The dos and don’ts of working as a PA
Let’s start by defining the term ‘PA’. It stands for ‘Personal Assistant’, and it refers to a professional who works closely with the CEO or other senior executives in an organisation, ensuring that these executives are supported in terms of administrative and organisational tasks, and sometimes also taking over certain managerial duties. A PA plays a key role within an organisation, and therefore needs to be a highly dependable person.
While it might be every personal assistant’s goal to become indispensable, we have to be realistic – there are many PAs who struggle to keep their jobs because of their lack of professionalism, integrity, or work ethic. This is why it’s important to be aware of the pitfalls in this career – and to know that there are a number of things that you should and shouldn’t do when you want to build a career as a PA.
Let’s have a look:
Things you should do as a PA:
Get to know your boss
- As a personal assistant, you should get to know your boss, and make sure that you understand their personality. Also remember to focus on the details – for example: knowing that your boss takes sweetener, and not sugar, in her tea will make her life easier, and will therefore make you look more competent in your position.
Take responsibility for your mistakes:
- Let’s just put this out there from the start – you are going to make mistakes in your job. And it’s okay. As long as you know how to react to it. The worst thing you can do, once you have made a mistake, is to make excuses for it. Making excuses is a sign of weakness and gives the impression that you are unwilling to take responsibility for your actions. Instead, when you make a mistake, apologise to your boss, and make up for it by explaining what you have done (or what you plan to do) to fix the error.
Keep up with your boss’s calendar:
- Keeping up with your boss’s calendar is a very important task. Usually, you will be responsible for scheduling meetings and other appointments for your boss, and it could cause a whole lot of problems if you schedule an important meeting without realising that it clashes with a prior arrangement that your boss needs to attend.
Observe and learn:
- You have loads to learn, and it is your responsibility to find a way to advance in your career as a personal assistant. Pay close attention to your surroundings, observe how the other people in the organisation perform their roles, and learn as much from your environment as possible. Also remember that your job is to simplify your boss’s life, and that you can only do this if you pay attention to what’s happening around you.
Things you should NOT do as PA:
Hide things from your boss:
- Do not keep any relevant work-related issues a secret. Your boss should hear it from you if something has gone wrong, and not from the secretary of another department, for example. If you hide important things from your boss, it could destroy the trust relationship that is essential to a successful career as a PA.
Leak out personal information:
- You will often come across sensitive company and personal information in the course of your work. Keep this information to yourself. Do not go around talking about it or sharing it with anyone else – this would be highly unprofessional.
Adopt a casual attitude in the workplace:
- Your job is not a social event, and the workplace is not a place for you to do your nails or catch up on series. Your employer pays you for your hard work and professional attitude, so make sure that this is what you deliver.
Become too complacent in your job:
- It is not a good idea to assume that your boss will be okay with everything you do, or that he or she won’t notice if you take it too easy. Just because you work closely together does not mean that you are best friends. For example, first ask whether it would be acceptable before you decide to eat lunch at your desk, or watch video clips in the office during your lunch break. Professionalism is key.
If you want to succeed in a career as a professional personal assistant, make sure that you know what is and isn’t acceptable for you to do at work. And don’t be afraid to ask your boss or your co-workers if there is something you aren’t sure about.