Job Focus: PAs
The role of the Private Personal Assistant is well known in the business world – assisting CEOs and upper management with many facets of their day-to-day activities. In private households the skills PAs bring in order to facilitate the lives of the principals and their families are essentially the same – they’re known to be a bastion of organisation, administration and dependence. The role itself might well overlap to some degree with that of a corporate PA, but there will be important differences too. Many Private PAs are employed by successful entrepreneurs and businessmen, but also by celebrities and VIPs, UHNW (Ultra High Net Worth) individuals and families, and royalty.
Successful applicants in these roles therefore come from a variety of backgrounds. Corporate PA experience might be important, or it might be more relevant to have had experience in whatever the field of the principal is – be it fashion, TV, or royal protocol.
Whatever the details of the specific role entail, looking after someone else’s most important business and personal appointments and assignments is always going to be a very responsible position. Needless to say, utmost discretion and trustworthiness are probably the most important qualities a private PA needs. This is on top of what’s required to actually do the job: second-to-none organisational skills, administration and problem-solving abilities, IT wizardry, excellent time management and multitasking, attention to detail, and perfect communication and interpersonal skills (and additional languages, fluently spoken, are always a bonus).
In order to be an excellent private PA, there will be many things you’ll need to do at an expert level. First, and especially if you don’t already have a background in the same field or circles as your principal, you’ll need to get to know them and their business very well indeed. Learning about how they like to work, what you can add to the mix (for example, perhaps you’re better at remembering details, appointments or names than they are, or perhaps you can make their digital devices work more efficiently), and the objectives and importance of their business and wider life, will be paramount. You’ll need to be proactive, and prioritise not just your own tasks but theirs.
If you’re hoping to move into a private PA position having had experience as a commercial or business PA, whilst you’ll have noticed many similarities outlined here, there are at least as many important differences too. Most private PAs have less rigid working hours than even their corporate counterparts, who seldom work 9-5 themselves. It can be all too easy for the job to become 24/7/365, leading to burnout and ultimately dissatisfaction on the parts of both employer and employee. Maintaining some kind of work-life balance is therefore very important.
The ability to exhibit interpersonal excellence across a broad range of individuals is another key skill. You’ll very likely need to deal with people from all walks of life – family, business associates, other members of household staff or a family office, lawyers, tradesmen, official types, and possibly fans, followers or subjects. This might extend to being part of, or even managing, a team of other professionals – the principals might well have a large number of household staff across a number of residences in several countries.
Being a private PA is therefore an incredibly responsible, involving, all-consuming lifestyle, not just a job. Whilst this would clearly not be appealing to some, for others it is the Holy Grail. For those of the correct disposition, with the right skills and the intelligence to apply them discreetly, there are wonderful opportunities often including generous salaries, international travel, luxury accommodations and a world of quite singular people and places.