A personal assistant is some who provides secretarial and administrative support to executives and CEOs. They are the people who you see in films and series rushing around, organising plane tickets, reservations for client meetings, taking down minutes for meetings and other high-energy tasks. Becoming a personal assistant or PA is no small feat and requires a unique skill set in order to become successful.

Minute taking skills

Minute taking refers to the act of taking concise and detailed notes during any meeting. You will need to have excellent written communication skills, which can be learnt on minute taking courses, as well as quick typing skills. Minutes are important because they allow those who were not at the meeting to stay in the loop on all the details, as well as enabling everyone who was in the meeting to read over what was said for any clarifications that are needed. Minutes are also sent to the clients to ensure that they have a record of what was said in the meeting and to keep at hand if any queries come up.

A good working knowledge of a computer

This does not mean that you have to be able to code on par with the IT department, just that you have to know how to use word processing programs, spreadsheet programs and other software packages. Minute taking training will teach you effective typing skills, vital on any modern computer. A good working knowledge of a computer is vital in any office for any role, but a PA needs to be completely ‘on the ball’ with technology, as it is often how notes are taken and communication is sent out. You should know how to send and receive emails, and in some cases, how to send and receive IMs (instant messages) on platforms such as Skype or Facebook Messenger. Clients and your superiors will need to communicate with you and each other, which is why strong typing skills and being able to work with a word processing program are essential.

Organisation and time management

Being organised in an administrative position goes without saying, but the need for organisation in the role of a PA is increased even more so. You will be in charge of creating and keeping to a schedule for your boss, and ensuring that their time and your own time is effectively managed. Being highly organised is a skill that all personal assistants need, and is a skill that can translate well into any other office position. If you feel as though you are not as efficient as you would like to be, there are courses that you can take that will teach you how to become more organised and have better time management skills.

The ability to work under pressure

Personal assistants are calm under pressure, able to think on their feet in a crisis. Because you will be supporting senior managers, executives and teams you will need to be able to keep a level head when times get tough and a situation emerges that seems insurmountable. Corporate PAs often acquire more managers over time, as well as the diary, schedule and inbox pressures that come with them. This makes the PA role a highly stressful one, as you will have to deal with numerous different projects all with shifting priorities. One of the major responsibilities of a personal assistant is to be able to deal with situations in their boss’s absence, making the ability to work under pressure even more necessary than other roles.

Tact and good interpersonal skills

Personal assistants do not only spend their time creating schedules and booking flights, they spend a significant amount of time dealing with clients and other people who are important to the business and their superiors. This means that you will need to have tact and good interpersonal skills. Imagine an embarrassing situation occurs in the office between a client and your boss. As the PA, you will most likely be asked to deal with the situation which requires tact and the ability to interact with people smoothly, clearly and efficiently. You will also need to be a team player, and able to deal with your colleagues in a pleasant and friendly manner.

Strong communication skills

Communication skills are vital for any administrative or office role. You will need to be able to send clear written communication to your superiors and to clients, as well as have a crisp and well-articulated manner of speaking. Communication skills are essential for anyone who deals with people on a daily basis, which is part of what being a PA entails. You will be representing your employer, which means that any spelling mistakes, incorrect language formality and unclear messages will be blamed on you. You can improve your communication skills by taking part in online courses and by reading more, which is known to improve writing and communication abilities.