Being an Executive PA to the boss of a major firm can be an extremely glamorous job, but behind the glitz lies a lot of hard work and training.
Keith Wymer, of Pitman Training in London’s High Holborn and Notting Hill and Central Manchester explains:
“While a PA is essentially a super secretary to a high-status boss, the pay is great and the stress enormous.”
His company has seen one of the students of its PA courses go on to become a party planner for the world-famous fashion bible Vogue magazine.
“A PA is an integral part of the management team, privy to the most highly-confidential information, loyal, intelligent and an astute problem solver,” he explains.
“Imagine having to interpret your boss’ wishes and conjure up the solution to impossibly tight deadlines.” However, getting the top jobs requires training and qualifications.
Mr Wymer suggests that anyone thinking of becoming an Executive PA will need good IT skills, perhaps requiring them to undertake one of Pitman Training’s Microsoft Office courses in London or Manchester.
“What would happen if you didn’t know how to integrate a live web feed into a PowerPoint presentation your boss was giving to a select global audience?,” Mr Wymer ponders.
An Executive PA needs to be able to type at 70wpm if they want to be able to cut it with the best, Mr Wymer asserts.
Nadia Guillaume recognised the need for all these skills when she came over to London from her native France looking for work.
After taking a job as a nanny, she realised she wanted more from her career.
After developing her English to a high level, she began to search the internet for a course which would allow her to combine the experience she had gained working as a PA in France with her language skills.
Speaking to a course advisor at Pitman Training’s Notting Hill centre convinced her that she wanted to sign up for a course.
“Everyone at the centre was so nice and supportive and with the study method being so flexible, I knew I wanted to enrol,” she reveals.
The ability to study on a Saturday was particularly appealing to Ms Guillaume.
“It was a bit more expensive than I had expected but if you want the best, you have to pay for it – especially where education is concerned,” she says.
Ms Guillaume decided to start off by doing a secretarial diploma in order to try her hand at the training, but soon found herself getting into the swing of it. She was able to afford the training by taking out a payment plan, spreading the cost over the course of the year.
”Before long I knew I had made the right decision and upgraded to the full Executive PA Diploma without hesitation,” she reveals.
With English being her second language, Ms Guillaume explains that she had to concentrate particularly hard during the PA courses to ensure that she understood all the nuances and connotations of the language.
However, she says that this actually made studying easier in the long run.
“I found the Microsoft subjects fairly easy to pick up although I was surprised by how much I didn’t know about Word.
I found the English quite easy to understand, so that helped,” she says.
Ms Guillaume adds: “I also found the typing quite hard and had to discipline myself to keep going, but I made it.”
“And the Executive PA seminar was great. It helped me with all the small aspects of what will be expected from me when I start my new career as a PA. And the trainer was so encouraging,” she continues.
She has since returned to France and reveals that her Executive PA qualification from Pitman Training has opened the door to getting a high-quality job in Paris. Ms Guillaume found that the tuition school is a really well-known name for “secretaires bilingues” in France.
This is a scenario experienced by Pitman graduate Lydia, who found the job offers flooded in once she had the Executive PA Diploma on her CV, to the point where she was even turning them down.