The seven traits of a successful PA

A PA in London in a yellow dress and coat smiling and talking on the phone while holding coffee and a handbag.


Updated 12/6/2020

Having a PA job is no walk in the park! You must be extremely efficient and be thinking ten steps ahead of your boss. Acting as a second brain for your principals, much of the time you’ll adapt your working style to match theirs. Some may wish you to organise aspects of their personal life, asking you to complete such tasks as paying bills and organising family holidays, while others may only require professional support.

Whatever the situation and principal, you must be prepared for all circumstances and ready to pre-empt the next move! We expect our best PAs to demonstrate the following traits.

Communicative

Communication is absolutely crucial as a PA, but your boss may only like a certain form of communication – email, text, phone call or face-to-face. No matter their preference, ensure that you’re relaying all information back to them. Some bosses like their PAs to attend all meetings with them. If this is the case, it’s crucial to make thorough notes to discuss post-meeting. You’ll then be able to pull them apart and prioritise action points. If it’s a virtual meeting, the advantage is that you’ll be able to record it to refer back to afterwards.

If you do not go to meetings with your boss, suggest sitting down together afterwards to discuss everything that had been touched on. This way, you’ll be constantly in the loop with a good understanding of the situation.

Flexible and resilient

While maintaining a work/life balance is important, you must be prepared to have to work early or late at short notice. Much of the time, a senior PA will need to merge their lifestyle with that of the people they’re supporting which can mean dropping everything at short notice. It is extremely common that your boss’s diary and workload will change quickly and dramatically, so being flexible is an absolute must, to allow for the smooth running of their day-to-day activities.

There may be circumstances in which you need to be contactable outside of normal office hours, without complaint. When this happens, it is vital that you are flexible with your principal’s requests, ensuring that all issues are pre-empted where possible, and resolved quickly.

Additionally, if you’re resilient, you’ll become an invaluable support to your team. Most of us, at one time or another in our careers, will occasionally be presented with the challenge of dealing with tricky situations and people. These might be clients, managers, time-sensitive projects or make-or-break presentations. PAs, however, see all these regularly – up front and centre! Not taking things personally is a given trait of a great PA, quite simply because they’re so frequently in high-pressure situations and more often than not (rightly or wrongly), on the receiving end of a frustrated individual or team.

Organised and efficient

It goes without saying that a great PA must be organised! Implement organisational structures into your work and stick to them. By keeping your work life neat and tidy, it will keep your mind clear and ready for all situations. You do not want to get to the point in your day where you urgently need to find documentation and you are struggling to find it in your messy inbox!

Try to organise all of your emails into set folders. Break them down by sender or task and store all correspondence in each folder. Alternatively, there are apps you can use to manage your inboxes and diaries, ensuring that all emails are on hand when you need them.

It’s also essential to keep a to-do list. Every time you have a new task come up, think about its priority within your workload, then place it accordingly in your list. This reduces your chances of forgetting something and will help with your time management. Take on your most difficult and time-consuming tasks at the beginning of the day to minimise stress levels and maximise your standard of work.

Remember, your boss’s efficiency should also be considered. Before asking your boss questions, think about whether you could find the answers another way. By raising unnecessary queries that you could figure out for yourself, you are essentially wasting both yours and your boss’s time. Take a second to think before you speak!

Proactive

If nothing else, a PA must be proactive. It’s vital that you can stay ahead of your boss, regardless of the situation. On a Monday, review the meetings your boss has this week, ensuring that all requirements, such as notes and rooms, are considered ahead of time. Your first thought should always be ‘what is my boss going to need?’.

There may be a time when your boss is out of the office or away on annual leave, leaving you to manage their affairs. As the first point of contact for clients and contacts, you’ll need to maintain high levels of professionalism to ensure that you are acting exactly as your boss would do in each situation.

Positive

When recruiting for a personal assistant, we always look for calm and collected individuals that work well under pressure. Not only can the PA role be incredibly stressful at times, but a busy team will look to their PA as a constant. So, a successful PA must be able to approach every situation with a smile, working logically through each problem to find a solution. By keeping calm and staying upbeat, you will be able to complete tasks to a higher standard

A PA is often required to represent your boss and company either on the telephone, via email or face to face. Therefore, you need to be comfortable engaging in small talk and networking. Whatever the situation, always be polite and courteous! Your boss will expect you to stay positive and have that can-do attitude at all times, as this will also play a huge part in staff morale

Self-motivated

When working as a personal assistant, you cannot expect praise every time you complete a task on your to-do list. Self-motivation is key to being able to get on with your workload, so set yourself goals within your working day. Aim to complete a certain number of tasks on your to-do list before you get your next cup of coffee. Working hard may look like it is going unrecognised when your boss is extremely busy, but it is always noticed.

Discrete

Discretion is one of the all-time top behaviours our clients look for in potential candidates, particularly private PAs. You’ll be exposed to a myriad of personal and professional confidences as a PA, and this unique characteristic will see the best candidates go far in their careers. A gossip might find their credibility is tarnished early on, while those who understand confidentiality will shortly prove themselves to be indispensable.

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The rewards are significant for those PAs who earn their stripes. You’ll strengthen relationships with business leaders, teams and peers whilst simultaneously earning great credibility in professional circles. Our most valued PA candidates, in addition to the financial rewards, will experience great adventures, meet incredible people and even travel the world. While it might take time and experience to reach those milestones, a successful PA will get there.

Looking for a PA job? Tiger Recruitment can help. Get in touch today, or see our available jobs now.

Author Rebecca Siciliano Tiger Recruitment Team

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