so it is also a good idea to request letters of recommendation and referrals whenever it is possible.

Reference list

 
Bain and Gray (n.d.). Home page. [online] Bain and Gray. Available at: https://www.bainandgray.com/ [Accessed 29 Mar. 2020].
 
The Balance Careers (2014). Personal Assistant Resume Sample and Skills List. [online] The Balance Careers. Available at: https://www.thebalancecareers.com/personal-assistant-skills-list-2062450.
 
Total Jobs (2018). Personal assistant job description | Totaljobs. [online] Totaljobs. Available at: https://www.totaljobs.com/advice/personal-assistant-job-description [Accessed 29 Mar. 2020].
 
www.indeed.co.uk. (n.d.). Personal Assistant Salaries in the United Kingdom | Indeed.co.uk. [online] Available at: https://www.indeed.co.uk/salaries/personal-assistant-Salaries [Accessed 29 Mar. 2020].