the evolution of the personal assistant

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the evolution of the personal assistant

the role of a personal assistant has evolved over the years with previous duties of a pa being more defined. nowadays personal and executive assistant roles have evolved into a broad range of skills and abilities.

even more so now, with virtual support being required due to effects of the coronavirus pandemic with a more flexible and hybrid approach to work. skills and abilities which candidates are required to hold have grown to meet changing and increasing expectations. we look at what these are in our latest blog.


the traditional pa

traditional personal and executive assistants would very much take a 1:1 approach, managing their principal’s diary, typing correspondence and taking minutes, handling confidential matters and all areas of administrative support. before whatsapp, numerous other support apps and the cloud, this could be a completely onerous task of faxing, photocopying, telephoning and hand written note taking. filing and typewriting were an everyday eventuality, not to mention regular shredding of confidential papers and the physical archiving of reports and files.

fast forward and the evolution of mobile friendly technology and systems have made coordinating schedules and the principal’s activities much more efficient and time friendly. instant messaging makes for far easier and faster communication around the world, while emails have eliminated the need for snail mail and faxes. electronic filing has eradicated the need for hours spent amongst the binders and has eliminated the use of paper – a greener way to store information! although we do still see the need for the more traditional secretarial pa, the latest technology and changing working environments mean that many assistant roles are changing and as a candidate, being adaptable and open to this is key.


the evolved pa

now the role of a personal assistant is more varied, perhaps supporting several principals and directors; maintaining and screening multiple email inboxes, managing multiple calendars and organising the wider team’s travel arrangements around the world. event planning may also be part of the pa’s function; from sourcing locations and managing budgets, to overseeing external contractors, from entertainment to catering. more and more the modern pa is becoming involved with special projects which impact the wider business, not just the day to day of the principal(s) and overall the role has evolved to not just be the secretary, but to play an active part in – and to understand – the business.


so, what makes a good pa?

organisation is key! as well as adaptability and having a calm approach to your working style. be the go-to person, whilst knowing how to prioritise and how to communicate this to your principals and the wider team.


excellent communication skills

pas are often a manager's first point of contact with people from both inside and outside the organisation. for a pa, strong verbal and written communication skills are the most important qualifications. a large part of the job involves speaking with stakeholders, writing emails, and preparing reports. whatever the means of communication, the ability to be clear and concise is at the top of an employer's checklist when hiring an executive assistant.


computer proficiency

a pa must have excellent word processing and it skills, including knowledge of a range of software packages. this can mean managing spreadsheets, organising files, maintaining company records, setting up filing systems or digitally manage daily operations, arranging digital diaries and using online booking software.



the responsibilities of an executive assistant change as the employer’s needs change. a pa needs to adapt to the requirements which may span from screening calls to organizing documents for a board meeting, from organising the family holiday to making a powerpoint presentation. pas may be asked at times to complete a task that throws them out of their comfort zone. in addition, being adaptable and flexible allows you to be open to learning new skills along the way.


now you're ready to move on, establish yourself with a trusted recruiter...

pas have traditionally been quick to sell their administrative skills to potential employers and recruiters, to meet the expectations set with shorthand abilities and typing speed, more than anything else. today, the focus is on technology, planning abilities and strategic experience. although, remember that every organisation is different and so a good recruiter will know how and what to get out of you for every role.

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