Someone once said that a good PA is just a good baby sitter. True or otherwise, the statement does tell you a lot about the job- it’s well paid, requires experience and training, can be messy at times, but will be a bundle of joy if you know how to handle it well.
We spent time to find out what others think is the essence of what makes a good PA. Here they are for your interest and comment:
- Professionalism - A good PA is always professional in their work ethics. More often than not, they have to look after the entire office and need to command respect.
- Confidentiality - As a PA, you would be indulging in the deepest of the deep secrets on behalf of your boss, and you should be able to keep your lips tight even outside office.
- Organised approach - You are looking after not only your boss, but also the division or company on your boss’ behalf. You need to be a good manager and efficient in your approach, whether it is scheduling meetings or taking notes.
- Self motivated - Motivation is a big factor that will influence your career as a PA. The experienced PAs are well paid, but if money is your motivation, you need to keep yourself motivated until you have the necessary experience. Your work as a PA can be challenging and demanding at times, with little or no appreciation. It is at times like these that you need to dig deep and keep yourself in good spirits.
- PC & Internet literate - As a PA you are expected to be well aware of the Office software such as MS Word, Powerpoint, Excel, Access, etc in addition to the email clients such as Outlook or Thunderbird. Also, your typing speed should be good (a minimum of 40wpm). Sometimes you may be expected to fix the odd gadget, so know your office machinery (and also how to set that reminder on your boss’ blackberry!).
- Time management - Time is of the essence in any work environment, and the brains behind all others (you) should be able to manage it well to maximise the potential and resources at hand. It is a must have quality for any PA.
- Communication Skills - You will be dealing not only with your boss and office staff, but also the clients and consumers. This requires you to have excellent communication skills and phone/email manners. You should be able to stand your ground as well and be at your polite best at the same time.
- Cope with pressure - Though it has been portrayed as a glamorous job (thanks Hollywood - My Life on the D List, Entourage, The Devil Wears Prada, etc), in actuality it is a high-pressure job. You should be unflappable under pressure, all the time.
- Good project manager - A PA is often required to oversee projects and work for the boss. As such, you would need to have good skills as an organiser, scheduler, manager and supervisor.
- Apart from all the above qualities, what really matters is how interested you are in your job as a PA. You should know how to handle your boss - correctly and promptly.
- Be a quick thinker - As a PA you would be expected to take initiative. If you have a problem for your boss also have a well thought out solution that you can suggest when he asks for your opinion.
- Have your own views - You are not only your boss’ assistant, but also a friend. You need to have your own unique overview of the company and be able to advice him as and when necessary.
- Be a team player - Remember to be humble in your approach and maintain your composure at all times. You need to work with the staff when you make them work for you.
- Personality - A pleasant personality is what keeps everyone in smiles.
- Flexibility - Sometimes you might need to work in off hours and even when you are on vacation. You need to make sure that the need doesn’t arise, or when it does, you should be able to handle it professionally by setting aside some hours to check in on work in the office.
- Foreign Languages - It is an added quality to know some foreign languages, as it can come in handy anytime.
- Secretarial Training - If you aren’t already experienced, it might be good to have something to show on your resume.
Remember, even when your boss might think that you are a walking memory bank, it’s just your skills that make you efficient. And when you have time, watch some Mad Men - because everybody loves a Joan Harris in office!