When you hear the job title of “Personal Assistant (PA)” images of running around for a demanding celebrity or working at all hours of the day for a powerful figure often come to mind. While there are certainly personal assistant jobs like this out there, there are also many more variations of being a personal assistant. It’s an administrative support job that will look different, depending on who you are working for and what company or industry you are in.

Generally, however, the role of a personal assistant can be a fulfilling job with high growth potential, good visibility within a company and the ability to become an integral part of the operations of any organisation. In the following, we break down the job responsibilities, key skills needed and career opportunities for a personal assistant.

What does a Personal Assistant do?

The role of a PA is multifaceted, complex and varies a good amount, depending on who you are working for. With this is mind, there are several responsibilities that most Personal Assistants can expect to find as part of their job description:

  • Filtering emails and phone calls, acting as the first point of contact for their manager
  • Handling their manager’s calendar, including scheduling all appointments, meetings and events
  • Making travel arrangements for their manager, including transport, accommodation and other business trip details
  • Taking notes and following up for meetings
  • Other administrative duties

These administrative tasks are designed to support their manager, allowing them to focus on the bigger picture. As such, many personal assistant duties revolve around ensuring the manager’s day is organised and effective.

Additionally, personal assistants may have other job duties such as :

  • working on specific projects or research
  • looking after accounts and budgets
  • helping to delegate work to others in the manager’s absence
  • attending important meetings and being a part of the decision-making process

Top skills to be a good Personal Assistant

There are several skills that make a good Personal Assistant. Increasingly, soft skills such as communication are becoming just as important as hard skills like computer literacy. The following are some soft and hard skills that any good personal assistant will possess.

Hard skills

-Receptionist abilities: these would include answering the phone and emails in a professional way, knowing how to handle multiple people at once and understanding how to filter calls and emails. Receptionist abilities are important, as you will probably be handling all initial communications directed towards the manager.

-Computer literacy: this includes Outlook and other email applications, general Microsoft Office or Google docs, and any other essential software programs. Additionally, a strong typing speed of at least 60 words per minute would be ideal.

-Multitasking ability: this skill is essential in order to be able to handle multiple tasks that many PAs have to juggle at once with short deadlines. This would overlap with time management skills as well.

Soft skills

-Communication: this is one of the most important soft skills for a personal assistant, as so much of this role revolves around communicating effectively with your manager, other stakeholders and others in the organisation.

-Flexibility: this soft skill ensures you can handle the high demands on your manager, which will translate into high demands on you. Late nights, early mornings and last-minute changes may be a part of the job, and flexibility makes you able to support your manager at critical times.

-Trustworthiness: in the role of a personal assistant, you may find that you handle confidential documents or are privy to confidential conversations. Trustworthiness ensures that you can handle that responsibility.

How to find a job as a Personal Assistant

A PA usually needs a background in administrative support and experience as a PA in previous companies is always an advantage. If you are an entry-level professional, highlight education and other experience such as internships or volunteer work that may include transferable skills. The higher up the manager you will be supporting is, the more complex the role will be. Because of this, companies will be looking for someone with extensive PA experience if the role is supporting a high level executive.

Use your network to seek out Personal Assistant job openings. If you are interested in a particular industry, search for PA jobs in that industry and then use it as a stepping stone to make contacts, gain experience and improve your industry knowledge.

Being a Personal Assistant is a rewarding job with lots of growth potential. Those who start out as a Personal Assistant can move on to become Executive Personal Assistant, Executive Assistant, Office Manager, or many other variations of roles within Administrative Support and beyond.

See all our administrative support jobs in Hong Kong here.