Six career tips for first time personal assistants

personal assistant looking at phone

Have you just landed a job as personal assistant? PA's or executive assistants are at the heart of each organisation, working side-by-side with chief executives and leaders, and play a key role in supporting decisions. These top six tips to excel as a personal assistant:

1. Set priorities

As a personal assistant, a large part of your job is to keep someone else organised and on schedule. You must, therefore, be well-organised yourself. Use checklists to arrange your workload and tick off each point once completed. This will help provide you with a clear overview of what needs to get done, how much time each task will take and all deadlines in order to determine priority. Walk through your checklist every day and ask yourself if anything can be added, postponed or removed. Following a time management course is always a good investment to become a good PA.

2. Don’t procrastinate

We can all agree that workloads can at times become unmanageable. Some tasks can also quickly snowball into bigger and more important tasks. While it could be tempting to put some assignments on hold, it’s important to stay on track to ensure you meet all your deadlines. Put those less desired or important tasks in your agenda as if they were meetings. If necessary, you could even book a meeting room, so that you can suppress the tendency to postpone it even more. Let your manager know that you are going to deliver something that same day so there is no excuse for yourself. You will see that you can move mountains with an hour of focus.

3. Keep your manager informed

You can’t assume your manager knows what you’re doing, the progress you’ve made or the obstacles you’ve overcome unless you provide them with that information. Create a central Excel file with an overview of all the tasks and projects you are working on. Look through your email every day to keep the list up to date, use color codes to prioritise tasks and create separate tabs for larger projects. Not only will it show that you are on top of your work and respect your manager enough to keep them in the loop, but it will also help you directly communicate your successes.

4. Ask for input

Effective communication with your manager is essential to your career success. Make sure that you are not only open to feedback, but also actively search for it. Ask your manager and colleagues how you could better serve the organisation. Perhaps there are files that could be updated or processes that could be improved? Take the lead and volunteer to take on additional projects which will help the business. It might require for you to put it a little overtime but it will certainly be worth it in the end. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback regarding your own personal performance as well. Having clear and open communication channels will also help you provide feedback to colleagues when needed. It is equally important to show gratitude and praise your manager. This may sound a bit uncomfortable, but everyone likes to be appreciated! When people know you value them, they are more likely to value you in return, since you make them feel good.

5. Stay informed

Make sure you are always up-to-date on all topics relating to the projects your manager is working on. Try to prepare for all meetings in advance and think constantly about what your manager may require for their next meeting. You must know what your manager’s job is and how it supports the needs of the organisation in order to better assist them. It is equally important to have a good understanding of the company as a whole. So keep your eyes and ears open and stay informed on who is working on which project. In the event your manager asks you for whether an event will take place or who is responsible for adjusting information in a system, you will be able to answer directly.

6. Learn about your manager’s likes and dislikes

Ask your manager how they want their work week to be scheduled so that you can take this into account when planning their appointments. Do they prefer to book important meetings first thing in the morning or do they prefer to first settle in and plan out their day? Do they prefer to schedule as many meetings as possible in one day or spread them out over the week? If you know your manager likes to have completed projects on their desk in a particular coloured folder, make an effort to include those folders in the office supply order. Small details make a big difference and will help you become indispensable.


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