Could you work as a PA?
Last updated at 11:51, Tuesday, 25 March 2008
A PERSONAL assistant (PA), sometimes referred to as an executive secretary or executive assistant, works closely with a senior manager or director to provide administrative support.
PAs help managers to make the best use of their time by dealing with secretarial and administrative tasks.
Managers often rely heavily on their PA, trusting that work will be handled efficiently in their absence. For this reason, discretion and confidentiality are essential attributes for a successful PA.
Typical work activities can include screening telephone calls, enquiries and requests, and handling them when appropriate; organising and maintaining diaries and making appointments; dealing with correspondence, writing letters and dictation and minute taking; organising and attending meetings, and ensuring the manager is well-prepared for meetings; and arranging travel and accommodation.
In addition to supporting managers, their team and departments, many PAs also have their own workload and responsibilities. The scope of the PA's role can be extensive and additional duties may include carrying out specific projects and research and taking responsibility for accounts and budgets.
Salary and Conditions
RANGE of typical starting salaries: £15,000 to £22,000. Range of typical salaries at senior level or with experience: £25,000-£35,000.
Skills such as shorthand or audio typing, and foreign language ability can increase your salary. Working hours are mainly nine to five, possibly with some extra hours at peak times and when deadlines are close.
Men are currently under-represented in this occupation with the main exception being parliamentary PAs, where women are more likely to be under-represented.
The job can be very stressful at times, as the work is always focused on the needs of the manager. Being a PA means working very closely with one person and any problems they are having with their work may impact on you.
The support nature of the role also means that the PA's contribution to projects may not always be recognised across the organisation. Some can find this aspect of their work frustrating.
ALTHOUGH this area of work is open to all graduates, a degree in business or management may increase your chances. For diploma holders, subjects such as secretarial studies, business and management may increase your chances.
Entry without a degree or HND/foundation degree is possible as personal qualities, experience and office skills are generally considered more important. GCSE English and maths, word processing skills and knowledge of software packages are all essential. Shorthand and audio typing are also beneficial.
Most posts require a minimum of two years' office experience.
Potential candidates will need to show evidence of excellent written and oral communication skills along with excellent word processing and IT skills; excellent organisational skills; the ability to work on your own initiative and to tight deadlines; the flexibility to juggle a range of different tasks and to work extra hours to meet deadlines; and an understanding of confidentiality issues and the use of discretion.
If you are struggling to gain your first position after university, consider taking a part-time qualification in a specific office skill, such as RSA word processing. Make sure you enrol with all the major employment agencies, read the local press and write speculative applications to employers.
TRAINING takes place mainly on the job; experienced secretaries may supervise new entrants until they are competent in the work. Larger companies may provide an induction course to introduce you to the various areas of the business. They may also provide short courses on word processing, database or spreadsheet software packages, industry procedures, health and safety, first aid, shorthand and effective minute taking.
In smaller companies, training will usually be done in your own time and on your own initiative, although employers may be willing to pay for relevant courses.
You can also take courses through part-time study whilst working. The following offer relevant qualifications, which can normally be studied over one or two years.
AFTER gaining qualifications, skills and experience, PAs can join a professional body.
With experience, progression can be rapid; PAs can work their way up to more senior posts with responsibility for junior staff. Promotion can also be from PA to a more senior manager or in a larger or more prestigious company. Moves are also possible within the industry by developing the role, contacts and knowledge to move on from administration to other departments.
A PA can progress to executive assistant; this role combines the business-related role of the PA, with the additional responsibility of organising an individual's personal life. The salary is often higher than that of a PA but the hours are longer and involves working very closely with a manager.
First published at 09:28, Monday, 03 March 2008
Published by http://www.timesandstar.co.uk