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Information About Becoming a Personal Assistant (PA)

Job Descriptions December 24, 2012

Supervisors and managers in firms rely on personal assistants who are known as administrative assistants or secretaries, to provide them with office support. In an office, personal assistants are assigned various responsibilities, in the course of their duties; they have to answer e-mails, letters along with answering or directing phone calls. They are usually involved in filing important documents, setting appointments and scheduling business meetings. Administrators rely on personal assistants to organize their personal affairs and ensure that the administrators’ business obligations and commitments do not clash with each other. In this article, we will look at the career profile of a personal assistant.

While hands-on training is imparted to many personal assistants, postsecondary coursework may be required by personal assistants employed in some companies. In the paragraph that follows, we have outlined some core requirements of PAs.

Personal Assistants are required to hold a high school diploma or equivalent qualification; some employers demand postsecondary qualifications. The degree qualifications can be sought in majors such as an industry-specific field like legal studies, healthcare, or business administration. Usually, no experience is expected of potential candidates for entry-level jobs. Personal assistants are expected to have time-management skills apart from strong communication — both oral and written skills. They need to be people-oriented individuals and have analytical skills along with the ability to make decisions. They are required to have some computer skills such as a good understanding of word processing, spreadsheet and database software. Among the technical skills needed by personal assistants, the ability to use phone systems, copiers and scanners among other office equipment is likely to serve them well on the job (sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ONet Online).

The following is a stage-wise guide aimed at helping prospective personal assistants launch themselves in this career field:

Stage One: Satisfying Education Prerequisites

While personal assistants are required to hold a high school diploma or equivalent qualification, some employers demand college degrees. Prospective personal assistants can enroll in vocational institutes and technical colleges where they can learn computer skills and business administration. Candidates with previous experience in bookkeeping, secretarial work and clerical tasks will have a better chance of landing a job. Those employed by business executives or in legal or medical offices are expected to hold an associate degree or a certificate in business administration, legal studies or healthcare administration. Depending on the nature of the job, aspiring personal assistants can major in law, marketing or accounting.

The need for personal assistants to have strong communication skills cannot be overstated, given that they will need to interact regularly with staff members, clients and customers, over various channels including the telephone. They can hone these skills by enrolling in programs offered by colleges and high schools in English, public speaking and mass communication.

Stage Two: Gaining Experience

Hands on training imparted to personal assistants get them abreast of company systems, procedures and policies. With a greater understanding through experience of the inner workings of the firm, personal assistants can expect a promotion to the executive assistant position; alternatively, the firm can assign them to render assistance to an employee at a higher-level. In this position, they may be required to prepare reports and other documents, arrange business travels, take notes at conferences and meetings, and screen visitors and callers. Executive assistants are required to train other staff members.

Certification from the International Association of Administrative Professionals or other organizations that offer certification voluntarily can enhance the career prospects of a personal assistant. Without a college education, a personal assistant can only hope to grow in their career with a minimum of four years of previous work experiences; personal assistants with an associate degree will need three years of prior experience. Before gaining certification, a potential personal assistant will need to pass an examination assessing their skills and knowledge. Those employed in the healthcare industry may want to pursue industry-oriented certification.

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