What does one need to be a good personal assistant? The most general answer I could find is very simple – you need to satisfy your boss. You don’t need to know three languages and type like the whirlwind when all you are asked to know is decent English skills and moderate typing ability. Likewise, you don’t have to think that you need to cross the Everest to become truly excellent. It’s all relative. As a PA myself, I found that some of my qualities were unsatisfactory, while some were praised. These sorts of things are easy to train yourself to do or be, and do not require great time investment. Below are some of the tips that I gathered based on my experience.
1) Keep yourself to yourself. There may be moments when you are curious about the reason behind the tasks your boss gives you. Be it a request to look up information on tourism and visa applications in Ireland, or a set of letters to type up and send to clients. Don’t give in to the temptation to ask needless questions; your boss will tell you everything he thinks you should know.
2) Tell your boss what you’ll do, not how you’ll go about doing it. Face it, your boss doesn’t really care if you go to the downtown office to buy a supply of stationery, or if you prefer to fax a salesman your order and get it delivered to you. He doesn’t need to know that you spent extra time spell checking your letters and had to get a colleague’s help with an especially tricky sentence. Stationery was bought, letters were written and sent. Period. You are given a task to perform on your own so that the boss doesn’t have to worry about it – he’s a busy man after all.
3) Be flexible. Sometimes you may need to stay up on a weekend or work a few extra hours to get the office work done. I’m sure you’ll get paid overtime, don’t grumble to your boss. It might just look like you’re not dedicated to the work you do, and are unable to make occasional sacrifices; especially when you get rewarded for them! He knows that he is asking something extra from you, but he won’t do it without having a reason to. Note, however, that these measures are temporary, don’t forget to discuss further occurrences with your boss – sometimes you might simply have other plans!
4) Keep in touch. This is particularly important when your boss is away for prolonged periods of time. Keep him posted by email, telephone call or SMS about the tasks that you have accomplished for a set period of time. While he may not always have to time to give you a proper listen, it will show him that you are not just interested one-way communication. Prioritise between communication media – if it’s just a notifying message, saying you just received the contract you’ve been waiting for from the courier, an SMS or a quick email will do. It requires no additional input from him, but at the same time gives him valuable information. Phone calls can be reserved for when his further direction on a task is required.
5) Be quick, punctual, but not hasty. When your boss tells you something is urgent, don’t panic. Proceed with swiftness, but let that not make you hasty and your work half-finished. Some tasks may be poorly judged by him, and translating that 20-page contract won’t simply take two hours to complete. Quality will always be more important, people will not think about the little time you had to complete the project, but the end product itself. The same goes for punctuality. If you are running late, that is no reason to show up to work with bed hair or a breath that smells like cats. Even if it takes five more minutes, take that time to properly bring yourself to working looks.
6) Don’t do the bare minimum, and watch your attitude. You get paid for the work that you do; this means that you shouldn’t take the easy ways out and skip out on the details just to get the bare minimum requirements of the task your boss hands over to you. If a letter needs typing, make sure it’s properly indented and typed up professionally. The position of a personal assistant means he could ask very different tasks from you. If you also manage his personal affairs, then driving during paid hours to pick up documents, or visiting a company that’s a considerable distance away from you should not be met with an unwilling frown. The willingness to perform tasks makes an employee glow and gives his boss the assurance that he cares about his work, delivering it fully and concisely and fully working for the salary that he gets. He will be more willing to go your way next time. Try to be friendly and don’t let the worries of your private live spill into your job.
7) Watch your negatives. Don’t say “I don’t know where to get it from.” Say «I will try my best to look where to get it from.” It makes a lot of difference. Your words form your boss’s impression of you, so it is important that you show yourself in the right light. Be the employee who will try to reach goals, instead of stopping around asking for directions. If he demands answers while you aren’t ready, be honest, but don’t let your honesty do you an evil job. Tell him the information you have found - if you haven’t found a good hotel in Panama, a good phrase would be, “the hotels that I have currently found do not have satisfactory conditions. They aren’t what you are looking for,” which would be much better than, “I haven’t found a good hotel yet”
5 years ago