Job Focus: Private Personal Assistants
A Private Personal Assistant – more often simply referred to as a PA – is often seen as a sort of personal Wonder Woman or Superman. Someone who does everything in their power to help you. Think of them not so much as a Jack of all trades, but more of a Swiss Army knife in household staff form.
There is no such thing as a typical day, any more than there are two PAs who are completely alike. It will depend a great deal on the principal, their businesses, their needs and their personality. A PA might find themselves representing their principal’s interests in a wide variety of ways – for example as a diary secretary, a gate keeper, a book keeper, a travel agent, nanny, housekeeper, IT assistant, chauffeur and a general fixer of all things. Focussing on the word “Personal” in the job title tells us something – the best PAs have an innate understanding of their principal and are completely loyal to them.
Having said that no two Personal Assistants are entirely alike, there are of course a number of core traits common to all. This is not an exhaustive list – given the subject it never could be – nor are these in order of importance. Nevertheless, whether you’re a candidate considering a role as a Personal PA, or a high-net-worth individual who requires one, these are some of the qualities you might consider.
Communication skills are always required, PAs will liaise with a variety of stakeholders, family members and other contacts and filter, prioritise and disseminate information as appropriate. Hand in hand with this is a level of intelligence – the ability to understand what is required in a given situation, apply initiative, solve problems, learn and grow with the principal and go beyond a laundry-list of set tasks. Attention to detail in everything the PA does is of paramount importance – this reflects the principal’s professionalism.
It goes without saying that a strong work ethic is required. A normal 9-5 job this is not, flexibility is key and planning around both the PA’s own life and the principals can be challenging. A positive can-do attitude is a big part of this, and a thick skin is sometimes necessary – busy schedules and complex business and personal arrangements can lead to fraying tempers.
A Private PA will be accountable for their work – capable of making decisions and taking a level of ownership of them. This requires a good deal of confidence in their abilities, and in themselves. Resilience, staying power, the ability to dig in and see a task through under all circumstances.
It can also really help to have a sense of humour, which can help to hold everything together when life is a whirlwind, make it more pleasant at other times, and help to build rapport. This in turn lends itself to the all-important trust that builds between a principal and their Personal Assistant.
Perhaps most importantly, a PA will always operate with the highest levels of discretion.
A good PA will possess these qualities and more, there might well be speciality requirements for some positions, and any number of personality-related qualities which make them ideal for their specific role. Indeed, a good specificity of fit is often what will set the “right” person apart from the rest for a particular job.