How To Win And Keep A Job As An Executive PA.

Being Personal Assistant to a senior boss can be very stressful simply due to the nature of the work, so it pays to plan ahead when you’re at the interview stage to make sure it’s worth investing your career in the hiring organisation.

What Is A Personal Assistant?

The first thing you should understand that a PA is not a dogsbody or some sort of gopher.

The role is far more prestigious than that and will require a blend of soft skills and measurable ability, particularly where the use of technology is concerned.

Some people ask how a PA is different from a secretary and maybe the best answer is that “a secretary is told what to do whereas a Personal Assistant tells the boss what to do (in a positive way)!”

It’s very much about how you use and express your organisational skills.

Get this idea in your head before you start job hunting and be prepared to share your opinions at interview, in an assertive manner.

Being Assertive.

Assertiveness is not about being bossy but rather about using vocabulary skilfully to get your point across in a committed but non-aggressive manner.

You can learn how to be assertive in this context with a one-day Pitman Training Executive PA course.

Learning Core Skills And Especially Microsoft Office.

On the subject of learning, it is essential that you have expert level knowledge of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and Access if you’re to secure a top position.

The best recognised way to acquire these skills is with Pitman’s diploma level Executive PA course.

The same is true of learning general secretarial skills and especially minute taking and touch typing, both of which you will need to be successful.


It is a given that you will dress appropriately for both the organisation and the role and your pre-interview research will have led you to the organisation’s web site where you can get a feel for how formal or informal they are, as well as discovering whether they have particular colours that you could reflect in your interview clothes.

It is also worth checking whether your potential new boss has a photo and biog on the web site so that you can reflect his or her personal style.

In addition, you will get a idea of the type of person you will be working for, enabling you to make a decision as to whether you will be comfortable investing your career with the organisation.

Finally, think about how you sound. Do you have any irritating verbal crutches that you should lose (y’know, obviously, basically)?

Can you present yourself well in terms of vocabulary and voice tone?

If not, practise!

At Interview.

At interview, your research will have given you an idea of the kind of corporate culture at the organisation as well as what it is and does and you can use this data in advance to formulate the questions you will ask your potential new boss.

Remember that well planned questions will make you seem interested in the role and will also give you the chance to establish that you will fit well into the organisation.

On Joining.

Once you have joined the organisation, you will need to work hard to establish yourself. Being clued up with the latest information will help you to do so and it is valuable to read the FT from time to time to keep yourself abreast of how the organisation is viewed from the outside.

On the inside, be aware that to support your boss, without being a nosey parker or a snitch, it is important for you to know what is going on in the rest of the organisation.

This type of information helps your boss to keep up to date too.

Develop your organisational skills early on in the job, before you become too imbued with the existing culture.

In particular think about your time management. Outlook is a great help here, especially when you have learned to set up rules.

Impress your boss with his or her travel arrangements and learn how to interact with the travel department so you get the best for him or her.

And don’t forget to rely on web sites like to make sure you get the best restaurant bookings in town!

There is so much more to say about becoming a top PA but ultimately, as long as you have the skills outlined in Pitman Training’s diploma level Executive PA course and you keep communicating with your boss in an assertive way, you’ll be a success.

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